A More Plant-Based Diet: Could Plants be the Answer?

The World Health Organization expresses that methane from livestock is the second largest contributor to Global Warming after carbon dioxide from the combustion of coal and other fossil fuels. Animal Agriculture is also said to account for 91% of the Amazon Rainforest’s destruction. Not palm oil, not infrastructure; but raising livestock. So, by decreasing the constant over breeding of cattle for the sole purpose of cultivating meat and dairy products, we could see an extremely beneficial change in the perpetuated growth of the Climate Crisis. The release of greenhouse gases in itself insulates our planet and degrades the ozone layer. Both our climate and the ozone layer of the atmosphere are vital in maintaining ecological systems and biological health of all inhabitants on Earth.

See the source image

There’s more that goes into animal agriculture besides just an obvious expulsion of greenhouse gases: high water demands, fertilizer leaching, and immense erosion from farm lands. Ground water has become a scarcity and aquifers running dry becomes more and more of a possibility. Only about 2.5–2.75% of the water on earth is fresh and even less is drinkable/accessible. Without making conscious decisions regarding our supply it is likely nations will have to get creative in how to continuously supply this necessitated item. Erosion and fertilizer secretion also pose worrisome outcomes regarding animal agriculture. Tree roots anchor soil down and prevent it from encroaching on other surrounding ecosystems. When removing the trees from the equation–as what is happening on a global scale–precipitation, wind, and animals are able to allow for this spread and add to disruptions in mostly aquatic and marine ecosystems. As this soil proliferates different habitats, an abundance of nutrients from fertilizers and feces are brought with it. Although these elements are vital for plant growth, their presence in water can cause mass algal blooms and hypoxic environments to form. Without oxygen present in the water and with prospering algae accumulations, the organisms in these environments will be unable to reproduce and eventually die due to this accession from their ranges’ of tolerance.

Not Just the Health of Our Planet

If the health of our planet was not enough to elucidate the harmful instigations of animal agriculture, health experts have also emphasized the benefits of a plant-based diet for human health as well. Diets without meat and dairy have been said to support your immune system, reduce inflammation, maintain a healthy weight, increase fiber, and lower your risk of contradicting cardiovascular and cancerous diseases later in life. Not to mention, naturally, our bodies can not digest dairy products past childhood. This ability to do so is the mutation rather than those identified as “lactose-intolerant.” The overconsumption of these products has forced our bodies to continually digest these products despite our innate inabilities.

This is not to say that meat is the same; however, the pure immensity of beef, poultry, and other animal bi-products that an average American eats per week (~39.55 oz) far exceeds the healthy and recommended amount (less than 2 oz per day).

Fuming Fires In The West

Each year we hear of the raging wildfires spreading in the Midwest and on the West Coast. For the habitually dry climate seen in those regions, wildfires occur seasonally due to natural interference. However, we are now seeing-more and more- the devastating impacts and elongating effects humans are begetting on these seasonal fires. Furthermore, these multitudes of disasters are not just affecting the Western United States but also regions 3,000 miles away.

As of July 30th, 2021 fire weather and conditions continue to antagonize and perpetually encroach on western states. 83 immense fires have burned 1,741,281 acres of 13 different states. Upper-level ridging will amplify throughout the west and even into Canada. This will subsequently increase temperature whilst vastly decreasing regional humidity levels. This will further instigate cloud coverage and unsatisfactory weather conditions for the rest of the country.

See the source image
The Bootleg Fires in Oregon

Acid rain and chemical smog are two subsequent realities caused by these unprecedented fires. As stated, these devastations are not just affecting the west, but are encroaching on the rest of the nation. Smoke and poor air quality is reaching its arms across the United States and Canada causing harmful implications to follow. The largest burning site, Bootleg Fire in Oregon, has now burned more than 600 square miles. The smoke from this and many others are suffocating North Eastern cities 3000 miles away. On Tuesday morning, cities such as Philadelphia and New York woke up to an colossally elevated Air Quality Index of 154. Meteorologists had not seen levels of such extremity since June of 2006. This smog is typically dispersed into the upper atmosphere when such seasonal anomalies occur; however, more recently, areas of high pressures are pushing the smog, and condensing it into the troposphere.

