As the human population continues to increase, the 20th century business model of blindly depleting the Earth’s resources and massacring its natural assets for the sake of convenience and currency has given rise to many severe consequences that future generations will have to face, and that current generations are already witnessing unfold. What will we do when we’ve filled the land with plastic— a toxic substance that virtually never goes away? What will we do when we’ve destroyed entire ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest for the sole purpose of harvesting wood or raising cattle? What will we do when there is so much pollution in the air that we struggle to breathe? Are we prepared to handle the extreme weather events that are guaranteed to increase in both frequency and severity as the Earth’s atmosphere continues to warm?
We’re tempted to blame someone, something, or some societal phenomenon for these issues, and the rapid progression of technology often arises as the core culprit. Many technological advances in the corporate world over the past century or so have been at the expense of the natural world— a world that we come from, can't live without, and return to at the end of our lives. Does this mean we should have stayed in the jungle instead of eating the forbidden fruit of curiosity that gave rise to agriculture and ultimately civilization? Perhaps not. I’m interested in finding a way to save the earth while still reaping the benefits of the industrial and digital revolutions. Here are some ways I’ve thought of for us to help reconcile technology with nature.
1. Invest in renewable energy
You may have heard this a million times before, but transitioning to renewable energy from fossil fuels really is the most important step to reverse the effects of climate change. This responsibility may ultimately rest in the hands of the fossil fuel industry and our legislators, but we can make an impact too. New advancements in clean energy have made it more affordable than ever. Solar tends to be the best choice for consumers. You can buy solar panels and have them installed somewhere around or on your house, but also keep an eye out for new technology such as Tesla’s solar roofs and battery (https://www.tesla.com/solar). These are cheaper than you might think, and will of course continue to pay for themselves down the road. Finally, If you invest in the stock market, try to buy shares in corporations that produce and use renewable energy. These companies depend on their shareholders.
Check out this website my classmates and I created last year to help guide you through greener energy choices: http://nkyenergyguide.wixsite.com/nkyenergyguide
2. Explore the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things refers to the revolution of smart products in our homes that connect to the internet. This includes Amazon’s personal assistant Alexa, and a wide variety of other cool and useful products. Some of these can actually help reduce your resource consumption while adding convenience to your life. The Nest thermostat learns when you’re too hot or too cold, or when you’re away and don’t need to have the air conditioning on. It automatically adjusts to save you money and energy. Phillips Hue light bulbs are super-efficient LED’s, but also connect to your WiFi and can turn off automatically when you’re not home.
Take a look at what’s out there: https://smile.amazon.com/home-automation-smarthome/b/ref=nav_shopall_homaut?ie=UTF8&node=6563140011
3. Use your phone for good
Got a fancy smart phone? Great! Although cell phones are constructed of often unethically and unsustainably sourced materials, they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. If you’ve got one, at least use it for good. Find apps that help you live a more sustainable lifestyle. You can download apps to help identify wild edibles, locate farmers’ markets, calculate your carbon footprint, find recycling centers, and so much more. Take advantage of social media to read and share educational articles, fundraising events, and other useful links related to eco-friendly practices. Also, try not to leave your charger plugged in all the time! Even when not in use, electronics leech a certain amount of power, called “phantom load”. When your phone reaches the end of its life, remember to take it somewhere that will recycle its parts.
Here’s a link to a list of sustainability-related apps: http://www.sustainableworks.org/smartphoneapps
4. Shop consciously
Your wallet is your voice in the commercial world. The products you choose to buy can literally shape the industry that produces them. Since we’re talking about reconciling technology with nature, supporting innovations in sustainable technology with your money can make a real impact. When shopping for clothing, look for greener materials like organic cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester. Prana and Patagonia are great brands that come to mind who focus on sustainable production. Looking for lights? Choose LED. Looking for appliances? Choose EnergyStar. Looking for a car? Choose hybrid or electric. I should, however, mention the importance of only buying “things” when you actually need them. Part of the inherent problem of the constant progression of technology is the waste caused by obsoleteness. Try to buy products that are made from recycled materials and/or can be recycled or reused. Also, refuse single-use plastic— that’s a motto here at You Do Yoga!
Check out 2016’s most sustainable companies: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathryndill/2016/01/22/the-worlds-most-sustainable-companies-2016/#16aebad5965f
5. Eat consciously
Sometimes, reconciling technology with nature means refusing technology that threatens nature (and our health, for that matter). In some cases, the old way may be the best way. Diet, I believe, is one of those cases. Anthropologists tell us that we’re still genetically identical to our hunter-gatherer ancestors who ate wild foods for 190,000 years before the advent of agriculture 10,000 years ago. This means we still require the same food, water, and air they did to stay healthy, and records show that they were in optimal health (or they wouldn’t have survived for 190,000 years).
Indigenous people did not eat Cheez-Its. They didn’t eat factory-farmed meat. They didn’t drink bottled lab-grade water. Mass-produced, processed foods are a danger to both the environment and your body. These are technological “innovations” that we can and should live without. What should you eat, then? Keep it simple. Aim for a diet that consists of whole foods that are as close to wild as possible. Use findaspring.com
to locate your nearest freshwater spring and make an adventure to harvest that living, mineral-rich water. While you’re at it, buy your produce from local farmers using organic methods. These practices are ultimately more sustainable for the planet and for you. Use this equation: wild foods > local whole foods > mass-produced organic whole foods > mass-produced conventional whole foods > processed foods.
I recommend reading “Traditional Foods Are Your Best Medicine” by Ronald Schmid (http://a.co/0TI324Z) or “Eating On the Wild Side” by Jo Robinson (http://a.co/9LK3Ett) for evidence to support eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors.
Got more ideas? Send them our way! We’re all in this together. Let’s find a way to improve our society and protect the earth in the process.