Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bioliteracy and Ecologically Virtuous Behavior

Bio-literacy -or being able to understand and explain the cycle of life of ecosystems- is the language of individual and collective competence for a thriving global society. The most positive outcome of this powerful concept is the binary decision-making criterion of whether a human action degrades or regenerates the ecosystem. We should avoid the former and support the latter.

Some of the ways in which we attempt to address the climate change conflict are ineffective. For example, if we reduce the causes of the problem to carbon emissions, we focus on burning coal and oil as a source of energy and we fail to see all other environmental effects that human behavior has on ecosystems. For example, what are the consequences of fertilizers and agrochemicals on microorganisms that maintain richness and fertility of the soil on which we grow our food? Or what happens to the shampoo and toothpaste once it flushes down the drain after mouthwash or shower?

Questioning the ecological consequences of our individual behavior could have a very positive effect. For one, we could realize that we are using much more of a resource than we actually need (food or water, for example). It could also get us thinking about ways to reduce consumption of other products (like plastic bags carrying our own bags to the market) or searching for products that have an environmental certificate that guarantees either a lower negative ecological impact or a greater positive one.

This process of bio-literacy must be complemented with changes we can implement to have a positive impact on our ecosystems. Planting trees is the number one thing to do. A tree is a CO2 vacuum cleaner that sucks more and more carbon emissions as it grows. This is the reason why cutting down a mature tree is so damaging and accelerates climate change, because we reduce nature's capacity of mitigating the excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So, counting the trees you plant could have a positive influence in our ecosystem and positively influence your community.

Another thing one can do is slowly shifting to a low-carbon commute to work. If you can substitute it for public transportation, car-pulling, biking or walking at least once a week this will have a positive change on the environment and also in your awareness as a social leader.

Also, taking good care of our home and office residues disposing of them properly in a way that they become inputs for a next industrial process (reusing, recycling, composting, etc.) can provoke a ripple or snowball effect among your colleagues.

As we start revising everything we do individually and collectively, we will enter a virtuous spiral towards transforming the way we interact with our environment and also the way we make decisions in the marketplace. These two processes, in turn, will likely spark the greatest wave of technological and social innovation civilization has ever experienced. Industries will be given no choice but to deliver more ecologically friendly products, not by saying how little they contaminate, but how much they contribute to the ecosystems where their by-products have an impact.

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