Although this secretion of chemicals is bad enough, the particles within the smog are even more of a concern. Particulate matter- especially that does not exceed 2.5 pm- is more imperative to avoid. However, when present, those who breathe it in have a higher chance of attracting asthma and other respiratory issues.

Satellite imagery on Saturday showed an area, marked orange, of smoke that has reached as far east as Michigan, about 2,000 miles away from the West Coast
North American wind currents instigating a 3000 mile exchange of smog from Western Wildfires.

The smoke from these fires have reached such an extreme level that the smog is clearly visible from space, 227 nautical miles above the ground. The perpetuation of these burns have even incited the creation of a weather system on dedicated to these disasters in order to better educate residents and track their progression. However, the climate crisis has continued to make these annual conditions last abnormally long durations and increased the destruction they cause. The record-breaking droughts and high temperatures are further indications and even warnings of the dangers following this “new normal.” Presently, 90% of Oregon is suffering from severe dry spouts and cannot see an end in sight. Not only has this devastated ecosystems and degraded environmental integrity as a whole, but the ceaseless nature of these catastrophes make it even more atrocious.

Sources:

Jones, Dustin, and Kat Lonsdorf. “Montana Wildfire Fight Draws Help from Other States.” NPR, NPR, 25 July 2021, http://www.npr.org/2021/07/24/1020207430/montana-wildfire-fight-draws-help-from-other-states-as-much-of-the-west-burns.

Montana Public Radio | By Nick Mott. “The Climate Change Link to More and Bigger Wildfires.” Iowa Public Radio, 27 July 2021, http://www.iowapublicradio.org/news-from-npr/2021-07-27/the-climate-change-link-to-more-and-bigger-wildfires.

“National Fire News.” National Fire News | National Interagency Fire Center, http://www.nifc.gov/fire-information/nfn.

Vera, Amir, and Keith Allen. “80 Large Fires Have Consumed More than 1 Million ACRES across Western Parts of the US.” CNN, Cable News Network, 19 July 2021, http://www.cnn.com/2021/07/18/us/western-us-wildfires-heatwave-sunday/index.html.

Environmental Education

As residents of present generations, it is important for us to be educated on the state of our planet and to have accessible resources to enlighten others. Many outlets are censored and the information reaching the public may be fabricated or politically/ideologically biased. So, it is imperative and may be helpful to know how to access updates and statistical evidence regarding the environment.

Why Education Is So Important

Being cognizant of the issues degrading our planet, and the vital steps towards reparations can be what preserves life for future generations. Ignorance may be bliss, but acknowledgment has been held off for far too long. Education regarding the state and even beauties of our planet makes for more keen and caring observations. With an emotional connection to the life around us, problem-solving is more proactively engaged. The EPA categorized environmental education into five different components: awareness and sensitivity, knowledge and understanding, attitudes, skills, and participation.

“What is Environmental Education?” from the United States Environmental Protection Agency

Educational Resources

A problem many people have is their exposure to news reports, websites, or even documentaries regarding the environment. So, with this ignorance, the extremities of climate change and the mass corporations instigating its advancement are oftentimes not portrayed or alluded to on public platforms. However, plenty of resources exist that people could access if looking for such information. For example, both privatized and governmental agencies such as the EPA, Green Peace, the UN, the Earth Island Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and numerous different state-led organizations have countless articles on the multitudes of environmental topics and current events. Not only are selective governmental agencies taking strides in providing education to the public; there are so many social media accounts, clubs in school, and youth-led organizations that collect and share information about such topics. As a new or aspiring advocate, these are great outlets for basic updates and provide you with a chance for participation!

Documentaries are also immensely beneficial for retaining a deeper thoughtfulness when it comes to Earth’s current state and its potential threats. They can be specific for one topic such as animal agriculture or can be as broad as the structure of Earth’s different Ecosystems.

