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This Story’s Heating Up:
The Effects of Global Warming

Okay, so I wrote at great length about global warming before, Understanding Global Warming, and it originally appeared in cc&d magazine, the hardbound v165.25, which is still available for sale for a PDF file or for the $19.95 the hardcover book) before I got to see An Inconvenient Truth. And it’s funny, I’ve always tried to do things to save energy (to not only save money, but to also reduce releasing CO2 into the atmosphere), but only after my husband and I watched the movie did he start openly talking about doing things to help the environment. And it’s easy now to see stories appearing on the radio or on television weekly about another climactic catastrophe, so since I said I could write another editorial about global warming, I started thinking about the weather we’re experiencing right now.
Okay, I’m in Chicago, and for those who don’t know what a winter in Chicago is normally like, let me give you a brief explanation of every winter I’ve experienced as an adult in Chicago. The weather is often cool but not freezing until maybe around the 15th of December, and that’s when the snow starts setting in big time. But every year, no matter what, the really horrendous snow and ice storms comes very close to New Year’s. Trust me, by the 3rd or 4th of January, there’s a ton of ice and snow that you’ve tried to get off you driveway and sidewalk by your home. You’ll be walking around like a duck with thick rubber boots as soon as you step outside to avoid slipping on the ice. I remember when I met my husband, actually — it was the beginning of January, and we met because we both took the train at the same time. Well, he had to really actually like me, because every time he saw me, I was wearing a heavy winter cost and I was wearing a hat and gloves and a scarf. I was bundled up like a little Eskimo, because that’s what you do to get anywhere in Chicago at that time of the year.
Well, I’m starting to write this editorial, and it’s January 12th, and the high has been in the 40s. There’s no snow on the ground (there was a snow storm in the beginning of December, but it melted and the only water that has come from the shy has been from rain, not snow, and not even sleet). I go out in the evenings and I have to decide if I should bother even bringing a cost along.
This is January. I should have eighteen layers on to keep me warm. I should be cursing the cold weather. But instead I’m forgoing wearing jackets when I go out at night. I know the Farmer’s Almanac said this would be a very mild winter, but I shouldn’t be listening to people in New Jersey say that their flowers have been tricked into blooming in January because the weather’s so warm. Their flowers might not even bloom in the spring then, because nature was expecting a winter to hibernate through before their blooming in spring.
And if you think this record for the warmest winter in recorded history isn’t because of global warming, fine. Just read the rest of this and see if you still feel that way. And fine, I’ll stop going on about how this weather change is affecting me in Chicago, or even family in New Jersey. Arizona has had the ten hottest years on record for the state — and they were all since 1990. I even remember being in Arizona the summer of 1990, lying in the sun for just a little while, and I smelled something burning. After a while, I thought it smelled like meat cooking. But there was nobody around with a grill — I realized that it was my flesh burning that I smelled, and I got out of the sun. It was 122° when I was there, and apparently Arizona had a lot of how years since then.
Want other states? Fine. In the summer of 2006, North and South Dakota had highs of 120°. In fact, June ’05 through June ’06 was recorded as the hottest ever.
But if you want to hear about adapting, consider that in record heat waves, the Parisians used the idea of misting water for tourists... but there are only so many last-ditch efforts we can make to help us through these global problems.


The Ice Man Cometh
(Icecaps, Glacier Melts and Earthquakes... Oh My)

