The Anthropocene is a period of time in history when humans begin to have an indelible impact on Earth's geology. Climate change is a hot-button issue today. Even when outlining the new development goals, the UN deliberately included the word "sustainable". I remember when I was working at the UN in the summer of 2014, Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon wisely stated in regards to the importance of sustainability, "we have no plan b, because we have no planet b".
As much as I understand the theoretical basis of the important sustainability, it did not personally resonate with me as much- meaning that I did not go out of my way to participate in sustainability-related efforts or learn more. Yet, my perspective has shifted once coming to South Korea and traveling throughout Asia for two primary reasons. The first reason involved South Korea's mandatory recycling and composting. At first I resisted what I thought to be super tedious. Over time, washing the cartons, putting my food waste into the designated bag in the freezer, and separating the paper/cardboard items became less painful. Recycling and composting became a de facto habit. I realized that a little bit of effort can go a long way.
The second reason has to do with a trip to Jeju Island and a trip to Vietnam right afterwards. The researchers in my program are invited to present at a conference at the beautiful Jeju Island, an island off the southwest coast of South Korea. There, I was exposed to some of the most beautiful natured I have ever seen. Whether it was the hexagonal cliff reflected off the crystal blue waters of Cheonjeyeon Falls (pictured above) or the vast fields of canola flowers, Jeju Island was home to some of the most beautiful nature I've ever seen. I began to think though- what if the dearth of environmental sustainability meant future generations- my children, or my children's children could no longer see the paradise of Jeju Island.
My thoughts were further reinforced during a trip Vietnam. Two days after the Jeju Island conference, I met up with friends in Vietnam. We went to Ha Long Bay. Unfortunately, it was underwhelming. Perhaps part of my sentiments arose from the awe-inspiring sights at Jeju, but I think a lot of it had to do with the trash I saw floating in the waters (->). Most of that trash probably came from tourists like me...oof.
As of now, I have resolved to continue recycling and composting once I go back stateside. It may not be the most momentous effort, but you gotta start somewhere. Hopefully, steps like these can alleviate effects brought forth by the Anthropocene.