Changes in observed atmospheric CO2. Black line is adjusted for seasonal changes and shows a constant increase.
The increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide and the resulting effects have been a hot topic for a while now, and like with most hot topics, there is debate. However in this case much of the debate comes from those who are utterly misinformed. Many still believe that global climate change is not a man made issue, but a perfectly normal natural cycle or even a myth. Popular conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh maintains a stance that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the political left, and frequently brings it up on the air. Considering that Limbaugh is one of the highest paid people in broadcasting, it is frightening to think millions of people may actually believe him. The truth is the scientific community is nearly unanimous in its stance that global climate change is man made and due largely to CO2 output. However, the general public is not so united, thanks in part to people like Limbaugh. In addition to warming by greenhouse effects, rising atmospheric CO2 is leading to the acidification of the ocean, which is bad news for any creature with a calcium carbonate shell or exoskeleton. Logan (2010) and many other studies predict that ocean acidification will negatively affect global food systems in a massive way.
2. Rising Extinction Rates
A third or more of amphibian species are currently threatened with extinction
The evidence is overwhelming. Habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution, climate change, and other manmade causes are driving plant and animal species to extinction faster than it has ever occurred naturally. In their article, Wake & Vredenburg (2008) discuss the current peril of amphibians, a class of animals in which a third or more of its species are threatened with extinction. They support the common idea that the plight of the amphibians, who are susceptible to slight environmental changes, may be a sign that even greater biodiversity catastrophe is looming on the horizon.
3. Rising Consumption of Resources
Changes in global resource use in the 20th century
Inhabitants of developed nations use up an incredible amount of natural resources, upwards of 40 tons per person per year in some places. With world population growing, and more and more places adopting a more “modern” lifestyle, global rates of resource consumption could potentially triple to 140 billion tons annually by the year 2050 according to a U.N. environmental panel. This rate is far beyond sustainable. U.N. representatives warn that nations MUST decouple economic growth from resource consumption.
4. Rising Human Population
Trends in world population
Perhaps the most controversial problem that we face as a species is that of overpopulation. With global population predicted by many to surpass 9 billion by 2050, we are fanning the flames of the previously discussed issues. More people means more resources and space required to sustain the human population. Without a doubt we must wisely manage the environment to account for human ambition, but more importantly manage the human population (Luck, 2007).
So why is there such little meaningful reaction to these issues?
Ayres cites many potential causes. Among the most emphasized is over exposure to confusing information. Much of the present day media is privatized, and so what reaches the eyes and ears of the public is often skewed by political or economic agenda. Folks like Rush Limbaugh spread nonsense that is readily heard and absorbed, while real news is buried, unreported, or distorted. More than ever we tune in to biased corporate media sources which are most interested in influencing how we spend our money, and obtain less of what we know from people who actually care about us. We must be very selective of where we obtain our information and always maintain skepticism. Children are especially vulnerable to being manipulated through media and misinformation. Through constant bombardment of information we can easily become emotionally distant from world issues. Around the clock we hear about environmental problems and eventually begin to tune them out, silencing them with music, movies, technological toys, and other forms of entertainment or simply ignoring them. Education is another major factor. Why would we care about something we don't understand or even know about?
What can we do?
Children developing a bond with nature
Much of the dislocation comes from shortcomings in education, especially in early childhood when we are most impressionable. The value of raising children with at least some close contact with the natural world, the thing that allows us to live, cannot be understated. Digital wilderness is no substitute for the real thing. With fewer and fewer children growing up with any deep personal connection to nature, it is likely that fewer children will grow up with any real understanding of nature, let alone a desire to preserve it. Children must learn perspective, how we fit in the world in relation to the rest of nature, and how the Earth reacts to our actions. Children should understand early on that we have engineered serious problems for ourselves and the rest of biodiversity for which we must rapidly make changes to amend. Perhaps most importantly, we need to look not at technology as our savior, but at ourselves. We, as a species, must rise up and act heroically by changing our behavior and educating the next generation as well as ourselves on the ways which we depend on the world that we are quickly degrading.
Some inspiration :
(1) Ayres, E. (1999, May/June). Why Are We Not Astonished? World Watch Magazine, vol 12 no. 3. Retrieved from http://www.worldwatch.org/node/470
(2) Logan, C., & AMER INST BIOLOGICAL, S. (2010). A review of ocean acidification and America's response. BIOSCIENCE, 60(10), 819-828.
(3) Luck, G., & PUBLISHING, B. (2007). A review of the relationships between human population density and biodiversity. Biological Reviews, 82(4), 607-645.
(4) Wake, D., & Vredenburg, V. (2008). Are we in the midst of the sixth mass extinction? a view from the world of amphibians. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 11466-11473.