Introduction to Environment

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Many 21st Century buzzwords stand beneath the ‘environment’ umbrella: fossil fuel, carbon emissions, sustainability, climate change, renewable energy, pollution, recycling, conservation. The language is mainstream; it has infiltrated international policy and spawned new areas of research. Yet why are these topics buzzword worthy?

There are many obvious answers. Perhaps the most simple among them is the drive to save our planet. In the past century, the rapid growth of human society has resulted in 1500 times as many people, consuming 20,000 times as much energy and producing 10,000 times as much carbon dioxide, as compared to pre-industrial society. This expansion is outpacing nature’s ability to adapt, cope with change and sustain the ecosystems it supports.

This notion has broad consequences. Political and non-governmental forces battle around the environmental issue; international agreements, such as the United Nation’s 2015 Paris Agreement, demonstrate a growing consensus. An increasingly diverse range of issues are bound up in contemporary environmental concerns. From development and industry, to agriculture, desertification, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, the environment effects, and is affected by most aspects of life on Earth.

Yet the environment is most significant at the individual level. Broad political policies and international agreements are only effective if individuals act on them. Commenting on Morocco’s recent ban on the production, importation, distribution and use of plastic bags, environmentalists note that adapting to the new legislation will take time, as habits will need to change.

Changing habits is a small part of individually becoming more aware of the environment and of the impacts of human society. This process requires the individual to care for, and respond to, environmental issues; as awareness grows, the environment will, at least theoretically, benefit.

Another reason for the constant significance of environmental concerns is perhaps the instinctual attachment to nature in most of us. Walking, hiking, skiing, swimming, travelling, exploring, studying; engaging with nature is a part of life. In many cases, time spent engaging with nature and enjoying such moments is decreasing, raising new issues regarding detachment from the natural world. Yet even those at the opposite end of the spectrum from David Attenborough and Bear Grylls may still appreciate a beautiful sunset.

The environment is both an incredible place and a pressing contemporary issue. Knowledge and discussion of the environment is critical for appreciating its significance, as well as human society’s symbiotic relationship with it. The goal of Woroni’s new Environment section is to engage readers in all areas of this conversation – the issues threatening the environment, the policy affecting it, the amazing places in it, and how human society can and does affect it. If you are interested in joining the discussion, by reading more or contributing, check out Woroni in print and online. Inquiries, pitches and submissions may be sent to environment@woroni.com.au.