Of course, when I think of "the environment" these days, it's in the context of "saving." This is a topic which is near and dear to my heart - and should be near and dear to *your* heart as well. If it isn't, you haven't been paying attention.
I've had a meaningful relationship with nature as long as I can remember. As a child I loved animals. Pets, yes, but especially wild animals. I found them fascinating and beautiful and they inspired me in many ways. I've been accused, at times, of liking animals more than I like people (and I can't say the accusations are entirely unfounded :D). For me, as I hope is true for most people, a love for wild animals led to a desire to see them continue to thrive in their natural homes, which in turn led to the desire to help stop the activities of humans which threaten these natural homes. Later, as a young adult, I came to appreciate the beauty of natural places, of plants and trees, of the peace that I can find by just being out of doors in the wilderness. Again, something which is being threatened by our human activities. In recent years, my attention has been turned to the imminent threat posed by global warming. My husband and I disagree as to whether or not human activities created this problem (I think we did create it; he thinks it started as a natural trend). But we both agree with Al that human activities are certainly exacerbating the problem, at an alarming rate.
Every day, there are new examples of just how stupidly we humans are "managing" this planet upon which we rely for *all* of our needs. If we don't stop our consumption, we won't destroy the planet. I'm certain of this. She's bigger and stronger and more resilient than that. However, we most certainly can rape her to the point where she will no longer provide for our needs, to the point where we will perhaps destroy ourselves (not to mention the other species we've already destroyed, and the ones who are in danger right now) in the process. Some things are already gone, and cannot be retrieved. The passenger pigeon. Old growth forests. Urban sprawl continues to creep outward. Beautiful, natural places are being destroyed every single day, usually in the name of "progress." Sure, evolution will repopulate the planet, eventually. But, I kind of like her the way she is. Do we really have to destroy that just to satisfy our own consumptive greed? The way I look at it, we're going to have to change our ways sooner or later. We *will* exhaust certain natural resources, and have to look for new *sustainable* ways to find energy and lumber and any number of other things that we need. Personally, I'd like to look for those new sources *before* we've completely destroyed the natural beauty that we still have left.
I want my son to experience nature as I have - to be able to stand on a mountain and look out at pristine wilderness stretching out into the distance before him. I want tigers and polar bears and spotted owls to have a place to live (outside of the zoo). I want San Francisco and Manhattan (not to mention most of India, etc., etc., etc.) to remain above sea level. There are lots of things I want for this planet, and for humankind, and I still do have hope and believe they are possible. But only if we *all* do our part. Probably, major lifestyle changes will have to be made. So far, I've personally only made minor ones. Maybe if we all made the minor ones, we could avert disaster before it strikes. Maybe it's too late for that; maybe not. In any case, the time to start thinking about doing your part is *now* - not next year, or five years from now, or never.
Here are some of the things I'm doing: recycling paper, cardboard, plastic & glass; using compact fluorescent lightbulbs; turning up the thermostat to save on AC costs; taking the Wardrobe Refashion challenge; shopping at the local Farmer's Market; composting (when living in California, anyway); picking up trash while going out for walks; using the stairs instead of the elevator in our apartment building; turning out lights when they're not needed; voting for green candidates who are running for office; making financial contributions to conservation organizations.
Here are things I want to start doing, or do more often: taking public transport or walking, instead of driving the car (and eventually getting a hybrid, or other fuel-efficient vehicle, or, ideally, living in a "walkable" neighborhood and doing away with the car altogether); eating less meat; purchasing carbon offsets for things like air travel (or driving cross-country, which I appear to be preparing to do again very soon) - I'm sure there are others, but these are the ones that come to mind (and it's nearly midnight, so I want to finish this up and post it). :D
What are you doing now? What would you like to do in the future? If you're just not sure, here are some places to start:
Are You An Eco Hero? Take the Quiz
(FYI, I got 8 out of 10 correct - how did you score?)
21 Things You Didn't Know You Could Recycle
Switch to Compact Fluorescent Bulbs
An Inconvenient Truth - If you haven't seen this, what are you waiting for?
Ways We Can All Help the Planet
Ten Ways to Save the Earth
This is just scratching the surface of the many, many resources which are available to help people change the way they are living and consuming natural resources. Not all of these will appeal to everyone, nor be possible for everyone. If that's the case for you, don't make excuses about why you can't do X, Y or Z - just find something you *can* do, and DO IT. :)
Above all else, if you are in a place where you are entitled to vote, DO SO! Do your research, and vote for candidates who are committed to conserving this planet, *not* the ones who pander to big business. Don't forget that you can also vote with your dollars - don't spend money with companies who don't live up to the environmental ideals you support. Yeah, I know, the "good guys" are in short supply, but they are out there. So vote, vote, VOTE every time you have the opportunity. Vote with your ballot, and vote with your money. It really does matter.
Please feel free to share links and suggestions here. We're all in this together, after all. :)