“The land was ours before we were the land’s.” – Robert Frost
This quotation alludes to the essence of the American mentality – dominance over property and the environment. The American experience is built upon the pioneer mythology that the land is ours to tame. However, the time is fast approaching in which we can no longer control our environment. We have exhausted our renewable frontier, slowly diminishing nature around us. Due to this over-indulgent manifest destiny, a large populace has yet to come to terms with the fact that our unsustainable treatment of the environment has done irreparable damage to the earth. Science exposes a different future.
According to a CNN article, “Record high temperatures far exceed record lows,” more than 400 locations across the United States reached record-breaking temperatures in July of this year. Yes, this can be attributed to summer’s natural heat wave. However, according to the same article, temperature fluctuation over such a short time period is an indication of our current climate crisis.
In response to this crisis, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an article explaining that drastic changes are needed in order to keep temperatures from rising to an irreversibly dangerous level. According to the panel of scientists who authored the article, global warming must be kept from rising over 1.5 C for the next 12 years. If the temperature rises even half a degree, significant climate changes will ensue – fatal flooding, devastating droughts and other overwhelming natural disasters.
In recent months, we have seen clear examples of nature pushing back against our selfish use of the planet. The Midwest was directly impacted. As spring approached in early 2019, the excessive snowfall in the Northern Midwest began to melt and push large amounts of water south. Spring thawing is a natural seasonal change, yet, the amount of snow in conjunction with fluctuating temperatures led to massive flooding in large parts of Nebraska and Iowa. This is just a potential precursor for what is to come.
Another pertinent example is the widespread wildfires across California. According to a Washington Post article “This year’s fire season in California could be ‘very active,’” the National Interagency Fire Center this year predicts an even more destructive fire season than last year. This is due to the extreme temperatures seen over the summer as the fire season approaches. The drought in California has caused an extended danger zone for wildfires.
One of the most devastating current impacts, still happening at the time of writing, is the wildfire in the Amazon. Unlike California, whose fire season is a relative natural occurrence during certain parts of the year, the fire in the Amazon is not a natural event in the ecosystem. The Amazon is being burned due to a rollback of environmental protections by Brazil’s newly elected president, Jair Bolsonaro. Deforestation in the Amazon is at an all-time high due to this. The rainforest is being used for agricultural production, which in turn is affecting the environment. By cutting down nature’s climate regulator, the fire has been burning out of control. More carbon dioxide is being released into the air while less oxygen is produced. As the burning continues to increase, so will the climate’s temperate.
By these critical measures, climate change and its overall affect should be the single most-covered story in today’s press. But, it isn’t.
Decade-long effects on climate are not a stimulating issue to build upon. Instead, the detriment will build up, slowly burning in silence as America continues down a potentially even more destructive path. Our political climate is one of immediacy, and climate change doesn’t make a swift enough impact to draw millions of Americans to its attention. The environment is increasingly decaying as we expedite the process.
Political platforms barely take their eyes away from this immediacy. Right now, the most pressing issue is the upcoming election, and climate change is not an inspiring enough topic to build a campaign upon – at least in regard to polling numbers. According to the Congressional Research Service, the average span of the most recent Congressional political career is around 8-9 years. Trying to impose a proactive environmental infrastructure to combat the inevitable detriment of climate change is not on the common politician’s agenda. Increasing expenses and enforcing stricter environmental regulations is no way to continue keeping their chair warm. Climate change will affect not only us but also generations of children to come – that is unless we work together to require our elected representatives to enact change immediately.