Friday, July 25, 2014

Climate Responsibility

Four years ago BP spilled millions of barrels of poison into the Gulf of Mexico, the largest crude oil spill in history. The Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf of California. In February millions of gallons of toxic coal ash were spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina. In July 2011 an Exxon pipeline spilled 63,000 barrels of crude fouling 70 miles of the Yellowstone River in Montana.  25 years after the Exxon Valdez spilled hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into Prince William Sound fouling 1,300 miles of coastline and covering 11,000 square miles of ocean surface it's clear that even after the oil is completely gone (which it is not) the Sound will never fully recover. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima is still not under control and even if it was there is nothing to prevent another tsunami and a repeat of the disaster. The worlds bees and other pollinators are dying off due largely to the use of pesticides in agriculture and at home. The litany goes on and on and on. With a little research anyone could come up with a list of thousands of examples of human impact on the planet. And yet a majority of Americans are skeptical of, if not down right hostile to the idea that humans are the cause of climate change. All the examples that I have given have had devastating, long lasting impacts on the planet and nobody can claim that they were not caused by humans.
So why in the world are so many refusing to connect the dots when it comes to climate change? Could it be that the problem is so large and unmanageable in the minds of many that it is easier to reject science altogether than to admit that humans are the cause of the changing weather around the world.
Direct human intervention is the cause of almost all declines in animals, birds, fish, and plants. Loss of habitat, over grazing, cultivation, urbanization, deforestation, suburban sprawl, mining, war, over pumping of ground water, excessively high use of toxic chemicals, and yes fossil fuels all contribute to a rapidly declining planet earth as the climate reaches a tipping point.
Perhaps the biggest unaddressed problem of all, the elephant in the room, is population and a world wide lack of recognition that we will never solve our problems as long as we base our economies on growth to keep up with a burgeoning population. Growth of the population will exacerbate the warming climate, sea level rise, food instability, refugee status, drought, floods, and a seemingly endless parade of bad outcomes. Growth demands more, more of everything and that means more pollutants in our atmosphere, more fossil fuel disasters, higher temperatures and more wars. On the flip side it also means less, less bees, less birds, less mammals, less clean air, less clean water, and less of chance of survival for future generations. That is unless we change our ways and move from a growth based world economy to one of sustainability.
Take a step back and consider weather we need fewer wetlands, fewer forests, fewer mountain tops, less clean air, less clean water, fewer bees, fewer birds, fewer mammals, and more chemicals in the environment........ and more and more people using an ever increasing amount of the earths decreasing natural resources.
Along with the rapidly expanding population we must also combat apathy and the outright hostility to the idea that humans are responsible for what's happening to the earth.  Here in Arizona the population growth between 2000 and 2010 was 24.6% while in the rest of the country the number of people using resources grew by 9.7% (national average).  There are powerful forces in this country who care little for the environment. They spread lies about the role humans play in climate change and try to blame natural events or even God. Meanwhile the sea is rising and fresh water is being used at alarming rates. Severe droughts and forest fires are more devastating than ever and the earth is careening towards certain disaster.
My fervent hope is that we are better than this and can rise to the occasion and solve these problems before it's too late.