If the Earth could speak, she would be screaming for help, and the survival of humans would be the least of her concerns. Why? Because humans are remarkably capable of adapting to harsh life conditions. Survival is what we do best. However, the biological and ecological systems that sustain life are not so resilient. We are experiencing a silent crisis where a rapidly changing climate threatens to forever alter life as we know it. It’s time to take this crisis seriously.
Rather than debate the merits of global warming, let’s look at the facts. Keep in mind, the issue is not whether humans are the primary cause for this environmental disturbance, but that we are the only species sophisticated enough to alter our behavior patterns to alleviate the stress on the planet.
The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than ever before. Currently the footprint of the glacier is nearly a half million square miles less than the long term average and the ice sheet is thinning at an average of 10 to 15 meters each year. Climate experts predict the ice sheet will melt entirely within the next 50 to 100 years if the warming continues, causing sea levels to rise nearly 20 feet.
The glaciers aren’t the only thing that is melting either. In the artic tundra, permafrost which has been frozen for more than 10,000 years, is beginning to rapidly melt. Entire communities are literally sinking into the resulting marshland. Nearly two-thirds of the world’s methane reserves are locked in the permafrost and when the tundra melts, the methane gas is released into the atmosphere at alarming rates. The effects of methane are nearly 10 times more severe than CO2.
It is not my intention to create fear because I do not believe scare tactics are effective. But we must acknowledge the effects our civilization is having on our planet, and it is important that we understand that we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. The two most prevalent sources for dangerous climate changing emissions are coal-fired power plants and vehicle emissions. While our generation is not responsible for developing these technologies, we are suffering the consequences they create and we are responsible for developing necessary solutions that are our only hope for a healthy future.
The truth is that energy solutions are within reach. The question is that if we do not act now in favor of more responsible energy choices, then when will we act? And if we do not take responsibility for finding and implementing these solutions, then who can we expect to accept this task? Solar, wind and hydrogen power are readily available. Frito-Lay has already implemented hydrogen fuel cells in its entire fleet of Southern California delivery vehicles and Toyota has committed to introducing affordable hydrogen vehicles to the mass market within the next decade. The solutions are not decades away, they’re available right now. The only thing we lack is the political-will to do the right thing and invest in the future. We must make a commitment to the future. Today’s children and tomorrow’s generation deserve generational justice and a chance to live a healthy life.
As the famous indigenous parable goes, “we did not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we are borrowing it from our children.”
Tylor Middlestadt is the ASI president and a Mustang Daily columnist who will also be speaking tonight at the State of the Student Address. He can be reached at 756-5828; AIM: CPASIPresident; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.