Why Gen-Y Should Aim To Be Remembered As The One That Saved The Planet

by Sarah Kate

We take things for granted every day: the beds we sleep in, the meals we eat, the cars we drive, the water we drink and the air we breathe. We take advantage of our surroundings. We cut down trees, we kill and exploit animals to feed our gluttony and then throw away what we can't finish because we're too damn full.

We never think of anyone but ourselves and our own desire for success. We live our lives like we have forever. We treat nature as if it's indestructible. We betray the poor and mislead the innocent. We capitalize from the Earth's possessions. We profit from its home and do nothing to replenish it. We're the sole reason for the destruction of our planet. I'm terrified it'll be too late before we realize that we're the only ones who can prevent that from happening. Climate change is going to haunt us if we don't confront it.

I've always enjoyed being outdoors; it brings me to life. I love the sensation of being immersed in something so pure. Our climate, however, is sick, and it's not getting any better. If the Earth and its climate had emotions like we do, I bet there'd be a lot more of us doing a lot more to save it from its potential doom. We're the reason for global warming. We're the reason for drought and deforestation. We're the reason animals are becoming extinct. We're the reason for poverty and war. At the end of the day, it all comes back to us. We're the one species that has the resources and ability to prevent this outcome.

Over the course of evolution our brain size has tripled. The cerebral cortex allows us to think abstractly, and scientists credit it as the part of the brain that makes us uniquely human. Can we actually use them for something good now? I don't want to lose the relationship I have with the outdoors. I don't want other generations to suffer because of our own incompetence and ignorance.

What if we treated the Earth as if it were family. Wouldn't we want to do everything in our power to save it? Haven't we been here long enough to realize that the only reason we are here is because of the very climate we live in. Isn't it time we all do something to say thanks? We're not going to be able to just hit the escape key and appear on a brand new planet Earth. It doesn't work that way.

What if our governments put as much money toward climate change as it did toward war, globalization or capitalism? Or if we put as much time and effort into the very land we're living on as we do into following our dreams? We've let our own egos take over and our planet has had to endure this indifferent attitude because of it.

When are people going to realize this is not going to last? We're already running out of oil, and look what's happened because of that. We're drilling up land and oceans in countries that have severe poverty and overpopulation problems. It's disgusting how governments are so driven toward earning money that they're not even thinking of the consequences. There are far more economical ways of obtaining and sustaining energy for our planet than destroying it at the same time.

The global average temperature has increased by more than 1.57°F over the last century. In fact, according to the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the temperatures recorded from 2015 have been the warmest on record. The temperatures recorded have also exceeded the temperatures recorded in 2014. Rising global temperatures have also been associated with other changes in weather and climate.

Many places have experienced changes in rainfall resulting in more intense rainstorms (there have been numerous floods in South India in recent years: Chennai and Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Andhra Pradesh), as well as more frequent and severe heat waves (which has lead to a drought in California). The planet's oceans and glaciers have also experienced changes. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising."

One of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world is the Colombia Glacier. "[It] descends from an ice field 3,050 meters above sea level, down the flanks of the Chugach Mountains, and into a narrow inlet that leads into Prince William Sound in southeastern Alaska." Since the 1980s, the glacier's terminus has retreated some 12 miles and thinned substantially, losing about half its thickness and volume.

All of these changes are evidence that our world is getting warmer. Yes, the Earth does go through natural cycles of warming and cooling which are caused by changes in sun or volcanic activity. However, scientists have been examining this closely and the warming we've seen in the past 50 years cannot be explained by natural factors alone. Global warming is primarily a result of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. We're the cause of our own demise and we can't even see it. Or, maybe we're just too imperceptive to actually acknowledge it.

Have you ever heard the saying, that you can have too much of a good thing? Well, you can apply that to carbon dioxide as well. Yes, it's a magnificent element that we benefit from greatly. It's how our plants are able to photosynthesize and it's a vital ingredient for the survival of our atmosphere. However, excess carbon dioxide increases global temperatures and leads to climate change, which in turn actually harms our plants, our animals and us.

Plants, oceans and soils release large quantities of carbon dioxide as part of the Earth's natural carbon cycle. These natural emissions and the consumption of carbon dioxide on average balance out over a period of time. Unfortunately, the carbon dioxide released from human activities does not belong in this natural cycle. Ice core measurements show that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least 800,000 years. The global warming we've all observed in the last few decades has been caused by a rapid rise in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It's happened because of us, and we're not doing enough to stop it.

One may also think there isn't much of a difference between one or two degrees. But this notion couldn't be more wrong. By changing the average global temperatures by even one degree, the consequences lead to detrimental transitions to our world. For about every 2°F of warming, we can expect to see a 5 to 15 percent reduction in the production of crops that are currently grown.

We can expect a 3 to 10 percent increase in the amount of rain falling during the heaviest precipitation periods, which can increase flooding risks. We can also expect a 5 to 10 percent decrease in stream flow in some river basins, including the Arkansas and the Rio Grande, and we can expect a 200 to 400 percent increase in the area burned by wildfire in parts of the western United States. I know for every expectation outlined above you've already thought of an incident that's already occurred.

A small rise in sea level is going to affect many people, all over the world. No one is exempt from this, no matter how high above sea level you live. The amount of sea level that's expected to rise due to climate change will increase the risk of coastal flooding for millions to hundreds of millions around the world. These people will have to leave their homes permanently.

Global sea level has risen approximately 9 inches, on average, in the last 140 years. Anyone who watches the news can tell you that this is causing havoc. Coastal homes, beaches, bridges, roads, and even wildlife are being put at risk. By the year 2100, sea level is expected to rise another 1.5 to 3 feet. These rising sea levels will make coastal storms and the associated storm surges more frequent and more destructive than ever before.

Doesn't this give you some sort or perspective on life and the way we live? I hope it does. This is the one relationship we don't want to mistreat or abuse. The strength and solidity of this relationship solely depends on us and how we address the issue of climate change. It's not too late for us though, we can still prevent this apocalypse from ever happening. We can make a significant impact on the future of climate change, but we can't do it alone.

With pertinent procedures from our governments, communities and individuals, we can reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release and lower the liability of a much worse aftermath. Many of the actions we take against this fight will have other benefits too: cleaner air, sanitary water, wildlife won't diminish and our environments will prosper.

Like Galileo and Hippocrates, why we can't we all be remembered for doing something incredible? Why can't we all be remembered as the generation who saved our own planet? We don't want to lose this. This is everything we have. We're here because of our climate and atmosphere, so why are we destroying them?