I urge all people to save money first if you really want to save the environment. How does that work? Although we may disagree on how to protect the environment, all of us will agree on saving fuels because energy costs are rising rapidly. I propose we begin from self-interest, that is, to spend less money on fuels such as gasoline. This first step can go a long way because fossil fuels account for the bulk of the environmental pollution. In the meantime, we gradually educate ourselves how to protect the environment by reducing wastes, recycling, and investing in green technology.
The first step to reduce fuel consumption is easy to achieve. Is there any consumer in the world who takes pleasure in paying higher gasoline prices? What are we doing in response? Besides complaining, we save money by driving less, buying more fuel- efficient cars, taking public transport, biking or walking more. Besides gasoline, there exist money savings in many other areas. We may not realize how much we can save by turning the indoor temperature a little higher in summer and lower in winter. In fact, many corporations are saving money already through improved energy use. Some relax the office dress code in summertime so that the thermostat is adjusted a little higher. When everybody burns less fuel to save money everyday, imagine how much we can help the environment worldwide.
This is a case of money making the world go round (for a good cause). The price increases in energy have forced us to cut expenses. However, the price mechanism is far from perfect. Prices normally result from short-term supply and demand, or outright manipulation in the case of oil. They seldom reflect long-term scarcity and subtle damages due to neglect or deliberate exploitation.
To illustrate, there is no price for long-term scarcity of fresh water as some parts of the world are drying up, notably in the southwest region of the United States. When a society under-invests in education or infrastructure, the damages to future generations are so subtle that it seems proper to reduce the investment now just to balance the budget. Regarding the environment, there is no price to be paid for constant polluting until a serious accident occurs such as the BP oil spill in 2010. Everybody takes the environment and other natural resources for granted until pollution or scarcity gets to a critical level. In short, we seldom look far enough into the future until things become critical.
Furthermore, the price mechanism never reflects how much we waste everyday. I think the biggest thing we waste is young talents. Are we aware how much young blood is being wasted in wars and conflicts around the world? Child exploitation is practiced in many developing countries in the form of child labor, sexual discrimination and human trafficking. How much talent is being wasted when we send children to work rather than to school? In developed countries, a child born in the ghettos has little chance to develop his/her talents simply because the family is poor.
Only in the area of gasoline where prices have risen fast enough to force people to reduce present and future consumption. This fortunately happens to be a positive action for protecting the environment. Although reducing gasoline consumption is not enough to protect the environment, it can go a long way since transportation accounts for over half of the total energy consumed worldwide. So, just drive less, bike or walk more. It will do yourself and the world a lot of good.