US needs to do more to protect the environment


Matheo Vermer

Flooding near the authors home in Rochefort, Belgium, in the summer of 2021.

Matheo Vermer, Staff Writer

Before immigrating to the U.S. from Belgium, I always imagined it as a powerful, modern country. So when I landed in Chicago and saw the massive skyscraper for the first time,  I was not disappointed.

I am very grateful to have left the city to  travel through America’s beautiful national parks. It makes me feel like I am an old European discovering the new territories of the Americas for the first time.

When you live in Europe, it is hard to have such beautiful protected natural areas. Europe is much older than the Americas, so most of the lands have already been corrupted by humans. Here, there are still a lot of large natural areas which increase the fauna. 

However, during my last trip to California, it was very painful to see how climate change was devastating this country. When we were entering the park of Yosemite National Park, we saw smoke from the forest fires. Once again, the rising temperatures had an effect on our planet. 

I found myself asking: “What if the fires keep rising in the country, and the future generations never get to see the nature that we know ?”

When I was 11 years old, I went on vacation to Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean with warm sun, beautiful beaches, blue water, and a lot of fish. I loved snorkeling in the water to see all those multicolour fishes. It was amazing, I discovered so much, but unfortunately, that pleasure didn’t stay.

 The next day, while we were on a boat trip, we stopped on a beach that was surprisingly full of plastic. This time there was more plastic than fish in the water. 

A week later, a baby dolphin was reported dead by a ship. Apparently, the ship passed near a dolphin mother with her offspring, it scared them, so they swam quickly away. The dolphin couldn’t follow her mother as fast, so they lost each other. After that, the dolphin baby couldn’t survive and was found to death at a pier not so far away. I was terribly sad and revolted to hear this. 

Two summers ago in Belgium, we were having the worst weather you can imagine. It kept raining every day, so much rain that all the lakes became flooded.

Unfortunately, my grandparent’s house was flooded. It was devastating. Not only because of all the material that was broken and lost, but because it was devastating to see how dangerous and scary nature can be.

We are seeing the consequences of our mistreatment of nature. Unfortunately, some Americans don’t seem to take the issue seriously. In Europe, we would fight together with little steps. Those steps are the ones that make the difference, and that’s why Europe needs the United States to help too and give a leadership attitude.

This is how I saw the United States before moving, as a leader. And I believe that the United States can make the change. 

So what can we do? Here are some easy daily changes that we can all do.

  1. Get involved in protests, clubs, meetings, and debates.
  2.  Reduce your carbon emissions by using sustainable transport.
  3. Use reusable items and ban all your single-use plastic.
  4. Do not use chemicals and leave some untouched space in your backyard for the insects and the soil.
  5. Buy local food
  6. Shut down your Wi-Fi during the night.
  7. Use a composter
  8. Plant a tree 
  9. Carpool with friends 
  10. Volunteer at Lake Bluff and Lake Forest open lands

My point here is not to criticize. As a foreigner, I can see that the United States still has such amazing National Parks, so I think it deserves to be protected.