I Want You to Panic
Climate Change, Rising Sea Levels, and Human Intervention.
Inscribed on the seven tablets of Babylonian creation is the story of Apsu and Tiamat. Two Gods who lived within the primordial waters of ancient history. One representing masculinity and the other feminity. Both symbolizing the chaos and disorder of the lifeless watery substance they inhabited. Apsu and Tiamat mating brought order and civilization to the universe.
"When skies above were not yet named
Nor earth below pronounced by name
Apsu, the first one, their begetter
And maker Tiamat, who bore them all,
Had mixed their waters together.
Oceans have been a rich source of intrigue and mystery to many cultures around the world. Stories, songs, traditions, and other art forms have sprung from our confusion about how the ocean works and who lives within it.
Yet, it seems the ocean still hasn't earned our respect.
Despite humanity only taking up 10% of the earth's landmass, we're managing to ruin the 70% the sea occupies. As dire as things seem, they get worse; the ocean produces nearly half the planet's oxygen and houses most of the earth's biodiversity.
Climate Change and Glacier Melting
"I don't want your hope, I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day... and then I want you to act... I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act like the house is on fire... because it is." - WEF Davos
If you hear "climate change" and picture a vague cloud of doom, here is a spark notes summary from the National Geographic Resource Library.
"Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. "
It sounds harmless, so what the weather patterns are altered? We've all seen the polar bears struggling in a habitat that has become foreign to them. But we watch one sad video or read a headline and continue as life was after maybe an hour of slight guilt. Climate change affects our ability to predict rainfall and thus hinders agricultural yield. It can also cause more intense and frequent natural disasters. Human influence is shifting the once perfect symbiosis on earth for the worse.
In colder regions, the rapid heating of the earth's oceans is causing the glaciers to melt and add tons of water to the ocean, contributing to rising sea levels.
"A study in the Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, found Alaska's glaciers have sent 75 gigatons (billions of tons) of water into the ocean every year for the past 19 years and helped increase sea levels by two-tenths of a millimeter on an annual basis."
It's hard to quantify in the mind, but 75 billions of tons, over seven years, would cover the state of Alaska in a foot of water.
"From climate change and melting ice caps to islands of floating garbage, we are increasingly fouling what was once the perfectly, chemically, thermally balanced womb of all earthly life."
Human-driven ocean pollution accounts for mass amounts of plastic ending up in our seas and killing our wildlife. Plastic won't break down and is enticing for unsuspecting turtles. The picture below is the stomach of a single sea turtle found dead on the Pacific coast.
As individual consumers, it's hard to fix the problem entirely, but collectively we can make a dent in ocean pollution by making simple lifestyle changes. My goal is to stop using single-use plastics. After seeing the amount of plastic in that turtle's stomach, it made me shudder.
The thought of my bottle cap contributing to the death of another living creature is terrifying. I knew, of course, that plastic waste was causing damage, but seeing it collectively in an animal's stomach is a different and moving experience that drove me to want to make a permanent change.
Simple Ways to Make a Difference
Plastic has its benefits and has contributed to advances in medical and aerospace technology. But half of the plastic we produce is single-use, and after the glimpse of pleasure or convenience, go on to have real implications on our planet.
“Nearly every piece of plastic begins as a fossil fuel, and greenhouse gases are emitted at each of each stage of the plastic lifecycle: 1) fossil fuel extraction and transport, 2) plastic refining and manufacture, 3) managing plastic waste, and 4) its ongoing impact in our oceans, waterways, and landscape.”
-Center for International Enviromental Law
Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
I know it tastes better than from the tap or a filter, but plastic bottles are only in production because of consumer demand. The bottom dollar has absolute power, and intervention is needed now more than ever.
According to National Geographic, eight million metric tons of plastic trash are dumped into the ocean every year. To help the reader visualize, they go on to say:
"That's the equivalent of setting five garbage bags full of trash on every foot of coastline around the world."
Plastic bottles are in the top 10 for most common trash found in the ocean. But you don't have to go that far; they're also in the landfill and, most likely, littering your neighborhood.
Stainless steel water bottles help keep your drink cold and contain zero plastic whatsoever. Plus, you can pair it with a metal straw, and you'll be looking like the environmentalist you are.
I am guilty of using plastic bags to store my trash, especially my cat's waste. On the surface, it feels pretty harmless; little did I know, the bag itself could take up to a thousand years to degrade.
As a temporary lesser evil, I've decided to switch to a more eco-friendly litter and instead of plastic, either paper or a material that will break down easier to contain the waste. Eventually, I hope to integrate the waste into a compost system. For now, I lack the expertise and space.
Since we're confessing our ecological sins, I'm also guilty of purchasing the cheapest house cleaner option. But I'm turning over a new leaf. Instead of cheap cleaner in plastic bottles, I've made the switch to brandless glass bottles. I have a master container that I keep my main cleaning supply in, and I dilute and add to spray bottles as necessary.
Companies like The Refill Shop will ship you a resupply of cleaner when you run out (it lasts forever, though).
I don't have all the answers, and I can't pretend to. I only know that humans created a grave problem. It's not easy to change the way you live, we're all creatures of habit, but a little effort will go a long way.
As I write this I'm sitting outside. I hear the birds chirping and singing to one another, I hear frogs ribbiting on the coast of the lake in front of me. The trees are a vibrant green and the water bubbles every so often from a fish breaching the surface. I fear that one day I won't be able to hear the birds, and the lake will be dried up, the trees wasting away.
Climate change is turning into a monster that feeds itself, the house is on fire, and we are the ones who lit the first flame. We are in the midst of a crisis, and if we don't act accordingly, it'll all come to an end. Our backs are against the wall, and I want my fellow humans to act like it is. I want you to panic becuase I fear the worst is yet to come.