The future is coming, and it’s coming fast.
The majority of people choose to either ignore it, or do not know the devastating consequences of that future. The statistic that the population in predicted to be 11 billion in 2100 probably doesn’t register for many because they can’t visualize such a large number or cannot see that far in the future. To assist people here is a website that counts, in realtime, the growth of our population, the exhaustion of our resources, the state of government, and the quality of our health.
It makes me feel like this :
Joking aside, the constant worry that we are running out of time is real one. The pattern of most environmental videos, articles and case studies is that we are causing irreversible damage, and we are running out of time and options to fix this damage. This was one of the closing messages of Naomi Oreskes herself in Merchants of Doubts. She emphasized that we don’t have the luxury of 50 years (the time it took the government to try and charge the tobacco industry) for us to start making a change to prevent natural disaster.
Backing up this idea of having a small window of time for change with science, is James Hansen’s Tedtalk, which we viewed in class. He compares our future with “a gigantic asteroid on a collision path for earth” that we are doing nothing to avoid. He explains the longer we wait the more difficult and expansive it becomes” and reveals that if we started in 2005 it would take a 3% reduction in total emissions to restore energy imbalance, if we started in 2013 (one year after the TedTalk was filmed) it would be 6%, and in 2022 it would be 15%, an incredibly expensive and most likely impossible change. Now in 2016, it seems like our window for change is shrinking and it’s showing.
The disasters that Oreskes and Hansen predicted in their studies are coming to life and in the most horrible ways. In many cases, the most susceptible are the first to pay. Flooding and drought, are displacing thousands in places such as Syria, where water supplies have been exhausted and major drought has occurred, or in Bangladesh, with it’s coastline and Ganges river and Brahmaputra river, where extreme flooding has displaced thousands…and this is just the tip of the already melting iceberg.
Soon, if not already, we will see complications such as these regularly within our own country. The numbers say it all, and if you see the broad strokes of it all, or just the line moving in continuous upward direction, its clear to see that the things we are doing to pollute and destroy our environment are increasing, while are resources are decreasing. We are getting to the point, where Earth’s annual resources can no longer support a year of our current consumption. So where does that leave us?
It tells us that trying to figure out and predict how fast the seas will rise and how much do we now need to generate to support our growing need are the wrong questions. For when you see the numbers adding up before your eyes, and look at the trend of the graphs, and feel the unusual warmth of the winter wind, you realize the future is now, and there is no time left.
We all have heard of the drought that California has been experiencing for sometime now. It’s so well known, it’s even becoming the butt of many people’s jokes about California.
But jokes aside, what has caused this current crisis and what are the issues that have arrived out of it?
A drought of this duration and severity is caused by a handful of environmental issues working in tandem. As we’ve read, Earth’s aquifers have been shrinking at an alarming rate. Add this to the fact that the demand on these aquifers are increasing, and the weather warming, and we have the crisis that is currently devastating the state. With an economic and environmental disaster on their hands, one would think water conservation would be of the utmost priority.
In the midst of this crisis, there has been great inequality of water rights that have allowed the already scarce water supply to be further strained. Much of the fault lies with the State and their reluctance to regulate the farming industry. The farming industry accounts for about 80% of the water consumption in the state of California and has been able to water thousands of acres without regulation.
On the other hand, residents’ water usage have been regularly monitored by water fines. This selected regulation has not only allowed the corporate farmers to deplete the water supply even further and leave little for residents, but also created an economic divide between those residents. Wealthier residents have had less of a need to change their water use, while lower income residents have needed to carefully manage and learn to live with less.
Thankfully, this economic inequality has sparked controversy and criticism. As of June 2015, the State has intervened and finally restricted water rights of corporate farmers with plans for further restriction if they deem it necessary. Still, it is troubling to think of the time wasted and the water spent since the beginning of the drought.
Israel, a country that is 70% desert, has been suffering from water shortage and drought since milk and honey stopped flowing in its rivers. So much so, that there is a prayer in the daily Jewish morning prayers that asks for rain. The Kineret (The Sea of Galilee) is Israel’s main source of water (over 30%). There are pumps that draw water from the sea (which is actually a lake) and run the water to the rest of the country through a main pipe line.
Israel and Israelis like to be obsessed with the amount of water in Kineret, and how poorly it is doing, as if there aren’t enough other problems to worry about.
The Israeli government set “red lines” as limits indicating the status of the water level in the Kineret. The top line is the maximum capacity the lake can reach before overflowing and flooding the surrounding areas. The bottom line is an indicator for what is considered dangerous and should not be reached, before the pumps themselves can’t even reach water at such a low level. Sadly, the lower line keeps getting lowered each year.
This is a reality that we live in Israel and every child grows up aware of this. Growing up in Israel I myself remember being taught to always close the tap while brushing my teeth or soaping my hands, and to turn off the shower while using the soap and shampoo. Whenever we would play with water in a wasteful way as kids in school we would get yelled at by the teachers for wasting water, which coincides with the education we got in school for saving water in general.
Israel because of this has become a leader in water saving and preservation. It was one of the first countries to utilize everywhere the “half flush” toilet flushing system. The drip watering for agriculture system was invented in Israel, which allows the farmers to save great amounts of water each year. The government is very involved in this as well. There is an entire department in the government devoted to saving water in the country. There are country wide PSAs on prime time television throughout the entire year. A few years ago the government even handed out to 40% of the Israeli households, for free, a sum of 2 million small filters that connect to faucets and shower heads that reduce the water stream by a third. This operation was said to save Israel 25 billion liters of water a year. There are also rules preventing the use of sprinklers during the day not to waste water because of evaporation.
Israel also has among the most advanced water treatment and purifying plants in the world. Israel purifies and recycles wastewater and sewage for gardening and farming use, and purifies ocean water for drinking. It even considered building a pipeline to Turkey and buying water from them. Israel holds a world record for purifying and recycling 80% of its used waters.
This is an example for a government sponsored PSA calling for saving water. It describes how Israel and the whole world is drying up, and that we don’t have water to waste.
Even though Israel is investing this much in saving water, it is still in a very bad place. Much more work needs to be done, but we are on the right track. Hopefully Israel can lead the way for more countries in the world to follow in its footsteps, because as this PSA states, not only Israel is drying up, the whole world is.
Discussing climate change and how it has affected northern temperatures has made me think about how it affects things a little closer to home for me. Being from a rural area, I was more interested in how it affects these areas in the U.S. and globally. At first, I thought how could more rain and warmer climate be bad for farmers in rural areas, but as I look deeper into it, it is. As the planet warms, precipitation levels are changed drastically.
The precipitation levels are polarizing; wet areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting dryer. What does this mean for rural areas depending on precipitation for they’re agricultural practices? Agriculture taking place in areas used to rain are now forced to deal with rising precipitation levels that cause flooding to they’re fields, ruining crops. Agriculture functioning in more arid climates have adapted to this harsh environment, but with climate change, it has become a harsher climate. The precipitation levels in these arid climate zones has dropped even lower and are continuing to drop. It has gone past adaptability. Climate change isn’t just making the North warmer but is changing the way rural areas must function.