By Nikolas T. Monastere
The Climate Crisis is an undeniable threat to our modern way of life. More so than pandemics, fascism, or even war, not a single country or species remains unaffected. Earth is burning; in 2020 alone Australia’s lost over 12 million acres of land, the Amazon’s lost 310,000, and nearly an equal amount has been lost in California and Colorado. Alaska lost 2.5 million acres in 2019, which is little compared to Africa, where nearly 70% of all wildfires ravage that continent alone. The past five years have been the hottest on global record, and the recent record-breaking temperature in Death Valley (129°F/54°C) ensures the Earth’s only getting hotter.
Photo Source: matt_henry_photo (Instagram)
Scientists are reporting the inevitable loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Even if global carbon emissions were to drop to zero tomorrow, the point of no return has likely passed. Once the ice shelf is gone, sea levels will be 24 feet (7.2 meters) higher than they are now. Hundreds of thousands of coast lines will flood, creating an influx of climate refugees. On February 6th, 2020, Antarctica and southern California had the same temperature; a comfortable 64.9°F (18.3°C).
Ocean health is also in decline. New ‘dead zones’ appear every year. Scientists call these places “hypoxic,” meaning “oxygen deficient;” they’re created when too many nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus cause the rapid growth of algae, aka an Algae Bloom. Blooms block sunlight and prevent sea grass from undergoing photosynthesis; depriving marine life of necessary oxygen. Run-off from nitrogen-based fertilizers makes its way to the sea, and burning fossil fuels release nitrogen into the air where it binds with water droplets and falls back to the planet’s surface in precipitation. The additional run-off ensures Dead Zones are likely to occur near populated coastlines. According to National Geographic, humans are responsible for twice the amount of naturally occurring nitrogen and roughly three times the amount of phosphorus.
Like a Greek tragedy, mankind’s hubris has proven to be its own downfall. In the belief that we are somehow a superior species that won’t suffer the consequences of our reliance on fossil fuels, we’re destroying the ecosystems necessary for our survival and way of life. The US National Parks have been hit hardest by our species’s decisions, and future generations will never see them as we do now.
The National Parks Conservation Association (https://www.npca.org/) has a list of ways in which the parks have been affected by the Climate Crisis, and the organization confirms every single park has been damaged. From Alaska to Florida and all the space between, all our natural wonders are at risk. As a species humans have prioritized short-term gain over long-term sustainability; a model that fails in business and fails in conservation. The common hope is we’ll unite when the time comes, and a miracle will appear in the eleventh hour and all will be well. But the hour has come and our miracle lies is collective action. The wetlands are flooding, the coasts are sinking, and our forests are turning to ash and sand; entire species disappear daily, never to return. Even if scientists master cloning and bring these creatures back, the habitats in which they thrive will be gone.
The Everglades are inundated with salt water from the sea, disturbing the precious ratio of salt and freshwater that makes the Sea of Grass so rich in biodiversity. Only 26 of the original 150 glaciers of Glacier National Park exist today, with acres of ice disappearing each year, taking with them fresh water that feeds rivers and streams. In the north, melting permafrost has led to slumps in the land, rocks slides, and the largest wildfire in US history, ensuring Denali National Park in Alaska will never be the same again. The Redwoods of California are burning as I write this; trees older than the Ancient Roman Empire turned to pillars of flame, proving no woodland is safe in a tinder-box world. Our National Parks are located in extreme areas like high elevations or the south-west, and the rate of warming and change in these parks is nearly twice as much as the national average. Or, to put it another way, the parks have only half the time for a miracle to appear.
Despite literally thousands of pages worth of scientific data chronicling the effects and cures for the Climate Crisis, knowledge is nothing without application. The deadline passed, and now our only hope is to mitigate further damage. Future generations will never see what we love and take for granted now, and without immediate action at the individual and global level we’re damning ourselves to a legacy of villainy. We’re at a critical junction, and we must become the miracle we need.
We know what to do. Reduce our use of plastics and recycle. Use ride-share or public transportation; adopt sustainable plant-based diets. Reduce carbon emissions. These are relatively small things, simple things, things easily within our grasp should we prioritize our planet and future over selfishness and greed. We must become selfless.The idolization of wealth and industrial progress has given us shallow souls and bitter hearts; selfish creatures unwilling to shy away from old habits even if it means saving the world. A society is built upon its collective moral strength, and we are buckling beneath the weight of our self-indulgence. We elect politicians who feed the ego and prioritize capital over life. “The next generation will solve this,” we think. “They’ll figure it out.” Yet here we are, staggering beneath the weight of compounded selfishness, fully capable of change yet refusing the call to action.
The planet’s a mess, but it’s not dead. Not yet. It’s bruised and battered, hanging on the ropes, but the bell hasn’t rung and everyone loves a good comeback. Now is the time to spit the blood from our mouths, climb to our feet, and come out swinging like our lives depend on it, for that’s precisely what’s on the line. Our collective individual action is going to make all the difference in our generation’s place in history and humanity’s place on Earth. From lifestyles to politics, only our decisions can make a difference.
Only we can be miracles.
Otherwise, we die.