Goodbye, Earth

We deserve our fate. It’s our collective fault that we’ve created so much pollution.

Call me a pessimist, but I don’t see much hope in our world’s corporations and governments. I don’t believe they’ll take enough significant action in time to make a difference. It would take a complete societal overhaul to save us now.

Everyone’s heard of global warming by now. Did you know there’s another phenomenon at work too? Global dimming, it’s called. Both are symptoms of a rapidly deteriorating world.

Scientists theorize that life began to thrive on this planet as microscopic plants released their byproducts—oxygen—into the atmosphere. Before that, the atmosphere was a harsh mixture of solar radiation and other gases, including carbon dioxide.

It’s this carbon dioxide that the microscopic plants consumed. Over millions of years, their byproduct, lucky for us, created the atmosphere we have today. This made the surface of the planet suitable for animal life.

These early plants helped us out again when, over the ages, they fell to the Earth, decayed & fossilized, and became what we call coal, oil, and fossil fuels today. But when humankind discovered that burning these resources could release enormous amounts of energy, we began to reverse all that these early plants accomplished.

For the burning of these resources released enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the air. Over the years, this carbon dioxide and other pollutants filled the atmosphere with a wide range of consequences, some most probably deadly.

Unfortunately, we’ve all been too short-sighted to see them.

The scientists who first caught onto global warming created scenarios that showed drastic climate changes and the potential destruction of human society in the far future. Perhaps in several generations or more.

The gases produced by our industrial societies are creating a Greenhouse Effect that will drastically warm the atmosphere, melt the polar ice caps, dry the forests, and thereby destroy an environment suitable for human life. But this would happen hundreds of years from now, they thought.

Then scientists caught onto global dimming. Pollutants in the air have actually been shielding us from the sun’s rays and fooling us into thinking that global warming wasn’t happening that fast. Temperatures weren’t rising as fast as they thought, so some concluded that drastic climate changes would happen much later.

Eventually, the scientists realized the full extent of the environmental destruction. They’ve realized that global dimming has lulled us into a false hope. The situation, apparently, is much more dire.

The latest projection, according to a BBC documentary, is that in 2035, the Earth’s atmosphere will have raised enough to begin melting the polar ice caps. As the world’s oceans rise, thousands of cities will become submerged.

2035 isn’t all that far away. That’s still in my lifetime. That scares the shit out of me, to be perfectly honest.

And looking at the track record of these scientists’ projections, they’re usually too conservative. Each time they get new data, they discover that they’ve been way off; the situation is always happening faster than they assumed.

Now I try and do my own part in helping. I recycle. I minimize my driving. I purchase environmentally-friendly products. But is that really enough? Even if the entire city of San Francisco was environmentally-friendly, would that be enough?

It’s been said that as soon as China’s entire population becomes industrialized, that will mean the end of the Earth. Just imagine that entire landmass creating unfathomable amounts of extra pollution.

I’m as supportive as any other Chinese American in wanting to see China grow into a prosperous nation. But humankind overall just isn’t smart enough yet to realize the consequences of economic growth. The incentive of economic power is too strong a temptation to think about the long-term effects of our actions.

So collectively, we’re responsible for our planet. I’m as much a member of the human race as you are. Pleading ignorance or inaction isn’t going to save you.

What does that mean for us then? What can we do? I’m stricken by a sense of helplessness at this situation. I can write letters to my Congressman (although they’ve already demonstrated that they won’t listen, as evident in the U.S.’s treatment of the Kyoto Protocol). I can join an environmental agency. I can keep on recycling.

But this problem is so much larger than that; it’s a global problem, and the solution needs to be global as well. The Kyoto Protocol was a good first try, but obviously it wasn’t globally effective.

Part of me looks at this and wonders: perhaps humankind deserves this. If we, as a race, are too ignorant and short-sighted to see what we’re doing, then perhaps we don’t deserve this life we’ve been given.

Or perhaps this cycle, the cycle of “carbon dioxide to oxygen back to carbon dioxide” into the atmosphere is a check-and-balance feature of the environment. A defense mechanism of the Earth, so to speak.

Such theories aren’t new, of course. People have been theorizing about diseases and natural disasters as “Earth’s defense mechanisms” for years now. In light of what’s happening, I can’t help but wonder about them now too.

It’s frightening to think of what we’re leaving to our children’s children. Oftentimes, we think that we’re inheriting the Earth from our parents. There’s an old Native American saying that goes: “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”

At the end of the day, I tend to be a hopeful person by nature though. I can’t accept that there’s absolutely no hope. I don’t have an answer yet, but I know that there are at least a thousand others who are trying to solve this solution too.

In my opinion, there are generally two ways to change the world: through policy and through education. How exactly to use those to change the world, I don’t know yet. But I’m sure as Hell going to think about it. Not for my own sake, but for my children’s children sake.

. . .

What do you think will happen to the Earth?

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.

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