Some helpful and entertaining documentaries:

“Seaspiracy”

“Cowspiracy”

“What The Health”

“Tapped”

“Meat the Truth”

“Chasing Ice”

“If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth’s Liberation Front”

“Before the Flood”

Beneficial Websites:

The Environmental Protection Agency: https://www.epa.gov/

Green Peace: https://engage.us.greenpeace.org/

The United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/

The Earth Island Institute: https://www.earthisland.org/

The Natural Resources Defense Council: https://www.nrdc.org/

Climate Doomsday

The doomsday clock was created after the emergence of nuclear technology in the 1940s. Its purpose was to predict the end of the man-kind through human infliction. This is shown through the minute hand gradually nearing midnight; when it does, this is thought to be the end. With nuclear weaponry and other scientific advancements, atomic scientists created this metaphor to warn governments and populations of the threats created through conflict and mindless actions. At the time of this clocks creation, however, Climate Change was not a likely instigator for such a global catastrophe.

Members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Science and Security Board, Robert Rosner and Suzet McKinney, reveal the 2021 setting of the Doomsday Clock: It is still 100 seconds to midnight (Newsweek).

100 seconds to midnight is the closest proximity to midnight that scientist have ever predicted. As average global temperatures continue to escalate each year, ecological systems perish and biodiversity dissipates. More and more land becomes over farmed and barren, cutting viable regions for food production significantly each year. Oceans, which contain some of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, are being over fished so much that there are more microplastics inhabiting these areas than there are fish. According to a report on climate change in the Svalbard archipelago released this year by the Norwegian Center for Climate Services and commissioned by the Norwegian Environment Agency, “Heavy rainfall will occur more frequently. Avalanches and mudslides will happen more often. The snow season will become shorter. In the high-emission scenario, near-surface permafrost is predicted to melt in coastal and low-altitude areas.”

After threats of nuclear warfare, Climate Change immediately emerged as the most imperative issue nearing us to a global catastrophe. Chris Barrie, an ex-admiral who formerly lead the Australian Defense Force expressed in an article by Marco Margaritoff, “A doomsday future is not inevitable. But without immediate drastic action our prospects are poor.”

Impact On Global Warming By Degreess
World Resources Institute/IPCC

As of right now, it is impossible to completely ease the tumultuous state our environment is in and will continue to be in the future. If individuals and mass corporations do not make significant efforts to create a more sustainable future, climate doomsday will become more and more imminent. As political and ideological divisions continue to deviate attention away from our suffering planet, reparations are not arising and problems go unchecked. Although this seems like a time to panic, a few of the best way to help is through small actions against corporations, abandoning a materialistic mindset, voting in officials that have plans to help the environment, and altering your diet to limit your meat and dairy intake. If everyone did small things like this, greater change can persist.

For more in depth statistical information, visit these articles:

Climate change: what Antarctica’s ‘doomsday glacier’ means for the planet. Leslie Hook on the Antarctic Peninsula, Steven Bernard and Ian Bott in London JULY 13 2020: https://www.ft.com/content/4ff254ed-960d-4b35-a6c0-1e60a6e79d91

The Doomsday Vault’s home is already altered by climate change. A report says it could get worse. Kayla Epstein. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2019/03/27/doomsday-vaults-home-is-already-altered-by-climate-change-report-says-it-could-get-worse/

Doomsday By 2050 If We Don’t Fight Climate Change Now, Report Warns. Marco Margaritoff. https://allthatsinteresting.com/climate-change-report-2050-doomsday

Microplastics Are All Around Us

Ever since the 1960s-when the use of polyethylene became most apparent- our world has been reliant on this pliable and ubiquitous material. Even the most unexpected products such as shoes and clothing are made from this seemingly immortal substance. Of course, when it was initially invented, plastic did not have such a bad reputation. In fact, it quite literally defined the modern world and industry as we know it. Over time, however, through the accumulation of plastic, and the subsequent degradation of the environment, it became clear that this petroleum-based material was not as good as previously assumed.

What Are Microplastics?