This warm weather we’ve been having (you know, over the past 10 years it’s been unseasonably warm as well, and earth has been hitting a lot of records for the highest temperatures and the warmest seasons) has been warming the ocean waters (and yeah, I’ll guess that fish that are used to a certain temperature won’t be able to continually migrate to cooler waters and hope the food they eat under water migrates with them). Now, this might sound like a cool thing for those who like to surf off of Atlantic or Pacific beaches, but that warming water will be circulated throughout all of the oceans, causing the waters that flow underneath glaciers and arctic areas to heat up. Just recently heard of the Ayles ice shelf on an island in northern Canada — I read in an AP article that “The Ayles Ice Shelf — all 41 square miles of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 500 miles south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.” Remember that the Ayles ice shelf is on an ice shelf, but CNN even noted that “Scientists using satellite images later noticed that it became a newly formed ice island in just an hour and left a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.”
41 square miles? That’s like about fourteen thousand football fields in size.
Scientists will have to watch the motion of this broken ice shelf now, which has formed its own island, because it can move in the water — and may very likely “drift into populated shipping routes,” Laurie Weir (who monitors ice conditions for the Canadian Ice Service) said.
And yeah, I don’t have to search the Internet or scavenge all media outlets to hear these things — this was so big that there was even reporting on it in the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago Tribune pointed out that “the ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada’s Arctic,” and “some scientists say that it is the largest event of its kind in Canada in 30 years.” Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, added that the remaining ice shelves are 90 percent smaller than when they were first discovered in 1906.
Luke Copland, head of the new global ice lab at the University of Ottawa, was even reported by MSNBC as saying, “Even 10 years ago scientists assumed that when global warming changes occur that it would happen gradually so that perhaps we expected these ice shelves just to melt away quite slowly.” Now scientists who study arctic conditions all couldn’t believe what they were seeing with the break of this ice shelf. Ice shelves like this one have existed for many thousands of years, and something like this happening can only be due to a climate threshold being crossed. It also surprised scientists because they believed that any changes due to global warming would happen over a much slower period of time, and the fact that these events are happening now alarms them with the speed of the effects of global warming.
And ice melting might not only be a problem for raising water levels on the planet or affecting where underwater fish and plant life can survive, it might also even effect animals that depend on the ice right now. The Bush administration is placing polar bears on the “threatened” list (because of a loss of habitat). I even found sources in Korea (The Korea Herald with writing By Victoria Cook) that note that although “there are 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears, and they live mostly in the Arctic, in places like Russia, Denmark, Norway, Canada and the United States, about a quarter of this population lives in the U.S. state of Alaska.” And “the International Conservation Union recently listed polar bears as a threatened species.” Couple losing ice to humans encroaching on more spaces more, space for polar bears may for many reasons become a smaller and smaller area.


And you know, thinking about humans expanding their space on the planet and possibly taking space from polar bears, well, that makes me think of a show I saw, either on the food channel or this history channel (honestly, I can’t remember) that was talking about how when people first came to settle in America, they found that they could fish for lobsters on the east coast. People who worked there so long getting lobsters for their bosses would complain that when given food, they shouldn’t be made to eat lobster for a meal more than 4 time a week. I tell you of my seeing this in passing, because it made me think of how eager humans are to abuse what they perceive as a natural resource. These employees were angry that they had to eat lobster so often. Now it’s a more rare thing to order at a restaurant, and that’s probably primarily because we have just been taking them so much form the oceans that we didn’t realize that we might be upsetting the order of nature too much. I mean, my dad lives in southwest Florida, where Grouper fish is abundant, and people love the taste of them. I even head that this year there’s a fish shortage of Grouper, and people from out of state often have to settle for Vietnamese Catfish instead.


There are many reasons why I keep bringing up the ice caps melting and falling into the arctic oceans. Consider the way our atmosphere works: it’s actually really thin, if you consider what it’s protecting (us from radiation), it’s about as thin as placing a varnish over a wooden table. The sun sends radiation to us, and thanks to our atmosphere, we’re protected form that radiation (it’s mostly reflected back toward the sub as infrared radiation). Now, because of the ozone, more of the radiation that shines down on earth actually stays within the atmosphere of the earth, to warm the earth (like hearing a stupid, basic explanation for global warming?).
Now, I brought up the ozone. We nationally did something to fight against the chemicals we were producing to stop increasing the size of the ozone. We worked with other countries and phased out chemicals that were damaging to the ozone. We tried to solve that global problem. And although NOAA (the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) states that “the ozone layer is expected to recover by the middle of the 21st century, assuming global compliance with the Montreal Protocol,” you can still see through the Climate Prediction Center that the ozone is still an ominous force that will most definitely have an effect on our climate in the years to come. But CFCs were reduced, and according to sources, human activity seems to no longer be a contributing problem with causing holes in the ozone.
Now, I know I brought up the ozone because of its effect in spreading global warming, but talking about our fights to do something about the ozone actually shows that we humans can have an impact on a global problem. All we have to do is get the rest of the world to understand that this really is a problem, and that we can still do something about it.


