Sunday, April 28, 2013

Make every day Earth Day: The future of your grandchildren is at stake

by Leigh Pomeroy
Vox Verax

As we leave Earth Day behind we might be inclined to think of all the things we need to do for the planet:
  • Switch out our incandescent light bulbs for LEDs or fluorescents
  • Take cloth bags to the store instead of using their plastic ones
  • Turn off lights
  • Turn down the heater at night or when not a home and limit air conditioning, or better yet: get a programmable thermostat
  • Pick up garbage in the park
The list goes on; you've heard it all.

But that's not going to be enough. Because if you're in your late teens or early twenties (the age of my students at Minnesota State University), odds are the planet of your grandchildren will be vastly different. For example:

Will your grandchildren like visiting Kansas? That's great news because they won't have to go anywhere! Minnesota in 50 years will have a climate — and vegetation — like that of the Sunflower State today.

Will they like going to Florida? More good news as their Disney Cruises will be able to dock right at the gates of Disney World because much of coastal Florida will be under water.

Will they like studying American history? If so, they better visit Delaware within the next few decades, as the first state to join the union will also be the first to leave it as it disappears under the rising Atlantic Ocean.

Will they enjoy eating shellfish? They better get their fill in now as the oceans will be so acidic due to dissolved carbon dioxide that no shelled animal will be able to survive.

Will they relish going to Japanese restaurants and eating sushi? More good news: Sushi will still be around, but your grandchildren better like raw jellyfish, because most of the other fish we enjoy now will be gone from the oceans.

Will they like elephants, rhinos, orangutans, tigers, koalas and polar bears? The good news is that some of these animals may still be around, but they'll be found only in zoos and wildlife parks. 

Will they like birds? Nearly everybody does, but your grandchildren better get used to seeing fewer in the sky, because by 2100 as many as 30 percent of all avian species will be extinct. In fact, by the year 2100 as many as half of all the world's species may be extinct.

Will they want to visit Brazil and the Amazon rainforest? The good news is that many species of rainforest trees will be able to survive the heat; the bad news is that up to 85 percent of the rainforest may be gone due to deforestation (for growing food and energy), drought, fire and extreme weather.

Will your grandchildren have plenty of clean, fresh water? Fortunately yes, but most of it won't come from aquifers, rivers or lakes like today. It'll come from our society's waste liquids — including our own pee and poop. In fact, comprehensive wastewater recycling systems already exist and are being installed all around the world, including in cities in the U.S.

Will your grandchildren like people? Well, they'd better, because there is going to be a lot more of us on the planet in 2100 … as many as 3 billion more than the 7 billion who live on earth today. That's up from just 1.5 billion folks in 1900. Eighty percent of those people will live in cities, some as large as 25 million, almost five times the population of Minnesota today.
If these scenarios seem too scary, there are silver linings on the horizon. The primary one is technology, which has saved us many times in the past — for example, the so-called green revolution in food production in the last 50 years. Yet every new technology has its downside — everything from industrial and agricultural waste pollution to our grocery plastic bags, too many of which end up in a massive swirl in the Pacific Ocean.

Yet aside from technology, what are the options?

One is simply to put our collective heads in the sand. This is what most of Congress is doing, and it suits them just fine. Heck, they don't have to worry about your grandchildren; their next election is more important!

The other is for all of us to take a stand … now.

Long over is the debate on whether man-made climate change is occurring. The scientists are universally in agreement even if too many politicians and pundits disagree, mainly because their next hefty paychecks depend upon their continued denial of reality.

Long over is the argument over the carrying capacity of the planet. While we don’t know exactly how many Homo sapiens the planet can comfortably hold, we know that already there are too many. Just look at the far-reaching negative impacts we've already forced upon other species.

Taking a stand means projecting yourself into the future of your grandchildren and deciding what kind of planet you want to bequeath them. Do you want them to enjoy Minnesota's lakes and rivers and forests as they are today? Do you want them to have plenty of food of the variety you enjoy? Do you want them to live in an environment free from contamination by toxic chemicals and heavy metals like mercury?

Do you want them to enjoy the oceans you've swum in, the mountains you've skied, the cultural offerings of the cities you've visited?

Yes, by all means switch out those light bulbs; recycle those cans, bottles, paper and food scraps; invest in weatherizing your house and please buy a hybrid car. These are all great, but they are not enough.

You, me, all of us must step up and hold our leaders and politicians accountable right now. For if we don't do that, our grandchildren will most certainly suffer — and that's not many years away.
Leigh Pomeroy, a Minnesota resident, is president of the Mankato Area Environmentalists and a member of the Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force. A shortened version of this article was published in the Mankato Free Press.


Blogger Tom Koch said...

Technology and individual freedom is the key. Central command and control will bring on doom and gloom.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Minnesota Central said...

The "bright light" of President George W. Bush's legacy is his signing of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 which bans the incandescent light bulb by 2014.

Contrary to what Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and others may want you to believe, it did not require people to buy a "mercury-laden" light bulbs ... it just required that new bulbs meet certain standards ... those new standards may have shaken up a aged industry ... with production now occurring domestically.

Best news yet ... did you see who won an Edison Award this year ?

Gold Award-Winning
3M LED Advanced Light

The 3M LED Advanced Light – the company’s first-ever bulb – couldn’t be more appropriate for an innovation award named after Thomas Edison. Just as Edison’s 1879 invention of the safe and practical incandescent light bulb took electric lighting to a newer, more economical level, 3M’s development of a bulb predicated upon light-emitting diodes (LED) further advances the technology. With new federal standards phasing out incandescent light bulbs, the 3M LED Advanced Light provides an option that’s just as bright as a traditional bulb, and with its special Light Guide Technology, it shines in all directions. Developed with 3M multilayer optical film, adhesives and heat management technologies, the stylish bulb provides long-term cost savings but doesn’t compromise on energy efficiency. What’s more is that it has an impressive 25-year product lifespan.

“Informed by 3M’s expertise converting LED into stable backlighting for high-definition TVs, our new bulb offers a more friendly and functional light source at a fraction of the energy,” said Ray Johnston, scientist for the 3M Electronics and Energy Group Lab. “It’s beyond meaningful to receive an award associated with Thomas Edison, someone regarded as the father of the light bulb.”

5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If these scenarios seem too scary, there are silver linings on the horizon. The primary one is technology, which has saved us many times in the past"
Technology can be our salvation but is just as likely will be our doom. We have a tendency to embrace new technologies only to find out they have horrible unintended consequences.
It's far more likely that a virus will delay the extinction of mankind by eliminating 30 to 50 percent of the population. Unlike Stephen Hawking I don't think we have a thousand years to turn things around.

9:34 AM  
Anonymous TRL said...

What we could do is improve our eletrical grid we waste more power tru aged sytems than you can imagine . by updateing our grid we can save untold amounts of energy thereby reliveing our need for fossel fuels ..but thats not goning to happen theres to much money to make sure things remain the way they are

11:01 AM  

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