We Don't Pay Enough Attention to...

January 8, 2013
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The world is coming to an end, is what I first thought when I read Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. I remember looking at old photographs of glaciers and comparing them to recent pictures and seeing how they’ve melted, and I realized how ignorant I was of global warming. I read about landfills and saw pictures of the Earth’s diminishing habitats; I thought to myself, what happened to the bright, beautiful Earth I recall being raised on? Why is there so much litter covering the ground and so much pollution in the air? What is going to happen to all of the majestic animals in our world? As I read further into the book, I learned that all of us are to blame for Earth’s destruction; with our polluting cars, litter, and over developed land, I realized that we are heading into the direction of a lifeless, dark future.

Global warming has been occurring since the last Ice Age, about 18,000 years ago, but for the past 50 years, this natural cycle is speeding up at an unsafe rate because of man from the increased amount of carbon emissions. We have more drivers, which means that more fossil fuels are being burned. This destroys the ozone layer, letting in too much radiation, causing the planet to become warmer, so there are altered atmospheric patterns, causing weird weather. Our population is much larger than it should be; land is over developed and there are too many landfills; because of this, animals are losing their habitats. As Wendell Berry in The Long Legged House said, “We have lived our lives by the assumption that what is good for us will be good for the world. We have been wrong. We must change our lives so that it will be possible to live by the contrary assumption… And that requires that we make the effort to know the world and learn what is good for it.” If we don’t change our Earth-destroying ways soon, many animals, including humans, will become extinct.

Global warming is causing changes in atmospheric patterns because there are too many greenhouse gases in the air. This is causing extreme weather in many parts of the world. According to the UK Met Office, the average temperature of the planet has increased by 7 degrees in 2009 and is continuing to go up. This means that winters are going to warm and summers will be a lot hotter. Weather is going to be more extreme with frequent hurricanes, drought, tornados, intense rain, and even super storms. Hurricanes and tornados destroy people’s homes. Drought means more forest fires that destroy habitats and homes; crops can’t grow so there is less food for both people and livestock. Intense rain causes flooding. Super storms are huge hurricanes caused by warmer oceans that can kill people. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch killed nearly 20,000 people in Central America, and 4,000 people in China died from flooding. Greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels causes these atmospheric changes and weather will continue to become more extreme if we don’t stop driving so much.

The earth’s population is much larger than it should be, so there is more landfill than ever before and over developed land. In just 60 years, our population has gone up about 4.5 billion people, according to the US Census Bureau. That is one of the most dramatic population changes in history. This is like saying that in a teenager’s grandmother’s lifetime, the entire population of the US and Canada has been born and still live. This means that habitats of many animals are destroyed to make room for people. This causes animals to become extinct, disrupting the planet’s delicate ecosystem. If one animal or plant becomes extinct, all of the others eventually will too because they lose their food sources. At the same time, other populations like rodents will become out of control and eat our crops, harming us as well. There is enough landfill on earth to cover the state of New York. Do we really want beautiful rainforests to be turned into industrial wastelands and see the animals we love like Giant Pandas and Tigers to vanish?

If we don’t start paying attention to the environment, the ozone layer will be permanently destroyed. More radiation will hit the Earth and make it warmer. At the same time, Artic ice is at its lowest point, 24% of the Artic Ocean, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Not only will polar bears die out from this, destroying the Arctic’s ecosystem, people who live on coasts will too because of rising sea levels from melted ice. Governments aren't doing enough to stop greenhouse emissions from entering the atmosphere; they are more interested in the newly accessible oil in the Artic uncovered by melted ice. Research scientist Dr. Hansen says that sea levels will rise at a rate of one foot per century, but this rate will increase if we continue to emit carbon dioxide as frequently as we do now. 80% of people live on a coast, which means pretty soon, billions of people are going to lose their homes. That’s going to be a lot of work to rebuild island cities like New York further inland. Isn’t it easier just to take simple steps like walking to the store instead of driving? If the government isn’t going to take action, then we must, by recycling, conserving electricity, and driving less.

Sure, many people claim global warming is natural, and it is. The atmosphere changes in cycles every few hundred years. Populations grow over time, and all organisms become extinct eventually. It just isn’t natural for this all to happen in a short period of time. People are to blame for the destruction of the environment. We are the ones chopping down all of the trees. We are the ones emitting all greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels. We are the ones leaving our garbage everywhere. If it weren’t for humans, the Earth would be in a much nicer condition.

We need to find ways to create a cleaner environment. To stop burning fossil fuels we can drive less, walk, bike, or take public transportation. This saves almost 1,000 pounds of Carbon Dioxide per person a year. To stop filling landfills and save trees, we can recycle objects. Even recycling one plastic bottle, can, or piece of paper can make a big difference. We can unplug unused electronics to save energy. High school students can start their own recycling programs to spread students’ awareness on the environment. We can still advance while maintaining our ecosystems; many businesses are switching to solar and wind power. There are more hybrids on the road. If we want to continue to live on this planet we need to take good care of it, even if everyone has to make a change. Remember, less pollution is the best solution.

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