But Why Should I Care About The Poles?

I keep bringing up the arctic ice and stuff that happens at the poles. Even though I’ve always liked warm weather, I’m still psycho enough to crave a trip to photograph Antarctica (when I get enough money to pull it off, I swear, I’ll do it). But I recently heard about land-based ice and sea-based ice. Floating ice in the Antarctic is an essential for the temperature stability of this planet, and scientists have deduced that floating ice (as it has existed in the Antarctic) will no longer exist (because of increased temperatures) within 55 years.
I don’t know, that might not sound like a big deal to you, but it’s an important part of how this planet stays in balance, and how we can continue to live peacefully without massive climate changes here. I know my treading down to Antarctica will be another human attempt to destroy a natural phenomenon, but if a ship is already, I’ll still spend the money to see it — and maybe I’ll be able to see the continent before floating ice disappears from this planet.
And things like “glacial earthquakes” occurring now are also evidence of the destabilizing of areas (not to mention of shifting ice, caused by melting ice). These things will have an effect on water temperatures around the globe, as well as water levels. If these things happen, coastal town will no longer exist — they’ll be underwater. I mean, when talking about the effects of global warming, seeing the effect on the poles is a really prominent example of the effect on the rest of the world, precisely because it is so cold, and has trapped water as ice for I don’t know how many thousands of years.
But the poles experience greater effects from global warming than the rest of the world, and it is easier to quantify and relate to when you see the numbers. Melting ice from the poles, which can be tracked and recorded, will lead to higher global water levels.
So let’s quantify things here. The Northern Ice Cap has dropped 40% in size in the last 40 years.
Did you hear that? Forty percent of the Northern Ice Cap has melted away in the last forty years.
That’s a lot.
And the thing is, the sun reflects off of the ice caps and glaciers so that the temperature on the planet doesn’t get too warm because of the sun. But when more if the ice melts, 90% of the sun is absorbed (instead of having 90% of the sun energy reflecting away from our planet), making the water warmer, and even melting the ice caps more.

Rivers and springs around the world come from natural glacial melting. The problem with the literal melting away of some glaciers (the receding of these glaciers) is important because 40% of all people on this planet are in areas that depend on the water flowing from these glaciers. Although water may rise in some places, these people will not have access to water the way they once did.


Thermokarst ponds and Drunken Forests

Have you ever head of “drunken trees?” “Drunken trees” is an Alaskan phrase for trees that are tilted, and growing on an angle from the ground (making them look drunk, I guess). In Canada, they will say that the periodic freezing and melting of water in the upper layer of soil can disrupt the growth of plants. But people (including Word Spy) will now admit that “drunken trees” are, in a northern climate, “a stand of trees under which the permafrost has melted.” The trees point on angles, in odd directions, because the permafrost that supports them is melting.
Now, what on earth is “melting permafrost?” For that matter, what is permafrost? Okay, fine, the definition from Webster’s is “a permanently frozen layer at variable depth below the surface in frigid regions of a planet (as earth).” So get in the definition that permafrost is permanently frozen (that’s why it’s got PERMA in front of the word ‘frost’). As scientists have understood this earth over the years, this is an important part of how the earth works, because permafrost (since it’s frozen) actually also houses greenhouse gases and the like. But scientists have found greenhouse gases bubbling from melting permafrost (Science Daily, NPR)and the New Scientist). They have even pointed out that Siberia’s melting permafrost is yet another indication of the heightened pace of global warming. And Hell, if you think I’m only looking to snotty, or liberal sources for my news, you can even check out the story in the picture—friendly and ever-so-colorful USA Today, where they illustrate an iceberg melting in Greenland, as “global warming may be triggering a self-perpetuating climate time bomb.”
Permafrost also traps methane and CO2, so when Permafrost melts, even more greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere, and the cycle continues to escalate.


Thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide, and this material is not only released into the air, but also into the water. “Ocean acidification” is what they call when carbon dioxide goes not only into the air buy also into the oceans. Now, I can tell you that I’d never want to swim (or dear God, drink) water from Lake Michigan, but water right now is becoming more and more acidic in the oceans. Coral reef systems (which are like rainforests of the oceans), with their vibrant colors and the algae living on and around them, are suffering because of this. If you see older and more recent pictures of the Great Barrier Reef off the cost of Australia) to see the differences in color of the coral, you’ll understand how coral is becoming bleached die to the acidification of the water. The algae is even less inclined to grow there with them, which has historically been a natural cover for them at times as well.
With conditions like this in the oceans, jellyfish can’t even how will this effect fish and other plant lives under water make shells.

purple coral off of Australia

bleached coral at the great barrier


I’ll Huff, and I’ll Puff, and I’ll Blow Your House Down...
Tornados, Hurricanes, Earthquakes & Tsunamis

As oceans get warmer (due to global higher temperatures and melting polar ice), the higher temperatures in the ocean water actually lead to stronger storms. When the ocean temperature is increased at all, it allows a better breeding ground for what will later become tsunamis and hurricanes.
I think over the course of my lifetime I’ve seen tornadoes increase to insanely high numbers. I mean, when I was a child and we went from Illinois to Florida for my dad’s business regularly (where he now lives), there was never really a problem at any time of the year with weather. As the years have progressed, I’ve heard of more and more hurricanes and tornados across the states now. It used to be that just a few hurricanes would be reported on, and now we understand the meaning of ‘hurricane season” (where my dad lives they’ll have posts to support the palm trees during the windy months of hurricane season, to try to make sure they won’t be knocked over or uprooted so easily). Look at Katrina (we all remember the damage that has yet to be repaired to a small section of New Orleans — check out photos I took a year and a half after Katrina hit).

a photo a year and a half after Katrina hit New Orleans, Louisiana

And as I mentioned before, warmer oceans breed stronger storms... Well, Katrina, when it hit Florida, was a category 1 storm. But it went into the warmer Gulf of Mexico, which gave Katrina a chance to grow a lot stronger. It was a category 5 storm by the time levees broke in New Orleans, Louisiana.
I even heard news weather reports that 2006 set the state record for tornados in Missouri — the previous record for a single year in Missouri was 84 tornadoes in 2003 (seeing a trend with violent weather here?). By December 31 of 2006, tornados were appearing like mad in Mississippi. The news reports would say that these conditions are not impossible, but they are uncommon.
But I’ve been going on about weather in the continental United States all this time with bad weather. I know this was not because of global warming, but consider the 2004 Indian Ocean undersea earthquake, known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake with an epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra , Indonesia, that formed the massive tsunami that crushed Sri Lanka... On the day after Christmas, we watched on television reports of how this tsunami affected coastal communities across South and Southeast Asia, including parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. This earthquake eventually registered between 9.1 and 9.3 on the Richter scale, which made it the second largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph . Hundreds of thousands were missing or dead, and the destruction also spread to the livelihood of any survivors of the affected areas. This earthquake was unusually large in geographical extent, and scientists point to a Tectonic plate shift over a few minutes to explain the severity of this earthquake.
This natural catastrophe occurred where events like this aren’t common, and they did not have the resources to be able to do much to help themselves through the impending crisis.
Now, this event may not have had anything to do with global warming, but consider the higher number of tsunamis in Asia recently (in the same way there are very high numbers of hurricanes and tornados in the continental United States). Science Daily points out in “South Asia Disaster Shows Tsunamis Are An Ongoing Threat To Humans” that “the danger is mounting year by year, said Jody Bourgeois (a University of Washington Earth and space sciences professor who studies historic and pre-historic tsunamis), because greatly swelling numbers of people are living and playing along coastlines vulnerable to sometimes immense tsunamis. Bourgeois and others have found ample sedimentary evidence of Pacific basin tsunamis, either confined to relatively small locations or spread over vast distances.” In other words, although we can site problems in the United States due to nature’s wrath, we’re not the only ones. It’s happening around the world, from Asia to the States — even to the North and South Pole.

