There are a few things that I am really worried about for the future. However, one thing scares me the most above all others: Most of our world as we know it will be irreversibly changed, very possibly within this century.
This is not a good change either; we are not making some miraculous steps forward to improve standards of living. We are not morphing to live in harmony with nature. Instead we are treating the planet like a disposable napkin we can throw away should it get ruined. Except we forget that we live on that “napkin.”
Scientists have been warning us for a long time that the stability of our climate is going absolutely to hell because of our actions. Most were ignored. But even if one chooses to dismiss such warnings, it is clear that something is wrong.
The frequency of record-breaking heat waves such as the one that hit the northwestern United States this summer, along with the resulting fires which brought smoke across the country, are not normal. In recent years, high temperatures and wildfires are not typical events in Siberia, nor are lethal snowstorms in Texas. We are seeing bizarre shifts in local climate norms across the world, just a few months ago Germany suffered catastrophic flooding, proving if anything that our infrastructure is not prepared for what is coming.
We know that this is happening, and we can see that changes in the climate are continuing to get more extreme every year, yet as a species we still have our heads in the sand.
The costs of ignoring what is going on are pretty clear. Not only is there a potential for extensive loss to human and natural life, which is already happening, but our standards of living will surely change. Sure we might be able to adapt, but the question I have to ask is: Do we want to live in a world like that?
Fear of what could happen needs to be a motivator, even if it is only for precaution.
I love the natural world, the wilderness and being able to experience it in familiar ways. The prospect of seeing it basically turned into a lifeless, toxic hellscape keeps me up at night. It’s convenient to be dismissive and revel in the fact you’ll be dead before those permanent climate change impacts take hold, but that is exactly the problem. The cause of climate change is not exclusive to the use of fossil fuels, it’s the changing of ecosystems for our own use. It’s the harvesting of animal and plant life to the point where it or the ecosystem can’t recover. Nature, ecosystems and the balance of our planet’s systems are fragile, and if people observed it for long enough they would understand that you cannot just find a quick fix and call it good enough. We played god, and we are going to suffer for it.
I see that as a species we have one very clear option. We have to make changes now so that what happens in the future is not a disaster. We need to not only drastically reverse our emissions of natural gases but place a heavy emphasis on sustainability. Resources are finite, and there is an increasingly fast-growing population on this planet.
To start with, we need to leave the ocean alone for a bit. Its ability to store carbon is probably the one thing that can even have a chance of starting to restore balance. But it needs to recover since commercial fishing has left it depleted.
Growing populations need power. It is pretty clear that burning fossil fuels like coal is not a solution, as dirty and inefficient as it is, we will also run out of it at some point. We need to find a clean, reliable long-term alternative ASAP and phase out fossil fuels.
The problem is that older generations of lawmakers act like we are not on a downward slope, and will invariably find reasons why we shouldn’t do any of this. My generation has almost no real legislative power, and despite how much noise we make, it doesn’t do a thing.
We don’t have the luxury of time to wait. Scientists warned us it had to be done now, yet countries sit on their thumbs over nonbinding climate agreements and hand the problem off to us. When it comes to actual solutions, lawmakers seem to have cold feet.
What I want to know is, do we really have a choice in the matter? Renewables may have flaws and are not as established as fossil fuels, but it is my opinion that we need to take the lesser of two evils. Try to better develop alternative forms of energy as we go along. I would much rather live next to a reactor than the alternative path which we will find ourselves on.
Locally, we have ideal conditions in New Mexico for building wind and solar infrastructure, and hopefully we can try and pioneer further development to benefit our state’s economy as well. It is the nature of politics that the industry will dig in their heels and fight to the end. But at some point we cannot depend on fossil fuels since they are jeopardizing any future we may have.