Soka Sustainable Student: Shara Henderson

Shara Henderson, Class of 2020

1. Why should people care about the environment?

Because the environment is the reason we're all here. The Earth doesn't belong to us (if anything, we belong to the Earth), but the way we've been treating it has created so much destruction that has backfired on ecosystems, natural resources, and of course, humans. The evidence of this destruction is very real and shouldn't be ignored because if we continue at this rate, the Earth will eventually not be able to support us any longer.

2. What aspect of the environment are you most passionate about? (i.e. deforestation, pollution, waste reduction, etc.) 

To me, water conservation seems to be a very overlooked issue. Out of all of the water on the planet, only 1% is fresh water available for us to use. The way we use it often goes unregulated, depending on where you are. In richer, industrial nations, a ridiculous amount of freshwater is used unnecessarily (just think of how much water you'll see at water parks), while freshwater is hard to access in other parts of the world simply to be able to drink or take a bath. Even in industrial nations, freshwater is so often poisoned by pollution from industries. With 1% of the Earth's water being available for us, we should pay more attention to how we use it.

3. Are environmental issues inherently political?

In order to see changes in industrial abuses of the environment, yes. These abuses are definitely what I would say are the biggest things that need to see change, because they not only directly exploit the environment but create a culture that normalizes this exploitation. Consumer culture is highly political due to the power (and money) held by those that regulate industries. To me, sustainability is a way to break off from this consumer culture to find new, environmentally-friendly ways to support our daily lives. But just because someone living sustainably contributes less to consumer culture doesn't mean that they're completely removed from politics. They're still affected by advertisements they'll see, trends, what their friends have, and most importantly: what is cheapest and easiest for them to do–which is all about politics and economics. To put it short: I think that given the structure of our economy in the U.S. and the power of government to regulate industries and uses of resources, politics cannot be ignored. However, the picture could look completely different in other societies where environmental issues are founded less on economic and political abuses of the environment.

4. What's one thing we can do every day to help the environment?

There are so many different things, but if I were to choose one, I would say that everyone should pay more attention to what they eat. The food that is cheap and easily accessible to us is often not only a product of environmental degradation and animal cruelty but is also extremely unhealthy to us. Meat products and products high in sugar are often cheap because industries that produce these get government subsidies to produce more. Why do they do this? Because there's a high demand for them: these products not only taste good but can last a long time without spoiling (in the case of products high in sugar/processed goods). We should learn about the way food is produced and avoid consuming foods that were produced by harmful means–otherwise, we would simply be feeding into this need for subsidies that will continue to harm the environment, animals, and even us. I'm not trying to say that everyone should completely stop eating meat and sugary/processed foods, but we should at least be more aware of the situation so that we can reduce our consumption.

5. What's one thing you've done for the environment that you're proud of? 

Because there are so many little things I do every day out of concern for the environment, I would say that the biggest thing I've done is educate myself about why it's so important for me to do these things (like conserve water, paper, electricity, etc.). I see a lot of people around me who don't realize that their actions harm the environment, or even in some cases, they do know but they're unaware of the magnitude of their impact. I want to be able to educate as many people as I can about how they can easily live sustainably by just changing a few behaviors (Eco Wing will be coming out with a Sustainable Living Guide soon!).