Now, also think back over recent years to news reports fro the drive-by media (you know, 24 hour cable channels like CNN, or MSNBC, or Headline News, or Fox News, you can probably even find it on the network news shows too). When you were little, do you remember people talking about the avian flu? Or SARS? Or the West Nile Virus? How about Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus Bolivian hemorrhagic fever? I could go on and on with names, but I think you get the idea. More and more names for tropical-sounding and potentially deadly diseases are cropping up now. Don’t get stung by a mosquito. Wash you hands and all countertops 14 times with 6 different cleaners if you touch a chicken. I know I eat a ton of garlic to keep the bugs away (and sometimes piss off my friends), and I’m a vegetarian, so I don’t have to worry about caressing raw chicken flesh, but people are finding that they have to place more and more restrictions on what they do to protect themselves from what they used to do every day and not think twice about.
Have you ever thought about why this “new” viruses and diseases may be springing up? I don’t know, but it might it have anything to do with the fact that animals are dying in their current habitats because temperatures and water conditions are changing too drastically? Could it be that the conditions that have been hastened by the changes form global warming? Some things may die in a desert, but when some areas are hit with tons of floods because of melting ice, or hurricanes or tsunamis and the water can’t be cleared away quickly enough, breeding grounds then exist for new diseases to flourish.


Hot Weather, Cold Weather, Droughts and Floods

So I’ve been going on about bad weather and high temperatures as examples — wanna see different effects of global warming? News reports in January ’07 show there were freezing temperatures in Las Vegas, and New York had a 78° high. Then even hear of how cold can destroy a town — like Denver hit with so much snow that their airport was closed down, and only after days could some of their runways be operational. Because of those repeated snowstorms in Denver, there were not only people’s cars trapped on highways and later in massive snow drifts, but also pastures of cows who were stranded without food or drink (and no, cows won’t consume snow). Helicopters actually dropped bales of hay near the cows, so they might be able to survive.
In January 2007 (granted, that’s a winter month, but think about this, this is about California) Gov. Schwarzenegger called for a state of emergency in California because temperatures were 25?m, probably destroying citrus crops in the state.
But wait, you thought global warming just meant that things got hotter (like I might have to deal with so much ice and snow in Chicago), right? Well, not really, because these changes in the weather can produce violent weather patterns — at both ends of the extreme.
Consider that global warming leads to more precipitation — use any of the tsunamis or hurricanes, which have grown so much more common in recent years, as evidence. Check out the fact that 37 inches of water fell in a 24-hour period (get a load of that, 27 inches in 24 hours) in Mumbai, India. So then also consider that those massive storms, those singular events, are where the increase in precipitation comes from. Because there’s only so much water to go around on earth (even if glaciers are melting), so if a lot of water is being dumped in some places on the planet in these storms, then there must be other places on the planet where less water is being circulated. So with these massive single storms, there are some other places that become more much less humid. Nature will even actually suck moisture out of the soil to accommodate these storms. So... a desert can have its sand, but when even more moisture is pulled from the land and the air, that sand can turn to almost larger hardened chunks of rock.


