Humans are highly intelligent beings capable of generating ideas and stimulating impossible dreams into reality. Ever since Thomas Alva Edison invented the first commercially practical incandescent light in the form of a light bulb in 1879, to the twenty-first century when people carry around smartphones and other electronic gadgets as if those are the extensions of their hands, humans have repeatedly proven to the world what once known to be impossible can be made possible and breakthroughs are inevitably needed in this rapidly advancing world. Thanks to the contribution of humans from different cultural backgrounds and with specialization in various fields, people of the world no longer live in stupidity like they did in the Middle Age.However, it is simply too naïve to say that all of those positive changes that humans have created in this world do not come with consequences. Humans have indeed opened paths to a new world that was merely an unattainable dream a hundred years ago. But in doing so, they have also unknowingly set up new ways to destroy their own planet. For instance, in 1907, Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented the first ever plastic based on a synthetic polymer. Baekeland was merely looking for a new material that had excellent electrical insulation and heat-resistance for industrial purposes. He had no idea that after a century had passed, approximately 8 million tons of plastic would end up in the ocean every year—polluting the once clear water and endangering the sea creatures. His invention that was once lauded as a stroke of genius had become one of the fastest growing environmental problems in the world. Baekeland’s invention is just one example of human inventions created with noble intentions gone wrong—along with Styrofoam, CFC, and asbestos.Nevertheless, it is impossible to turn back time and stop earth’s past geniuses from coming up with ideas that led to the inventions of our planet’s greatest destroyers. After all, humans rely on these inventions on daily basis. However, it is possible to reduce the side effects or even reverse the past consequences caused by those inventions. Doing those things will be extremely difficult the majority of people since it takes a substantial amount of willpower to make an extra effort to actually do something for the environment. Thus, this is where volunteers come into play.
Conversely, volunteers are a group of people who dedicate themselves to provide services for no financial or social gain. In this case, volunteers are people who do everything they do with the earth’s best intentions in their hearts and minds. They ask for nothing in return and what satisfies them is knowing that, at the end of the day, they are helping their earth planet to reverse into its former glory–to a healthier and more sustainable earth for everyone to live in. In the United States alone, there are more than 62.6 registered volunteers spread in 1.5 million official nonprofit organizations by 2015. This shows how much people actually care about dire global issues in need of immediate action—such as environmental issues. Those nonprofit organizations include 4Ocean, an organization founded by two friends, Andrew and Alex, who were devastated by the amount of plastic waste found in the ocean of Bali Indonesia. Their organization sells bracelets that, when bought, would fund the removal of 1 pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines done by their crew around the world. In less than 2 years, 4Ocean has cleaned the ocean and coastlines in 27 countries—all with the help of people ordering bracelets from their computers at home.
4Ocean and millions of other volunteering organizations have proven to the world that even though it looks like the damages that humans have done to the planet are irreversible, there is still a lot that people can do to reverse them and reduce the upcoming damage. Humans might be the ones responsible for the catastrophic current state of the earth because of what they have done up until now, but they are also the only ones with the capability of turning it the other way around. Volunteers might be the ones capable of doing drastic measures and jump right into the field where the damage is the worst. They might be capable of major actions such as campaigning for a ban on the dumping of industrial waste at sea and holding a reforestation in a barren forest. But let’s not forget that small-scale actions are also needed when it comes to creating meaningful changes.
When people think that cleaning up the ocean by hand is too much of a pain, it is important to remember that even insignificant gestures can already make a difference. While the existence of volunteering organizations give people hope that the planet is curable, it also reminds people that what truly counts is the mass contribution from everyone on earth. After all, 62.6 million volunteers will amount to nothing compared to 7.4 billion imaginative minds and helpful hands when it comes to making a change. What everyone can do is as simple as removing trash from streets; reusing cotton bags instead of accepting plastic ones when shopping; refusing trivial plastic products such as straws, forks, and cups; recycling plastic trash into handicrafts, and reducing the amount of plastic by bringing tumblers for outdoor activities. It is as simple as ingraining “remove, reuse, refuse, recycle, and reduce” to your daily habits. Signing petitions on environmental issues also counts, as is buying products from organizations that dedicate themselves to cleaning up the ocean or reforesting barren forests. When it comes to giving the planet a hand, what counts is your willingness to voluntarily do something—anything—with mother nature’s best intention in mind. So, the next time you think accepting plastic bags from the grocery store would not count as polluting the ocean and endangering the sea creatures, think again.
- Jensen, N. (2018, March 2). 8 steps to solve the ocean’s plastic problem. Retrieved June 8, 2018, from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/03/8-steps-to-solve-the-oceans-plastic-problem/
- Leo Hendrik Baekeland. (2017, December 01). Retrieved June 10, 2018, from https://www.sciencehistory.org/historical-profile/leo-hendrik-baekeland
- Parker, L. (2017, October 10). Eight Million Tons of Plastic Dumped in Ocean Every Year. Retrieved June 06, 2018, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150212-ocean-debris-plastic-garbage-patches-science/
- Questions and Answers. (2008, March 17). Retrieved June 7, 2018, from http://www.greenpeace.org/archive-international/en/campaigns/climate-change/cars/questions-answers/
- Volunteering in the United States, 2015. (2016, February 25). Retrieved June 8, 2018, from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/volun.nr0.htm