Image from pbs.org: Microplastics were found in abundance on a beach on the Hawaiian Islands during a 2014 NOAA debris removal mission.

According to National Geographic, “Microplastics, as the name implies, are tiny plastic particles. Officially, they are defined as plastics less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter—smaller in diameter than the standard pearl used in jewelry” (Liitschwager). Living in a “throw away” society was a term created regarding the short-term life of plastic; however, this merely refers to the individual’s ownership. In actuality, plastic takes centuries to truly decompose, and even then still remains as microscopic particulates. Today, we see the long-term effects of this short-term material infiltrating every major waterway, obscure ecosystems, the atmosphere, and even us. More so than ever, ocean-life is succumbing to the pressure microplastics have on their habitats. Chunks of it have been found in countless birds, fish, and a multitude of other marine-life variants. Not only is this threatening the integrity of marine and aquatic habitats, but it also directly harms individuals that consume these organisms. Through water runoff, littering, and wind patterns, plastic easily pervades every biome across the planet influencing this constant decadence to it and its inhabited organisms- including us.

As mentioned, scientists have documented the presence of microplastics in virtually every ecosystem. An astonishing field study even checked untouched glacial regions off this extensive list. The National Library of Medicine reported, “In previous studies, abundant microplastics have been reported from Tibetan rivers/lakes water and sediments, and surface soils. We detected microplastics in glacier surface snow on the TP, which were isolated from the impact of human activities, indicating that microplastics can be transported over long distances.” This even ties into the presence of particulates in the atmosphere regarding the very air we breathe.

Why You Should Care

Confrontation and action are two necessary steps to reduce plastic outputs. There is no reversing this turmoil, but it is imperative that we do something to decrease this exponential growth pattern. In a capitalist society where consumerism is the fueling factor, a desire for cheap, materialistic items is inevitable; we are taught to always want more. However, when our health and the health of our planet comes into play, it is all the more important to take action. A research team at Florida State University performed a study on how human bodies react to microplastic inhalation: “Researchers found that exposure to microplastics for only a few days caused human lung cells to slow down their metabolism and growth, change shapes, and decluster so that gaps exist in what is typically a solid sheet of cells.” If the concentration of microplastics in food sources and the air continues to augment, the human population will see these devastating effects more and more frequently.

Sources:

Humphries, Courtney. “Freshwater’s Macro Microplastic Problem.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 11 May 2017, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/freshwater-microplastics/.

“Microplastics and Human Health: FSU Researchers Find Exposure to Microplastics May Alter Cellular Function.” Florida State University News, 19 Apr. 2021, news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2021/04/19/microplastics-and-human-health-fsu-researchers-find-exposure-to-microplastics-may-alter-cellular-function/.

National Geographic Society. “Microplastics.” National Geographic Society, 28 June 2019, http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/microplastics/.

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Are Microplastics?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 13 Apr. 2016, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html.

Zhang Y;Gao T;Kang S;Allen S;Luo X;Allen D; “Microplastics in Glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau: Evidence for the Long-Range Transport of Microplastics.” The Science of the Total Environment, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33243498/.

Natural Disasters Appearing Left And Right: Only the Beginning

Every month or so there seems to be a new natural catastrophe embarking on different regions, leaving nothing but utter destruction. Although hardly any news outlets express this fact, the progressively changing climate is to blame. Not to mention, regardless of these blatant signs of environmental damage, more degradation has yet to be ceased. Of course, it would be a long process of recovery, sufficient attempts are still yet to be made by most governments causing the majority of the damage.

Recent Environmental Disasters: Brief Overviews

Flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia:

According to reporters at CNBC, “severe flooding across several areas in the Indonesian capital forced more than a thousand people to flee their homes on Saturday.” Meteorologists also warn citizens to expect the poor conditions to persist into next week as well. In some regions, water made it to 1.8 meters in height and left immense destruction on the city. Recent data has expressed that two hundred neighborhoods have been damaged; videos of individuals wading through shoulder height water have been swarming social media. Not to mention, this disaster could not have come at a worse time. Indonesia is already grappling with a peak of cases and a large death toll from Covid-19 in Southeast Asia while also amid an economic recession. Intense weather patterns are expected to remain unrelenting throughout the rest of the season.

