Environmental movements began during the industrial revolution, but are picking up steam again. Environmental scientists have become vocal in the past few years, warning us of the dangers of climate change and global warming.
Janice Harvey, an environment and society professor at St. Thomas University, warns scientific studies demonstrate we have pushed past many of our planetary boundaries. These are the boundaries within which we have lived for the past 10 thousand years and have provided a state of stable climate.
“We can’t predict what the next states are going to be,” said Harvey. “The climatic, physical states that we’ve enjoyed for the last 10 thousand years, we’re moving outside that. And the chances of it being hospitable to civilization as we know it are probably very slim.”
These predictions have been a growing concern to environmental activists, like New Brunswick’s own Eden Sheffroth. She’s always been concerned about the environment, even as a child.
“I’ve always been environmentally conscious, even as a little girl,” said Sheffroth. “Taking garbage I found on the street and putting it in my pockets to throw in a garbage can later. Sneaking small animals into my bedroom, which my mother really enjoyed, I’m sure.”
Over the years, Sheffroth has noticed a change in environment and began to get involved with activist
groups. She works to preserve existing ecological spaces, but also encourages moving towards renewable technologies and minimizing society’s eco-footprint.
Sheffroth volunteers with her local Green Party chapter, the Council of Canadians, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. She has even created a green program at her place of work. But, Sheffroth is involved in more than just activism. She lives her life by the causes she supports.
She’s a vegetarian, mostly because she loves animals, but also because it boasts environmental benefits.
“It costs a lot more to the environment to produce a pound of beef as opposed to a pound of vegetables,” said Sheffroth.
For her produce, she shops at local farmers’ markets. According to Sheffroth, this means produce does not have to be shipped across the country and prevents the use of gasoline in transportation. She also tries to buy organic foods from smaller farms. This means no genetically modified food, fewer or more natural pesticides and reduces the amount of monocultures. All of these practises help reduce the eco-footprint of the agriculture industry.
But it also reduces the cost of her groceries. She only paid roughly $20 for a week’s worth of groceries.
But there’s other added benefits as well. She knows where, by whom and how all her food is produced.
“I could literally tell you which grandmother made my jam,” said Sheffroth. “It’s something that’s coming right from a local farm straight to my table. Which is fresher vegetables, it tastes a lot better and it’s also having a lot less of an impact on the environment.”
Sheffroth lives in downtown Moncton which helps her when it comes to transportation. She’s able to walk almost everywhere for her errands and has easy access to public transportation for longer commutes. Whenever these options are unavailable, Sheffroth tries to carpool with friends.
For her home, she searches for refurbished products as much as possible. She’ll search on Kijiji or yard sale sites or visit local markets, antique or thrift shops before she buys anything new from a store.
“You’re taking something that’s going to be thrown out anyway and giving it new life,” said Sheffroth.
“Instead of contributing to a waste product, you’re taking that waste and turning it into something new.”
For smaller amenities, like soaps or candles, she’s inclined to visit local crafters booths and shops. Sheffroth feels this way, it frees her from relying on mass-produced factory items, with larger eco-footprints and she can support local small businesses.
“It keeps the dollar here, in New Brunswick, instead,” she said.
Despite all her efforts, Sheffroth said she’s received a lot of criticism. People have told her she can do more to support the environment and her causes, something which Sheffroth has taken to heart as she feels she’s done her best.
Harvey said we all face limitations on what we’re able to do when attempting to support the environment. It’s a problem because of the system our society has created. It’s a flow-through process which leads to environmental degradation. We’re removing natural resources faster than they can be replenished and creating more waste than nature can absorb.
She said few people are willing, or even able, to drop out of this system entirely. And where Sheffroth is just one individual, Harvey says it will take a lot more than just one person to change the world. Still, individuals have a large contribution to make to the environmental movement. She said what is important right now, is that people like Sheffroth are getting involved politically.
“You’ve got to make sure the government knows what you expect them to do,” said Harvey. “Cause that’s where the power lies right now.”
Harvey said it’s through applying pressure to the government that we can transition to more renewable infrastructure. It may sound difficult, but it could be as simple as supporting the government when they attempt to make changes to increase or improve public transportation.
“We have to lower the political risk for politicians to do the right thing,” said Harvey. “So the responsibility as citizens that we have is to make sacrifices, because it’s the right thing to do… and when my friend complains about the carbon tax, I’m going to say ‘we need it’ and maybe tell them to buy one less case of beer next week.”
Sheffroth agrees it’s important to get involved politically. While she’s proud of her activism, she feels the movement requires more people. It’s only through collective that the goals of the environmental movement will be achieved and able to preserve, not only nature, but the societies we have built.
“‘Cause when you’re just sitting around and not getting involved,” said Sheffroth. “You’re expressing consent for these things to happen… there’s a lot of things that are going on and whether you participate or not, it’s affecting your daily life.”