Columns / Discourse / October 15, 2009

A Call to Action: Blue planet

“Save the Planet!” cry environmentalists. The slogan is pasted on banners, flyers, shirts, bags, socks, and hats. It’s a clarion call for people everywhere to stop wasting, start recycling, save energy, and drive less because, they say, the planet is doomed.

In their eyes, humanity’s legacy of waste and pollution becomes a problem primarily because it harms our dear Mother Earth, because it destroys vegetation, wrecks habitats, and weakens biodiversity. Those statements are all true, more or less. They’re all admirable reasons to start taking care of the planet; however, they’re all slightly misleading and don’t quite touch on the real reason humans should care about the environment.

To be frank, the Earth isn’t in too much trouble. Natural processes will eventually repair most of the harm we’ve done to the planet (over a timescale we cannot comprehend; we’re talking millions of years, here).

So, the harm we inflict upon the Earth, really, isn’t so much of a problem for the planet as it is for humanity. In other words, we’re making Earth an inhospitable place for humans and, eventually, we’ll be unable to survive. The Earth will survive, however, and it will repair itself. Thus, the slogan shouldn’t read “Save the Planet,” but, rather, “Save Humanity.”

Think of it this way: long ago, dinosaurs existed until an asteroid fell from space and kicked so much debris up into the atmosphere that most living organisms died: plants and animals alike. Natural processes like photosynthesis almost completely halted. Since then, though, the Earth has recouped. The atmosphere cleared, plants started growing again and animals reemerged.

Admittedly, that is a largely anecdotal and unscientific description of a complex series of events. There are actually many, many other factors contributing to the extinction of the dinosaurs. But, for our purposes, that description is true and accurate enough to prove a point.

The point is this: the Earth recovered. Over millions upon millions of years, life began anew and the Earth we know today emerged. Whatever harm humanity inflicts upon the environment will eventually be repaired, but we won’t be here to witness it. Because of its carelessness, humanity will be extinct.

It’s time to be selfish and realize that we need not recycle for dear Earth, but for ourselves, our ways of life. Generally, it’s bad manners to be selfish. However, in this case, being selfish means preserving the environment, an environment hospitable to human life.

The alternative: continuing down our current path of waste and destruction and leaving the Earth no choice but to exterminate us.

I rather like it here so, please, let’s do some housekeeping and be able to continue living on this beautiful blue planet we call home.

Joshua Gunter
Joshua Gunter was the liberal half of "Debating Columnists" during fall 2012 and winter 2013. He graduated in winter 2013 with a degree in art history and currently works as an account researcher for the Brunswick Group in New York City. At Knox, he also served as co-editor-in-chief of Catch magazine.

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