Somewhere in your city a new shopping center is most likely being built over what was once a space filled with trees and wildlife. Look around; whether it's a Target or Walmart, surrounded by many other stores and restaurants, shopping centers have now become a basic necessity of any community. They are hubs for social interaction and an avenue for people to go about their day. They are everywhere, and as the days go on and the years progress, the public interest for newer shopping centers increases, because what was once new is now old.
Similarly, new housing projects seem to have the same type of cycle: from new to old, too old to new. City officials and state governments constantly remain in talks regarding where the next lot of homes will be placed. If there’s an empty plot of land where wildlife seems to be of abundance, more than likely within a couple years that same plot of land will house a family of five. It is this sad truth that prompts the need for change. Habitats, trees, forests, and other forms of nature are constantly being torn apart for the purpose of urbanization, commercial construction, and government projects. While the initial product may seem justifiable, the end results are considered to be leading factors of climate change, detrimental to surrounding wildlife, and an eraser of Earth’s precious history.
Climate change is the current most profound problem facing the world today. It’s a collective problem that includes all people, cities, states, countries, and continents. No one is singled out; we are all in the midst of this war against Climate. Leonardo DiCaprio, environmental activist and Academy Award winning actor for his role in The Revenant (2015), used his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech to speak out on this issue. He stated, “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating… Let us not take this planet for granted.” (Leas et al 2). These words remind us of the great threat that is climate change, however, this threat is promptly due to our own dirty hands. The destruction of habitats and trees by governments and companies is a leading factor on this issue. Deforestation is considered to be the second leading cause of Global Warming. Deforestation is the permanent clearing, cutting, and removal of a forest or strand of trees for the purpose of non-forest use. At one point, forests used to cover about 40% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, but extensive deforestation in the past century has reduced that number greatly (Prevedello et al. 2). Trees are nature's oxygen supplier. They provide us with the air we breathe and allow for the surface temperature of the planet to stay cool, for the most part. However, with out them the amount of greenhouse gases, such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane, in the atmosphere will increase significantly. An increase in these gases causes the Earth to burn up overtime, hence the term “Global Warming”. As the Earth heats up, glaciers begin to melt, sea levels begin to rise, and less amounts of rain begins to fall on the planet. Subsequently, this leads to drought, floods, soil erosion, and various other natural disaster-type consequences. The importance of trees on the environment is revealed through these serious and very possible outcomes. Unfortunately we are already beginning to feel the effects of these disasters.
Destruction of habitat, for any purpose, has lasting impacts on surrounding wildlife. One of the two leading causes of species endangerment is loss of habitat (Kitzes and Harte) By hacking away at the different valleys, forests, and grasslands for our own needs, we are essentially leaving these animals for dead. Imagine if mother nature was able to fire back on us, purposefully, for all the “homes” we’ve destroyed? As humans we already don’t like being sent eviction notices or being told we must move from our seat. Animals feel the same way, except they aren’t given any notice or fair warning. Companies go through habitats with no inclination that they are causing any harm and move right along with no regard for animal life. The clearing of a habitat, often times wipes out Keystone species: species that an ecosystem largely depends on. When a keystone species becomes endangered or extinct the entirety of the ecosystem is at stake. Effects on the food chain, plants, and even on humans are all resulting consequences, but we refuse to believe it. For example, the bee. Bee’s are widely considered to be the most important keystone species on Earth. They are the reason we are able to eat most of the fruits and veggies that come our way. If bees went extinct, humans would almost cease to exist, because bees pollinate about ⅓ of our food supply. Currently, as of 2017, a small number of bee species have already been labeled as endangered, with one of the leading causes being habitat loss. A question to be asked in the name of bees and all wildlife, whos home’s we destroy, is “is it really worth it?”.