Rescuers evacuate residents from their flooded homes in Bekasi on February 19, 2021, as heavy rain inundated the city on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Rescuers evacuate residents from their flooded homes in Bekasi on February 19, 2021, as heavy rain inundated the city on the outskirts of Jakarta (CNBC).

Six Month Summers?:

If global warming persists unchecked, summers in the Northern Hemisphere by 2100 are expected to last 6 months- at least. Denise Chow from CNBC News reports that according to scientists, “the irregularities could have a range of serious implications, affecting human health and agriculture to the environment.” At the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a physical oceanographer, Yuping Guan, calculated that over approximately 60 years, summers will extend from an average of 78 to 95 days long. With summers lasting for such long durations, scientists worry about potential, unmitigated outcomes. If summers grow in duration, this subsequently implies that winters will shrink; therefore, potentially cutting off ideal environments for numerous migratory or stationary species. With this being hypothesized, it’s not just the seasonal durations, but also the maximum and minimum temperatures. We might experience unseen highs, but meager lows (potentially only 25 degrees Fahrenheit). Guan continues to express that, “w[W]armer and longer summers, for instance, mean mosquitos and other disease-carrying pests could expand their range and persist in areas where they are not typically found.” Not to mention, these extended/continual seasonal modifications could even decrease species ability to adapt and cut down on genetic diversity. If biological assets such as this dissipate, we will see mass species extinction.

Beijing’s Sandstorm Catastrophe:

China’s capital, Beijing, is suffering from unrelenting sandstorms and suffocating in thick dust carrying extremely high levels of hazardous particles. Just on Sunday, Northeast Chinese cities saw their second sandstorm in two weeks. This is said to be instigated by winds from drought-hit Mongolia and northwestern China. With visibility low, and toxicity high, pedestrians were forced to cover their eyes as gusts of dust swept through the streets. According to U.S. News and World Report, “Beijing’s official air quality index reached a maximum level of 500 on Sunday morning, with floating particles known as PM10 surpassing 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter in some districts.” What is extremely worrying is the PM2.5 particles were above 300 micrograms per cubic meter, far higher than China’s standard of 35 micrograms. What makes this size of particulate matter so dangerous is its ability to enter the bloodstream whereas PM10 can only enter lung passageways. Meteorologists say Beijing might face more sandstorms in April due to the unfavorable weather patterns.

Reuters

Extreme flooding in Nashville:

Nashville declared a state of emergency after flash flooding overnight Saturday. This unforeseen catastrophe killed at least four people in the area. The area had faced its city’s second-highest ever two-day rainfall as causation for this flooding. According to CNN, individuals were, “clinging to trees and taking refuge in their attics to avoid the rising water.” The Nashville Fire Department’s swift water rescue teams had pulled at least 130 people from vehicles and homes; unfortunately, many remain in danger. A deceased man was found inside a car submerged by floodwater by search and rescue teams. A second man was found dead on the Nashboro Village golf course. At least 15 people were rescued from an apartment complex after a building was damaged by a mudslide. The Nashville Weather Service expressed that “rainfall  totals across the middle Tennessee region since Saturday ranged from 4 to 8 inches” and “t[T]he Brentwood area of Nashville may have received 7 to 9 inches of rain.” CNN continued to say that “t[T]he Nashville airport recorded at least 7 inches of rain since Saturday — making the two-day rainfall total the second-largest on record, trailing only 13.5 inches of rain that fell from May 1 to 2, 2010.” Due to the rain and flooding of creeks and streams, drainage outlets were not enough to eradicate the chances of flooding. Many continue to be affected by this disaster as of Sunday.

A car is submerged in water Sunday as flash flooding inundates parts of Nashville.
Submerged car in Nashville amid flooding event (CNN).

