by Courtney Cohen
My passion and desire to help the environment did not develop because I grew up on a farm or because I spent my days hiking in the woods, but rather because I was raised in New York City. I grew up surrounded by congested streets and smoggy skies. Every day, I witnessed peoples constant disregard for the environment when they dropped their coffee cups and plastic bags in the street rather than the trash cans. I come from a city consumed with litter and millions of people that do not recognize the enormous power they could harness if we all worked together. Unfortunately, litter is something I am accustomed to, but when I moved to Easton to attend Lafayette College I did not expect one of their top environmental problems to be scrap plastic and pollution. Litter is just one of the many problems plaguing the environment, but it is one that we can effectively eliminate. The burning of fossil fuels and the melting ice caps are massive problems that will require the cooperation of multiple countries from around the world. Therefore, if Lehigh Valley could unify to eradicate the excess liter and trash, it could then act as a beacon of hope for the solution to some of the world’s larger environmental problems.
It is time to face the fact that the environment is not improving. Sea levels are rising and carbon dioxide emissions are at record high levels every year. Furthermore, natural disasters are becoming more powerful and prevalent around the world as the temperatures continue to rise. These problems require us to take action and develop long-term solutions. But, none of these problems can be solved by a single organization or Individual. Instead, communities and their local government officials need to unite in order to create plausible solutions. Moreover, none of these problems can be fixed overnight, but the issue of litter pollution can be stopped immediately if all of our efforts are concentrated on preventing the spread of plastic. For example, Lehigh Valley could support a private non-profit where social enterprise is practiced. They could solve the trash problem by employing the homeless to safely pick up and recycle the trash and then the revenue is recycled back into the government via public spending. A program like this would greatly reduce the amount of litter on the streets while it would also be pertinent to Lehigh Valley because it is prone to flooding, which carries the litter directly into the rivers and the oceans. However, this would also require the coordination and cooperation of the local government, shelters and non-profit organizations. If these parties could communicate and work together then it would be possible to drastically reduce the amount of pollution that travels into the ocean.
In addition, if concepts like this were successful and vastly distributed, the entire tri-state area could work together to clean up the coastlines and protect the diverse marine ecosystems. Single organizations, like Oceana, recognize this, but they struggle because they do not have the money nor the resources to accomplish anything. So, local projects like this are only possible if the various factions within towns and cities unite to reach a common goal. Government funded programs need the support of the community and it is hard to hear the outcry of a single voice, but a crowd has the power to make a difference.
Everyone has the ability to unite and advocate for our planet. Teachers can work together simply by educating the next generation on the importance of recycling and developing eco-friendly habits. Therefore, it is not just the responsibility of the Environmental Protection Agency to work to protect our planet, but it is up to everyone to recognize a problem and work together to create a solution. The Clean Air Acts of 1970 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 were passed because the entire Congress recognized a need and responded to the rise of protests and environmental organizations, like the Sierra Club. Ecosystems are being affected because of our waste and carelessness, but we have the power to reverse the damage and create a healthier environment.
Our planet consists of one interconnected web of ecosystems that are impacted by the man-made pollution and changes in the environment. The creation of a factory in Beijing could affect the amount of rain in the Amazon Rainforest. No one is immune to the perils the environment is facing, which is why it is imperative that individuals, organizations, and countries begin to work together now before it is too late to reverse the damage.
By Courtney Cohen
Courtney is a freshman at Lafayette College, majoring in History and Environmental Studies. She is a member of Hunger Coalition and the fencing team.