Everyone loves the environment. How could you not? Flowers fill the air with beautiful fragrance, until they have you sneezing because of seasonal allergies. Trees guard your yard, except when the branches interfere with your driveway. And wild animals are extraordinary to behold, until they are howling unrelentingly in the middle of the night.
Sure, everyone cares about the environment – until the cost of protecting it is outweighed by inconvenience.
Attitudes towards nature change swiftly with politics. Sometimes, there is a mass movement towards conserving wildlife. At other times, business pursuits are placed above environmental interests.
The problem is, while our opinions shift back and forth, nature takes a brutal beating.
We have a sort of love/hate relationship with nature. We are enthralled by the idea of being immersed in Earth, but we despise the dirt and the bugs. More often than not however, we treat nature with negligence, which can be just as damaging as contempt.
The contamination is done by placing temporary interests over long-term environmental concerns. Businesses want profits, so they cut down trees and contribute to deforestation. Neighbors want to have a barbeque, so they prepare food on gas stoves (a bit ironic, considering barbeques tend to draw people to the outdoors).
There are times when present problems should be given priority over future pursuits. When there is a fire, for example, hardly anyone would be crazy enough to argue that preventing air pollution is more important than using a fire extinguisher and saving a life. But normally, choosing current preferences rather than long-term goals is simply a question of convenience.
A perfect example of this is air fresheners. When there is a bad smell, we quickly grab a deodorizer to cleanse the room. Problem solved? Nope.
Actually, air fresheners don’t remove an odor; they simply mask it, either by overpowering the bad scent or by reducing your sensitivity to smell all odors.
Whether or not you are okay with this in order to relieve yourself from the bad smell, both your future self and the environment take a blow.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), aerosols often contain phthalates, which are not placed on labels and go unregulated by the government. Phthalates, solvents that can affect the regulation of hormones, get absorbed into the skin. Phthalates metabolites have been found in the general U.S. population, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), indicating that this chemical problem shouldn’t go unnoticed.
In a broader context, air fresheners emit carbon dioxide (CO₂), which gets trapped in the Earth’s ozone layer. This helps keep us warm (yay!), but too much CO₂ can overheat the atmosphere beyond natural levels (oh shoot).
Although we may not notice the difference in everyday life, increased levels of CO₂ have far-reaching environmental effects. One spray of aerosol may not seem like a lot, but add all the dispensed chemicals together and the consequences become much more significant.
Does this mean you shouldn’t ever have a barbeque with your family? No. It’s okay to prioritize community and put nature on the back burner every once in awhile, but be mindful of how you are contributing to long-term environmental effects. Your pleasure may seem like the priority in the moment, but nature and the damage you can potentially impose on it will far outlast you.