As urbanization continues, centuries of Earth’s history is permanently removed. Trees, mountains, and soil, are all different bookmarks in the story of life. There are landmasses on the surface of Earth that have been around since the beginning of time, and trees that have been around for centuries. As they get removed, nature’s timeline goes along with it. Energy corporations and fossil fuel industries, are famous for tearing up the top level of soil for the purpose of creating energy. The soil and vegetation used in this process, is made up of the geological remains of living organisms. Within each layer of remains, there is a different chapter in Earth’s history that is getting erased. To add salt to the wound, fossil fuels are nonrenewable, meaning once they are gone, they're gone; for good. We see this happen all the time, all around us. In the city of Corona in southern California, All American Asphalt has permanently taken over the hillside off the 15 freeway. The hill, now used as an aggregate production plant, has been cut in half and blown to bits. While asphalt is essential to our ever growing society, the land now removed cannot be returned. The amazon rainforest, has also seen a good portion of its vast landscape be destroyed and run down. The amount of the Amazon now lost in the last 40 years is equivalent to land area of Spain and the Madagascar. If that rate holds, the Amazon could soon be gone completely, unless preserved, within a couple of centuries.
These issues at hand are all a matter of our own doing. We’ve created these issues and we continue to keep digging ourselves into a deeper hole. The process of destroying habitats and deforestation, for the purpose of unnecessary urbanization, is wrong. The harm caused is far more devastating than the assumed benefits. People need to come together to do something. We need to sit down and save the trees.
Wherever a construction site is set to begin working, we see “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs filling up the vacant lots that are set to be used. We’ve all seen those chain link fences with that green mesh-like material that immediately catches our attention. This fencing is used to hold in and hide the work that is set to be done. This fence signifies the privacy of the location and puts the right to private property law into action. Developers and real estate agents own the land that is hidden behind these fences. They are the coordinators of the work ahead, and have gone out of their way to buy the land that they intend to destroy and build on. As people we must be willing to give up our rights and force the hand of these companies by breaking the law of private property and trespassing, and sitting in on any ground of nature that is set to be destroyed for no justifiable reason. Sit-ins are a simple, yet effective, form of peaceful protest and civil disobedience, that takes nothing but the willingness to hold a position in order to bring about change. Some of the most profound sit-ins that showcase how well they work can be found in the history of the Civil Rights Movement. For example, The Lunch Counter Sit-Ins of 1943, considered to be the earliest civil rights sit-in, went against the policy and beliefs of segregationists, and allowed for many black people to dine comfortably, in Jack Spratt’s Coffee House and Stoner’s Restaurant (Shah 1). Though just a small flame at the time, this sit-in would go onto ignite the wildfire of nonviolent direct action programs of the Civil Rights Movement. Who’s to say that this can’t be done for the sake of environmental change and protection? The consequences of trespassing on private property, vary from fines to jail time, depending on the severity and location being trespassed on. Refusal to leave would ultimately cause commotion and drama, but to bring an issue to the spotlight is the main importance. The goal of these tree saving sit-ins would be to halt the further development of construction, deforestation, and urbanization in places where wildlife and nature is of abundance.
Because a law is being asked to be broken, there are going to be arguments that suggest why we shouldn’t interfere in our pursuit of civil disobedience. One argument at hand may be that the building of and the resulting product will open up many job opportunities. While the creation of jobs is certainly important, there are plenty of other jobs to be had in the field of conservation. National parks, for example, are protected pieces of nature that offer plenty of jobs to people. From maintenance to park rangers, the conservation of habitats brings in the cash that people might be looking for. There may also be people who question the reasoning for our call to action. Though climate change has become the talk of the town, there are still plenty of skeptics out there. Many people are single minded, in regards to the issue, allowing for personal experiences to sway their beliefs. They depend on the idea that “If the weather has been consistent since I’ve been alive then how can climate change exist?”. Other’s simply just believe that there is no real evidence to prove anything. “Even though President Obama and other global-warming alarmists warn of a looming climate apocalypse, they avoid giving a metric to prove their claims.” (Hiserodt and Terrell 10) While it is difficult to believe in something you haven’t experienced face, the evidence is right in front of us to witness, such as the arctic burning. There is no way the Arctic should be burning. It's almost impossible, but it is currently happening.
The request here is not to take jobs away from people, or to stop all urbanization, because to eliminate all does nothing. The real call to action is to stop the unjustifiable destruction of nature that should be preserved and protected. We don’t need brand new housing projects and grocery stores, or super markets and malls everywhere we look. The earth can survive without them. The Earth can even survive perfectly fine without humans as well, but Earth wouldn’t be Earth without her trees.