For more information on these disasters, vistit:

Indonesian capital slammed by monsoon floods, more than 1,000 forced to evacuate, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/20/indonesian-capital-jakarta-slammed-by-monsoon-floods.html

Summers could last half the year by the end of this century, CNBC, https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/summers-last-half-year-end-century-rcna436

Beijing Enveloped in Hazardous Sandstorm, Second Time in Two Weeks, USN, https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-03-27/beijing-enveloped-in-hazardous-sandstorm-second-time-in-two-weeks

Nashville declares emergency after deadly flash flooding, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/28/weather/severe-weather-south-floods-sunday/index.html

Air Pollution: A Brief Overview

Air pollution is a term we are all well acquainted with; however, oftentimes this concept is never considered deeply enough. According to NRDC, “Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that is detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.” Whether it is from fossil fuel plants, mining sites, vehicles, or even cigarettes, this is a harmful truth and demeans the air we breathe day-to-day. This entity needed to survive might be slowly degrading our health.

What Are the Predominant Instigators of Air Pollution?

Most air pollution simply comes from energy use and production. Burning fossil fuels releases toxic gases and chemicals into the air. This is destructive and seemingly never-ending feedback loop that instigates and defines Climate Change. The two most notorious air pollutants that perpetually contribute to the Earth’s temperature increase are carbon dioxide and methane, which are direct derivatives of energy usage and production.

These outputs can lead to smog formation when mixed with atmospheric water vapor or sunlight. Photochemical (brown) and sulphuric (grey) smog are most frequently seen from different atmospheric combinations. Los Angeles, being a place of little humidity and immense sun exposure, is the best example of a region susceptible to Photochemical smog formation. London, on the other hand, is a biome of incessant humidity and cloud coverage making it ideal for sulphuric smog accumulation. Based on these climate patterns and chemical outputs, different types of toxins corrupts the air qualities and atmospheric integrity. Not only is Climate Change resulting from air pull toon, but there’s an increase in natural air pollutants as well. As temperatures increase, allergenic air pollutants subsequently become more apparent in the environment for longer periods of time. Mold, which thrives in the damp conditions caused by extreme weather and flooding, and pollen, due to a longer production season, also contribute to atmospheric strife as particulate and chemical entities.

Particulate Matter

According to the EPA, “An extensive body of scientific evidence shows that long- and short-term exposures to fine particle pollution, also known as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), can cause premature death and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system, including increased hospital admissions and emergency department visits for heart attacks and strokes.” Although particle pollution and ground-level ozone pollution have decreased significantly, levels are still unhealthy and have been tracked to cause respiratory issues/diseases. Ozone, a colorless gas, is created when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react, which can increase the occurrence of asthma attacks and premature respiratory problems. Particulate matter, directly resulting from sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides can accumulate in the atmosphere causing acid rainstorms , or even directly interfere with individuals’ health.

Sources:

“Air Pollution: Current and Future Challenges.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Nov. 2020, http://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/air-pollution-current-and-future-challenges. 

November 01, 2016 Jillian Mackenzie. “Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know.” NRDC, 4 Mar. 2021, http://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know. 

RinkeshA true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitab . “Various Causes, Effects and Impressive Solutions to Air Pollution.” Conserve Energy Future, 17 June 2020, http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-air-pollution.php. 

Snowing in Texas: Blatant Sign of Climate Catastrophe

This week we have seen bizarre global weather patterns popping up in numerous regions. One that has specifically gained the attention of the internet and Environmental Scientists is the freezing temperatures and perpetual snow storms in Texas. Texas is a state that is warm for the predominant portion of the year and hardly ever if ever, sees snow. So, why did this happen?

Arctic Polar Vortex

According to the National Weather Service, the Arctic Polar Vortex is, “a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth’s North and South poles.” This ensures that the cooler atmospheric air stays in close proximity to these regions rather than encroaching near the equator. During the winter, this vortex expands and becomes less stable as regional temperatures drop and send cold Arctic air southward over the United States with the jet stream. This is not a rare occurrence and happens annually.