The Science Behind It All

Okay, carbon dioxide spikes and recedes annually — because life in earth is more predominantly in the northern hemisphere, carbon dioxide spikes in the spring and summer, and recedes in the winter. Scientists can check the levels of carbon dioxide because of testing ice core samples, and they have found that over the past 650,000 years (that’s a long time) carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere has never exceeded 300 parts per million. Today, when people check, it looks like it’s at almost twice as high. And those levels aren’t natural, or normal.
Now, as the population on earth increases (in 1945 it was around 2.3 billion, and by 2005 it’s 6.3 billion), more people will consume more energy (and create more gases that can hurt the environment). There are many issues that support this, like the fact that we as humans on this planet still use old technology (like using coal in China, for example), which may be like us humans metaphorically choose to dig the hole deeper that we’re in with helping the atmosphere.
Now, since I mentioned China burning coal, I don’t want you to think that it’s only areas like China that are the cause of the problem. Have you ever heard of the Kyoto Protocol? Well, the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an amendment to the international treaty on climate change, which actually sets up target dates for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions for any countries that sign for this agreement (the Earth Summit originally set no mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual nations and contained no enforcement provisions). It was started on 12/11/97 and actually started to go into effect 02/16/05. The United States — and yes, carbon emissions are highest in the U.S. was one of the countries that originally really pushed for this, but since the Bush presidency, the U.S. has signed the Kyoto Protocol, but has not ratified it. Actually, Bush’s explanation was that the costs of following the Convention requirements would stress their economy.
Yes, that was his reason. It would cost too much.
Wikipedia even outlined that “the United States would be required to reduce its total emissions an average of 7% below 1990 levels, however neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration sent the protocol to Congress for ratification. The Bush administration explicitly rejected the protocol in 2001.” Throughout a lot of later negotiations, the United States delegation continued to act as observers, declining to participate in active negotiations.
So yes, the United States is not accepting any of the guidelines in the Kyoto Protocol, and the United States has the largest effect on global warming because of its emissions. The Washington Post even released an article about the Kyoto Protocol the day it went into effect (02/16/05), saying, “With the United States on the sidelines, the Kyoto treaty could end up as ineffectual as the post-World War I League of Nations. But by uniting the vast majority of the world’s nations, Kyoto could equally be the harbinger of an international model that rewards pollution-cutting innovation and pushes countries and companies to pursue cleaner forms of growth.”
Dan Zinder explained in The Kyoto Protocol and the U.S.: “In 1998 the Clinton administration signed on to the Kyoto Protocol. In doing this it committed the United States to a 7 percent reduction in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 emissions levels, to be achieved between the years 2008 and 2012. Three years later in 2001, the Bush administration withdrew the U.S. signature.” The Bush Administration was rejecting the Protocol because (particularly) countries like India and China were called “developing countries,” and they were not held to the same strict guidelines that other countries were for reducing emissions.
The U.S. is the world’s biggest polluter, and America has recently not backed pollution treaties to reduce car emissions or petrol consumption. The US alone accounted for 36.1% of worldwide greenhouse emissions in 1990 (as reported by the BBC). When Bush was only a presidential candidate, he promised to lower carbon dioxide emissions. But shortly after he took office, he withdrew his support to the Protocol. Making this decision dealt a serious blow to the Kyoto Protocol, at a time when everyone should be turning to any option at all for helping the environment. Larry West even highlighted the future impending issues: “Many scientists estimate that by the year 2100 the average global temperature will increase by 1.4 degrees to 5.8 degrees Celsius (approximately 2.5 degrees to 10.5 degrees Fahrenheit). This increase represents a significant acceleration in global warming. For example, during the 20th century the average global temperature increased only 0.6 degrees Celsius (slightly more than 1 degree Fahrenheit).”
This is due to not only the effects of 150 years of industrialization, but also to overpopulation and deforestation.
Clearcuts Deforestation? Wait a minute, I thought we humans were to ones wreaking so much havoc on the atmosphere. Well, we are, but nature still plays a part in it. We clear forsts (either to use the wood and not replenish it with more trees to help consume CO2, or to convert the land into non-forest areas). This has a huge impact on our lives, by removing something that actually helps nature control the amount of CO2 in the environment. Years ago I heard that rainforest land was being cleared and replaced with orange groves (you know, so thet can mass-produce orange juice from concentrate and save the American shopper a few coins). Deforestation alters the hydrologic cycle, alterring the amount of water in the soil and groundwater and the moisture in the atmosphere. Forests support considerable biodiversity, providing valuable habitat for wildlife. Moreover, deforestation stops potential medicines from being found, as many cures to diseases find their base in something discovered in nature (like the rainforest). NASA) even explains frightening possibilities: “If the current rate of deforestation continues, the world’s rain forests will vanish within 100 years-causing unknown effects on global climate and eliminating the majority of plant and animal species on the planet.”
