Global warming is one of the most challenging environmental issues of our time, but its cause is simple: When carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels collect in the atmosphere, they trap the sun’s heat and cause the planet to warm up. Also referred to as climate change, global warming relates to changes in the Earth’s delicate balance, caused specifically by human behaviors and activities. While the Earth changes temperature naturally over time, the current temperature changes are far from natural. Emissions and pollution from industry are threatening to raise the sea level, limit our food and water supply, and trigger unpredictable weather patterns and storms. The world’s leaders joined together in 2016 and 2017 at the COP21 climate conference in Paris to discuss solutions to the issue.
To really begin to understand global warming, it helps to look at the planet as a complex but unified system. As the Earth has evolved, every living thing co-evolved in relationship to other beings and the environment. For example, plants in specific regions nourish the animals in that region. The dynamic between oxygen and carbon best defines this relationship: plants consume the carbon dioxide animals exude, and animals consume the oxygen that plants emit.
Deforestation removes many of these essential plants that purify the very air we breathe. Additionally, the atmosphere is overwhelmed with pollutants emitted by booming industries, and even our own wasteful habits. This has thrown our planetary equilibrium out of balance.
The same phenomenon also occurs with our individual bodies: when we take in more (food, stress, work, toxins) than we can process (through exercise, meditation, digestion), our bodies and lives become unbalanced and unhealthy. Experts estimate global warming and its causes, which permeate our air, seas, and soil—will increase the already growing number and intensity of illnesses and diseases the human race experiences.
While this is a collective problem we face, there are individual actions we can all take to be part of the solution for healing the planet.
- Move away from oil and gas. Research natural solutions like solar, wind, and water energy in your area, and switch to those energy services. Invest in energy-efficient appliances. It may cost a bit more up front, but in the long run, it will save money, create jobs, and help the environment.
- Spend time outdoors. Connecting to nature and spending time outside is good for your body, mind, and spirit. Consider the resources you use that threaten the natural environment, and work to rid yourself of those products—reduce your carbon footprint. Building stronger relationships with nature and natural resources gets us out of small thinking and into a global sense of self and community.
- Join an Eco Challenge and a discussion course. Educate yourself on the issues relating to global warming and commit to talking about them with your community. The Union of Concerned Scientists is a great place to start your education. Then, check out North West Earth Institute‘s EcoChallenge and free discussion courses about the environment.