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Nature and wildlife photographers, as a group, almost universally see their work as an effort to promote protection, conservation, preservation, and even the repair of the wild spaces and natural beauty around us. It is difficult to visit the places we've seen, observe the flora and fauna, and watch the natural phenomena and not be awed and fascinated by the beauty of our natural world and the diversity of its wildlife, geology, and weather and the relationships between them.

There's more to nature than beauty, of course. When the trees are gone, when the polar ice has melted, when water is too polluted to drink, when the air too toxic to breathe, we'll be gone too. Our survival depends on a healthy environment.

There are many factors working against the environment. It is necessary to take a stand against them if we expect future generations (or even our own!) to be able to enjoy a healthy environment and the beauty and diversity nature can offer.

On this page I offer a thousand words, more or less, of opinion and commentary about issues related to the environment. New articles will be posted periodically when I feel I’ve got something to contribute. Previous articles are archived. I welcome your comments, opinions, and corrections. You can use the link at left for email. Thanks very much.

Jay L. Cross
Lumen Perfectus

Your Ecological Footprint

My commute to work is about 20 miles (42 Km) and takes about 35 minutes as I wind my way through the rural area in which I live and into the urban setting of the company’s site. Each day is trash collection day in one or more of the communities through which I pass. I am often astonished to see gigantic piles of trash awaiting pick-up in front of many houses. It’s not unusual for any given home to have 10 to 15 “30 gallon” sized trash bags sitting along the curb, or an equivalent mound of unbagged items. This always strikes me as an enormous amount of trash for a single household, especially considering many of these homes throw away a similar amount every week. This often sets me to thinking about the make-up of our trash. This isn’t as weird as it may seem; read on.

It’s no wonder our landfills are spreading and running out of room. By volume, most trash thrown out by most households is the packaging in which products we buy are shipped or displayed. A purchase is brought or delivered to the home, the (often substantial) packaging is removed and stuffed into a bag or garbage can, and eventually makes its way curbside. I suppose a large collection of boxes, foam and plastic packing, etc. on the curb every week is an indicator of prosperity (or perhaps increasing debt), but in any case all this “stuff” ends up in our landfills.

Energy, as various forms of fuel, is expended to make the products and packaging and ship them to distribution points, stores, and sometimes the end “user”. Energy is consumed to make trips to stores and markets to purchase products. Energy is consumed to collect and haul away the trash. Energy is consumed to burn or bury the trash. Most forms of energy production, and most methods of energy consumption, generate some amount of pollution.

In addition to the products we buy, we all consume food, water, and space. Creating food requires varying amounts of energy, water, fertilizers, land, medicinal materials (vaccinations, hormonal injections, and the like for livestock and poultry, for example), etc. The production, use, and disposal of these items generally contributes to air, water, and ground contamination.

In addition to buying things and eating, we all consume resources just going about our daily lives. Hot and cold water consumption for bathing, cleaning laundry, maintaining our lawns, playgrounds, golf courses, corporate grounds, etc.; fuel for our cars and trucks for our work and school commutes, trips to the store, vacations and other amusements, airplane fuels for business or pleasure flights; the list seems endless. The services provided by our local governments, such as street lighting, maintaining public spaces such as parks, road maintenance, and so on are also great consumers of resources and sources of pollution.

Each of us contributes in some way to the consumption of the world’s resources and to the production of various forms of pollution. Your individual contribution is your environmental footprint. This is measurable, and perhaps knowing your environmental footprint would help discover ways to reduce it, possibly with only a small impact on the way you live your life.

There's much more information on this topic on the Web, including calculators to help you determine your own ecological footprint. Be honest when using these calculators; the results will almost certainly surprise you!

Earthdaynetwork's calculator.

University of British Columbia's "sustainability" article.

Mountain Equipment Corp's calculator.

   18 November, 2002.

Please see our links page. Many of the links there will take you to the Web sites of businesses, organizations, and publications that can provide a great deal of information on this and other environmental  topics. There are also links to our representatives in Washington. Please visit some of these sites to learn more.

© 2002 by Jay Cross. All rights reserved. This text may not be reproduced without permission.

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