We are sorry.
We are sorry that your oceans are filling with our waste and causing detrimental harm to all living things. Nothing sickens us more than seeing your beauty turned into a landfill for the human race.
We don’t know where the line begins between necessary and unnecessary consumption!
The resources we deem necessary such as water, food and energy need to be reduced. The average American household uses 80-100 gallons per day. In 2016, total U.S. primary energy consumption was near 97.4 quadrillion Btu. These necessary resources can be reduced over time, but where the real problem lines within unnecessary consumption. Americans typically own about 3 cars per household when most have access to public transportation. We can get by on a lot less of we just buy less. We have the power to decide what we buy and how often we buy things. Instead we are obligated to use the power of choice to make better choices for you, Earth.
It is true, the average American consumes far more natural resources than a single person from any other country in the world. As Dave Tilford from the Sierra Club explained, “A child born in the United States will create thirteen times as much ecological damage over the course of his or her lifetime than a child born in Brazil.”
It is a fact that on average, an American consumes more than any other individual elsewhere on the planet. The sad part is, we produce even more than what we can consume, and as a result, a lot of the things we produce, are wasted. According to the EPA’s website, 33% of the food we produce in the United States, are wasted and independent websites put that number higher to around 40%. An article published by the New York Times (1) mentions that we throw away 1.3 billion tons of food each year.
We may throw away food, but the growing of these food items adds significantly to the worlds carbon footprint. According to the same NY Times article, this 1.3 Billion food wastage equals to 3.3 billion tons of carbon equivalent and cost us over 160 Billion USD each year. Something to think about, especially when many parts of the world have a food shortage.
Earth, this is where we really break into song for our apology. It’s not surprise that we, as citizens of the United States, consume a large amount of energy and resources; in fact, we have been known to consume 24% of the world’s energy, even though we are home to only 5% of the world’s population. Outside of energy consumption, Americans throw out 200,000 tons of water daily, a feat that truly needs no explanation. The simple fact is this: citizens living in the United States are overconsuming. There is a natural tendency to consume what is necessary to live; that is just how the world operates, on basic needs as the foundation for survival. However, what we should apologize for is the fact that we go beyond what is necessary, and when we go over this limit and realize that we did not need it, we simply throw it out, cluttering the oceans and landfills. Why should we be allowed to do this? The answer may not be so simple, but what is simple is that we apologize for it.
Below is a graph of the Percent of World Total for Population, Hazardous Wastes, Energy Consumption, and Fossil Fuel Consumption. Notice, Earth, how Americans are the responsible for some of the highest amounts of consumption in each category.
Now, we are not just sorry for the fact that Americans overconsume. Rather, we are also sorry for the fact that although the developing world has been unable to reach the level of consumption the more developed countries have, they are on the rise. Take Madagascar, for example: the country is considered a developing nation, and its consumption is rather low as compared to the United States. However, there is still an issue that fits the country, among others in similar status: consumption through the rise in CO2 emissions is indeed on the rise.
The graph below details Madagascar’s CO2 emissions over the course of a few years. Notice how little they use as compared to the graph below it, detailing the United States’ emissions. Emissions and consumption may not necessarily be directly related, but they are sharing the common problem that we are apologizing for: we are harming you quickly enough to have to begin worrying about our actions, present, past, and future.
Earth, we are in no position to say that we are sorry for our heavy emissions, only to attempt to justify them. However, the fact of the situation is that countries such as the United States and China are overconsuming, and leaving you damaged beyond noticeable repair, while other developing countries such as Madagascar are simply unable to have such problems for any number of reasons. Yet, consumption and emissions in the developing world are also rising, so at the end of the day, does the major difference in consumption actually matter in long-run? Perhaps we are not yet sure; what we are sure of, however, is that we are sorry for hurting you so much. We love you, Earth, we just don’t know how to show it the right way.
There are solutions that can be implemented for to reduce overall consumption. To reduce our energy consumption, we can start by simply turning off lights that aren’t being used, using energy efficient LED lights and then eventually using renewable power such as solar panels and windmills. We can buy products we truly need and avoid unnecessary shopping habits. Tracking our food habits to determine how much is wasted, that way we can make more efficient purchasing choices in the future. Recycling and reusing products can also reduce consumption. If we encourage our friends, family, neighbors and communities to start moving towards a “greener” lifestyle, we will be on our way to a healthier Earth.
Jesse Veloz, Olivia Lake and Mokammel Hossain Sanju
Concerned Students of Purdue University
Sengupta, Somini. “How Much Food Do We Waste? Probably More Than You Think.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/climate/food-waste-emissions.html.