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The Sky Is Falling

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It should come as no surprise this week that the nightly news is nothing shy of abysmal. After all, it seems as if the news continually manages to get worse and worse every time we turn it on. This week, though, has been particularly tumultuous. Firstly, the week opened with millions of Americans waking up to the news of Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.  As a result, We the People (especially women) find ourselves in the position of now having two Supreme Court justices with records of alleged sexual assault and harassment. Additionally, this means we have yet another justice on the highest court in the land with a pre-established, well-recorded, unyielding stance against women’s rights to our bodies. Later in the week, we tuned in once more to see destruction and death run rampant as news coverage continues to unfold in Indonesia (where, as of Thursday, the number of natural disaster-related deaths had already reached over 2000), just as a record-setting hurricane, Michael, made landfall on the coast of Florida. Finally, the very sour cherry was added on top of the dumpster fire that was this week’s news when we learned that, not only are Americans rather screwed (in colloquial terms), but the world may very well be ending—that is, if we humans cannot get our act together enough to at least slow the lasting damage we have done to our planet.  

This is not a Chicken Little scenario. The sky is not falling today, nor will the sky likely fall tomorrow (though, as a columnist with no background in science of any kind, I cannot entirely eliminate the sky falling as a possible outcome). However, the ozone layer is rapidly deteriorating as a direct result of human activity. The earth’s temperature is steadily (albeit gradually) rising. Animals are dying, and entire species are going extinct. As for this destruction, humans are the ones largely responsible.   

The vast majority of us have recognized these trends for a long while now, but the discussion was revitalized this week with the drafting and ultimate publication of a UN report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which indicates that global warming is occurring at a much faster rate than scientists had previously estimated. These new estimates predict that global temperatures will rise nearly two degrees Celsius within the next twelve to thirty years. Two degrees seems insignificant. I get that. But two degrees is extraordinarily significant when viewed in relation to the real life effects a slight raise in temperature has and will continue to have on the earth’s overall climate and environment. A two-degree temperature difference means increased sea levels due to melting ice caps and glaciers. It means changing climates in underwater ecosystems, alongside the fast-paced acidification of oceans we have already begun to see in places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef—a once thriving and colorful (now dying, dead, and bleakly hued) ecosystem. These temperature changes can and already do affect our health, our livelihoods, and our landscape now swept up in recurring natural disasters.   

That said, even with this week of truly terrible news, invariably the most important aspect of this groundbreaking report is that there is still hope. The scientists responsible for publishing this report are the very same men and women now assuring global citizens that we need only change our ways now—today—in order to save the world. It is possible. There is still time.  

Therefore, it is our collective responsibility as humans to, first and foremost, acknowledge that global warming and climate change are real (and really bad), and they are happening right now. It is our responsibility to assume consistent, environmentally-conscious practices. We desperately need to pick up the old mantra, “Reduce! Reuse! Recycle!” as our societal motto. These are words and actions by which we all need to start living. It is imperative that we work to minimize our carbon footprint by switching to more efficient and exclusively renewable energy sources in place of burning carbon dioxide-emitting fossil fuels.  Furthermore, we must also redirect our attention to cleaning up the mess we humans have already created, by reforesting and restoring the lands we ravaged.   

We must each play our respective parts. That should almost go without saying. However, while there are things you and I can do in our own individual lives to curtail the effects of the soon-to-be irreversible damage to our environment, we must also acknowledge the importance of having national leaders in place that will also do their parts to affect lasting change on a much larger scale. As such, casting a vote is one of the easiest and most influential ways you can contribute to the changes our earth demands—especially since our country is one of the world’s largest emitters of the dangerous pollutants causing these changes.   

If you take anything from this message, I hope it is this: if this is not the future you want to leave your children and grandchildren, I implore you to vote on November 6. Vote for candidates that will do their part to save the world from a promised demise, candidates with substantive plans to enact change at local, state, national, and global levels. Vote by mail through an absentee ballot or in person.  Vote however you can, because it is our job to do something now to forever better our earth and the promise of our own futures.   

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The Sky Is Falling