Borrowing a Planet

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” A beautiful quote, originally recited by Moses Henry Cass, that succinctly hints at the difficult problems we face regarding the protection of our planet, and ultimately why it’s important to tackle them anyway.

There are several problems afflicting our planet; the most infamous, if a bit controversial, is the hot topic of climate change. Climate models and empirical evidence suggests that temperatures are rising worldwide, in a manner faster than what nature would normally process. Ultimately, the argument is that we humans are responsible for this environmental disaster, as the fossil fuels and other products we use emit carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other “greenhouse gasses”. These gasses then act to trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere, creating what’s known as the greenhouse effect that is global warming. Beyond this, there are many ‘tipping points’, where the increased temperatures may end up causing catastrophic and/or irreversible damage to our environment. Such an example would be the melting of the earth’s supply of icebergs in the polar regions, which would release large amounts of fresh water into our ocean, changing its makeup and causing sea levels to rise. The melting of the permafrost in higher latitude regions would also be a critical point, as it would release large amounts of methane, which is also a potent greenhouse gas, further speeding the global warming cycle.

Another pressing topic for environmentalists is pollution. Our oceans are filling up with trash, as is our immediate surroundings. This leads to adverse effects for both us and the local ecosystems around us, such as sever flooding, increased infections, dirty water sources, and the like.

These are all important points for us to consider, but an important question to ask is, “What can we do?” We can lead a lifestyle that encourages a healthier environment, such as using less water, electrity and other resources, recycling and minimizing our waste output, and engaging in less environmentally damaging activities like riding bicycles instead of cars which add CO2 to the atmostphere. But an economist would tell you that one individual alone is not enough to change anything. We all need to do this, together. Focusing on the problem is important, not for us now, but for the future of the planet.

 

-Brian Robles

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*Note: This post is to make up for a late class

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