Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Or How I Learned to Love Climate Change

You know that feeling when you have been telling people something over and over again, you've even given them a manual, and no one listens. Then a hurricane the size of most of the east coast of the United States slams into you, and you look around and say "See, I told you the climate was changing and our storm systems would become more intense and severe. Let's revisit that Climate Adaptation Plan I wrote last year." It is with this "Frankenstorm" that I will reignite the fire of change within my community. Sometimes people need to be shown something first-hand in order to accept its reality. That's okay, especially in this situation, because the climate is changing, and whether or not we pay attention, it's going to suck us in and force us to adapt to it. All I am suggesting is that we go in with our eyes open, with tools, skill sets and an action plan in place. Even if we cannot predict the exact reactions of the ecosystems to the changing climate, training our brains to be more perceptive of the world around us, and being prepared to handle the changes will set us on the right track. Since when has preparedness ever failed us?

Now that I got my rant out of the way, I'd like to seriously discuss what Hurricane Sandy means for the future of the climate along the east coast of the United States. Sure, any change, in any system, inherently affects all other systems around the globe, but for now I think we need to focus on the immediate. How do we properly predict, prepare, plan, and perform accurately in the face of these changes? Whether or not you believe that the obviously changing climate - 2012 was the hottest year in recorded weather history - was caused by humans, is natural, or a combination of the two, it cannot hurt to understand it better. Basically, the atmosphere is clouded with an excessive amount of gases, like Methane and Carbon Dioxide, which is causing friction as the molecules rub together and the suns rays filter through them. The water temperature, where the sunlight hits, is getting warmer - and remember, the planet is 97% water, which covers a lot of the Earth's surface. This rising water temperature means that not only are polar ice caps melting, causing sea levels to rise as that ice turns into water, but it also means more severe storm systems, and potentially changing the entire global currents system. These currents are directly responsible for regulating the Earth's temperature, and any change in, or worse yet a collapse of these systems will have immediate and dramatic effect on the planet. And not in a positive way.

This all seems doom and gloom, and it very much has the potential to be, but I'm also an optimist. We may not be able to reverse the effects of the changing climate, but we can adapt to them. The first step is acknowledging that the climate is changing - be aware of it, take notice of the weather patterns, open your eyes to the world around you. The next step is to make the changes necessary. Period. End of story. We don't have a choice in the matter. Let's stop pretending we do and let's make infrastructure adaptations that will continue to support our basic human needs. More severe storm systems means increased amount of crop losses as we deal with excessive drought, winds, and floods; it means increased health care costs as heat is knocked out in the winter, ac in the summer; it means knocking down trees - our oxygen source - and blowing away topsoil - our agricultural source - and treating man-made infrastructure - think roads, power lines, buildings - like inconsequential twigs.

I love mother Earth. She sustains me, gives me food to eat, water to drink, people to love, animals to admire, trees to shade me, and so much more. Without her, every dollar in the world is just a useless scrap of paper. Hurricane Sandy is warning  us, and it is our duty to listen. This is the largest recorded storm in history with the lowest pressure system the east coast has ever experienced, and it's coming on a full moon. There will be damage from this storm. But it's not the only one we have to worry about because this type of weather pattern is going to become a regular occurrence. Are you going to stand up and live in harmony with planet, adapting to its changes, or are you going to stick your head in the sand and pretend it's not happening? It's your choice whether or not you will become fodder for the storm.

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