fire And deforestation isn’t the only problem — 30% of all CO2 is from burning forests (you know, brush fires, those fires that you now hear a lot about on the news, which weren’t quite so common when we were little). So yeah, that does mean that even burning leaves you’ve raked together in the fall could be bad for the environment, but maybe mentioning those fires that destroy so many acres of forest in the States annually can connect some dots here. Know how I said that with global warming, some places get lots of single-event massive water storms (like tsunamis and hurricanes) but other places lose the humidity? These forest fires are a prime example of the effect of losing water in some places while gaining it in others. Forested land is now dryer (probably in part because of the relocation of water in other major storms worldwide), because water is pulled for storms elsewhere. Even lightning can start a massive fire now. So because global warming has been spiraling into a larger and larger problem over the years, both category 5 hurricanes and massive forest fires have been on the rise.
So yeah, this has become a global problem. In the Amazon, riverbeds have become deserts (yes, rainforests, which have absorbed emissions and helped stabilize our planet, and slowly starting to die off, allowing for more emissions to escalate global warming). The effects can be seen all around us, from ice shelves breaking and glaciers melting to an increase in violent weather storms (like hurricanes), to massive forest fires. Couple that with the unanimous scientific understanding of the threats of global warming existing on our planet to the attempted reporting of global warming as a “theory” and not a fact.
If the news can’t give you a fair view, you could probably bet the government won’t help either. A Bush aid even edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming. So when given the evidence around us, we have to ask ourselves: do we have to choose between saving money and the environment? Well, I don’t think you have to... And if you don’t save the environment, there might not be much of a future for anyone to enjoy.
But seriously, things can be done to help the environment, and they don’t have to be bad things. On a personal scale, use energy-efficient light bulbs. Or use energy less (like there’s no need to leave lights or televisions on if nobody is in that room, right?). We could have more live plants in our homes, since plants absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Drive fuel-efficient cars (or use public transportation when you can). But what about energy conservation on a larger scale? Well, the Q Building from my husband’s old work (at Pharmacia, in Skokie Illinois) pops into my mind. It cost more money to produce, but the Q Building is considered 40% more efficient than similar lab buildings, which means it reduces consumption of fossil fuels and has lower emissions. Steel beams are made from 100% recycled steel, wallboard is made from the purified waste products of power plants, and the carpeting and ceiling tiles contain a large percentage of recycled material. The building is airy and well lit, and when you walk inside the building, it feels comfortable to be in (and not tight or constrictive).
I also remember watching a television show that talked about an office building in New York, which used recycled metals (by saving emissions from creating new metals) I remember even learning when we went to Shanghai and saw all of the cool-looking high rises that were being built, that a lot of the metal they use in Shanghai is actually exported from the “waste” metal from the United States, because we’re too lazy to actually recycle our excesses. Well, using existing metals to build stop the emissions from creating new metal. For this New York building, they also made a choice to use sustainable wood for office equipment (from forests that they know will be replenished, versus destroying forested land), to even using collected rain water from the roof for a multi-story waterfall in the main area of the building, which helps regulate the temperature inside the building without using the excess energy to heat an cool the building as much). And the thing is, the building is actually quite beautiful — and knowing that this beauty is actually existing to help counteract the emissions from human’s otherwise wasteful excesses makes it that much more beautiful.
So I can’t help but think of John K. Kennedy, when talking about deciding that we will put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, when he said that we don’t do these things because they are easy, but because they are hard (Actually, I think it in his voice, that we do these things “because they are haaaaahd”). But you’re right it is easier to just jump in your SUV and not think about the effects of your actions. But we can make changes, even on a personal level, and we’ll find that making these changes actually produce quite beautiful results. That’s when you realize that doing the right thing can actually be not only so gratifying, but also beautiful.

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Kuypers holding her skit while standing in lake Michigan, in Michigan kuypers

Janet Kuypers
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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
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