With Earth Day looming, the hot topic is environmental awareness. On campuses all over America, groups are organizing tree plantings, bottled water protests, and every other imaginable way to try to increase the public’s knowledge of what climate change really looks like. This is good: we need to encourage more and more people to get involved, and we need to attack climate change from all sides, but there are things we need to deal with first. Here’s a breakdown of the major forces facing our ability to solve the climate change issue:
Oil might as well be two hands around the collective neck of America and the rest of the world at this point. It’s negative for two reasons. First of all, it pollutes the Earth. Easy enough to understand—when we burn fuel, we make smoke. In production as well, the environment is harmed, especially when things go wrong, a la BP in the Gulf of Mexico. The other major reason oil is destructive is how little people realize its use is necessary to survival at this point. America’s food system is entirely contingent on trucks bringing the food from where its grown to where it’s eaten. The localvore movement—or who eat only foods grown locally—attempts to address it, but a minority group like the localvores cannot offset what would happen if a major city’s food supply was cut off due to oil shortages. Oil, a word we always hear thrown around, has a much deeper implication than just pollution when we realize its tied to our food sources.
The world is running out of water, and nobody’s talking about it. In larger countries, like the United States of America, the problem is relatively offset by the large amounts of fresh water resources. When Arizona runs out of water in the next three years, somewhere nearby, probably Northern California, will be able to ship them what they need. While it ties our water to our oil, just as our food is tied to our oil, at least, here in the United States, we’ll be able to weather the first real droughts. But, for a country like Yemen, the entire country will be out of water in 3 years. What happens then? Will they be able to barter their way out of it? Probably, but how many countries need to run out of water before one starts fighting for the resource, rather than bargaining for it. After all, who really owns water? Answer: No one.
The world is going to see more turbulent weather in the next 50 years, weather that has always been relegated to once-in-a-while status. This will not be the case anymore. A dramatic increase in both the frequency and intensity of precipitation during all times of the year is bound to occur due to the shifting tides, wind patterns, and temperatures of the ocean. Earthquakes, while not related to climate change, will put exceptional stress on systems already stressed, potentially throwing even countries like Japan into chaos. Hurricanes, while they may have taken one or two years off, will be back. It doesn’t take a BA in science to see these trends picking up.
Oil, water, and natural disasters need to become our primary focuses in the battle against ourselves and against climate change. This week, when you see all those tents and posters on campus talking about Green Week, get involved, start conversations, and get people to realize that the systems of life we rely on absolutely are about to be shifted.