The environment was never something I payed attention to until this year when I took an environmental science class. There were a lot of things people would always say were “bad for the environment” but I never knew what that meant. For example, I had always heard that aerosol spray cans were bad for the environment, but I had no idea how. To a kid, how could using hairspray out of an aerosol can seem harmful? It doesn’t! In fact, I had no idea how it was bad until this year! Aerosol cans used to contain chlorofluorocarbons and other harmful gases, that when released into the atmosphere, deplete the ozone layer. This causes a threat to human health by worsening sunburns, increasing skin cancers and eye cataracts, and suppressing the immune system. It can also reduce yields for crops and decrease forest productivity because the excess UV radiation cans harm plants. Even though aerosol cans no longer use chlorofluorocarbons, they still contain volatile organic compounds that can contribute to ground level ozone and contribute to many health problems. So obviously I knew none of this before.
The point I’m trying to make here is that a lot of the time, we have no idea why things are bad for the environment. Without knowing how the things we are doing for the environment are bad, I think we are less likely to change the things that we do. In a way, it’s based off of how we see the consequences. For example, we all know it is bad to litter. The trash can’t break down and it can harm animals. So usually, people don’t litter because they know it’s bad. However, people aren’t often aware of why aerosol cans are bad for the environment so they don’t really have any reason pushing them to not do it.
This is why I think education about the environment is important, especially at a young age when kids are impressionable. According to the American Forest Foundation, “environmental education engages students in learning, raising test scores, and encouraging youth to pursue careers in environmental and natural resources.” I also believe that if we are aware of why what we do is harmful for the environment, most people will be more encouraged to change things in their lives. A lot of the things that I learned were bad for the environment surprised me because I had no idea it was bad for the environment, but now that I am aware, I feel more likely to change the things that I do.