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The Future is Green: Natural Habitats and Culture and Heritage

Today, we’ll move away from the stuff that surrounds our lives every day and open up the aperture a bit, to look at how our green future interacts with natural habitats and wildlife, and culture and heritage. Again, it might not seem like there’s a huge connection here, but there really is. And it’s terribly important that we consider them both.

Considering biodiversity [www.sundance.tv] and natural habitat is another great study in the interconnectedness of everything. One Planet says the challenge stems from, “Loss of biodiversity and habitats due to development in natural areas and overexploitation of natural resources,” and it certainly does, but as we encroach further into natural habitat, we cut down more trees (and trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow), which leads to less water retention in the soil (which leads to less groundwater that we can access with wells) and less stable topsoil [www.sundance.tv] (which leads to more mudslides). What to do? “Regenerate degraded environments and halt biodiversity loss, and protect or regenerate existing natural environments and the habitats they provide to fauna and flora; create new habitats,” says One Planet. This one is interesting because it requires nothing but our due diligence; we don’t need any fancy technology for this (though it helps); we just have to care enough to make a difference. Judging by the groundswell of interesting environmental issues over the past year, we certainly do.

Culture and heritage might make less sense as a way for a greener future; in order to give this one proper treatment, we have to look to the past. The problem, defined by One Planet as, “Local cultural heritage lost throughout the world due to globalization, resulting in a loss of local identity and wisdom,” is equally about what we’ve done in the past and what we do today. Think about it this way: in Italy, there’s a cultural history surrounding food and wine (something like pasta and Chianti, very generally) that dictates how things are done, and where they come from. Italians don’t prefer cheese from Parma and tomatoes from Roma because it’s greener; they prefer them because they’re distinctly Italian, and because it helps define their culture and heritage. In America, we have no such connection to a given cultural history; as a melting pot, we have the benefit of deriving culture from many different sources, but it leaves us without a specific tradition on which we can hang our hats. So, we tend to care less about where our stuff comes from, and that goes for everything from food and water to materials and even energy.

Though this sounds like a bit of a bummer, it’s a great opportunity for us to rebuild a culture of sustainability, and it’s already happening: with farmer’s markets and local food; with green energy we harvest ourselves; with water and resources we’re able to save through increased efficiency. Being green is becoming cultural iconography of it’s own, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t wait to get on the bandwagon!