In my opinion, there are few movies that depict a post-apocalyptic, dystopian Earth better than the “Mad Max” series. If you’ve never seen any of the films, they take place in Australia after a complete societal collapse.
Without spoiling too much of the story for anyone who hasn’t seen them yet, the stories are driven by man’s greed for oil, gas and water, which are scarce commodities in the movie. Without the ability to stay mobile, Max is susceptible to evil gangs out to kill and take whatever they can. Without water, nothing can survive. It’s a hard world for Max and all the others who are trying to thrive in it.
As a conservation educator, it’s my job to think about our planet’s current state and its future and to educate our community on how to prevent ourselves from landing in a Mad Max world. The first Mad Max movie was released in 1979, and unfortunately, our consumption of non-renewable energy resources such as oil and gas have only increased since then. Non-renewable resources are those that cannot be replaced at a sufficient rate to sustain consumption. For example, fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas are all non-renewable resources as they are carbon-based fuels formed from the decomposition of natural organisms exposed to heat and pressure in the Earth’s crust over millions of years.
We all consume these non-renewable resources every day, and as the rain continues throughout this week, I can’t help but think of another non-renewable resource that we depend upon and take advantage of, which is groundwater. Water is pumped up from beneath us from the Ogallala Aquifer to meet our needs. An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing rock. The Ogallala Aquifer is a shallow water table located beneath the Great Plains and is one of the world’s largest aquifers. It lays under eight states and covers an area of 174,000 square miles. This aquifer system provides drinking water for 82 percent of the over 2.3 million people who live within its boundaries. Agricultural needs also require groundwater for irrigation purposes. We are currently consuming the aquifer faster than it can be replenished. The latest study estimates the aquifer will be depleted in less than 50 years.
Is our fate the same as Mad Max? Are we destined to roam a barren and dying landscape searching for the last fuel reserves, water, and essentially life? Not if we start making changes today. If we shift our dependency from non-renewable resources to renewable ones, we can build a better future. There are several easy ways we can conserve resources in our own homes.
To help save groundwater, we simply need to use less water; we can do this in many areas. We can wait to water the lawn until the coolest parts of the day. We can even install rain barrels to collect precipitation and reuse it in the garden. In the kitchen, collect water in the sink while you do dishes instead of running it down the drain. Did you know you can even use your leftover pasta water to water your houseplants? For the bathroom, keep it simple, take shorter showers, turn the water off when you’re brushing your teeth, and only flush solids.
Another great way to use fewer fossil fuels is to use fewer plastics. Plastics are derived from carbon materials such as natural gas, coal and oil. The processes that create plastics use non-renewable resources, not only in the contents but also in the energy used to form them. Avoid plastics that are used only once, such as straws and packaging. We can also help save energy consumption by being mindful of our usage. If possible, walk or ride a bike instead of driving your car to every destination.
If you can’t reduce the amount of product you’re using, see if you can reuse it. If you don’t have a purpose for it after the first use, check to see if it can be recycled. Be sure to visit Garden City’s website at www.garden-city.org/services/recycling, to learn about the options available for recycling and where you can drop off your materials. By adopting these practices, we can help lessen our dependencies on non-renewable resources and reduce the likelihood of a “Mad Max” future for our planet.
Emily Sexson is an education specialist at Lee Richardson Zoo.