However, this year we saw modified and unusual weather patterns that instigated snow in states like Texas and Alabama. Parts of Texas even hit their coldest temperature ever recorded, 0F (-18C). Although it sounds contradictory, scientists explain that as global temperatures increase, erratic weather patterns like this subsequently become more prevalent; there is an increase in frequency and intensity of such events. National Geographic more understandably explains this process as a ribbon or stream: “The waviness of the ribbon depends at least in part on how much hotter it is down south than it is at the pole. When the difference is large, the jet stream sticks to a fairly straight path. But when the difference is smaller—say, when the Arctic is really warm, and the ‘hill’ down which the air is falling is less steep—the jet stream can go from sort of straight to loopy.” This is exactly what happened this year in Texas. Due to the Arctic’s temperature increase, the vortex became highly unstable and dipped further south than ever before. Environmental scientists are suggesting that phenomenon’s like the Jetstream impairment will only become more frequent and persist annually.

Other Detrimental Effects

Not only are the citizens of Texas facing unimaginably frigid temperatures, but their homes are also experiencing the effects. According to the Washington Post, “With temperatures in the low teens for days, the state, despite its dominant energy sector, saw rolling power outages turn into a prolonged blackout that left more than 4 million people in the dark and cold.” Estates in the deep south that never experience such weather were not built to sustain it and are, quite literal, crumbling under the pressure. In addition, lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by these changes. In total, 21 people have died as a direct result of water shortages and glacial temperatures. Finally, the extreme temperatures and utility impairments caused detrimental effects, not to mention the economic toll expected to be more than $1 billion.

Sources:

Borunda, Alejandra. “Snow in Texas and Ice in Alabama? Bizarre Cold Weather Could Become More Common.” Science, National Geographic, 10 Feb. 2021, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/arctic-blast-polar-vortex-cold-weather-climate.

“The Science behind the Polar Vortex: You Might Want to Put on a Sweater.” The Science behind the Polar Vortex: You Might Want to Put on a Sweater | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://www.noaa.gov/multimedia/infographic/science-behind-polar-vortex-you-might-want-to-put-on-sweater.

Taylor, Adam. “Analysis | Texas’s Cold-Weather Catastrophe Is a Global Warning.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Feb. 2021, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/02/18/texas-cold-global-climate-change/.

“US Cold Snap: Why Is Texas Seeing Arctic Temperatures?” BBC News, BBC, 15 Feb. 2021, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56058372.

Environmental Racism

Many citizens of the United Sates refuse to believe the Climate Crisis exists. The predominant driver in this blissful ignorance is deception; they do not believe that the Earth is perishing because they will be and are the last to see these effects. Racism is an apparent reality in the United States whether it is displayed discretely or not. Although it is rarely discussed, this oppression continues even into Climate Change and environmental degradation. In fact, it is evident that there is disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards in lower-class communities all over the United States. 

What influences this disproportion?

One of the greatest instigating factors in this behavior are, “industries that follow the path of least resistance when deciding where to locate hazardous waste sites and other polluting facilities” (Erickson, Michigan News). In order to conserve money usage and ensure profit, large energy companies have systematic plans to limit money spent to discard waste. This problem even extends beyond just the disposing of dangerous biproducts. Factories are often constructed in low-income areas to once again limit expenses; subsequently, this lowers the value of said houses in surrounding areas, trapping the residents, limiting options to sell their houses, and leaving them with long-term health deficits. Morning Consult reported that, “In a poll conducted June 16-18 among 1,840 adults, 61 percent of Hispanic adults and 56 percent of Black adults said they’re ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the impact of local pollution on themselves and their family, friends and community members, compared to 39 percent of white adults who said the same. In comparison, 27 percent of white adults, 17 percent of Hispanic adults and 12 percent of Black adults said they were ‘not that concerned’ or ‘not at all concerned’ about local pollution.” This further supports the notion of distrust and evident exposure to toxic elements due to individuals’ demography. 

People immediately believe that everyone is equally at risk of exposure to pollutants. However, according to Raquel Pinderhughes, “. . .a growing body of research shows that the most common victims of environmental hazards and pollution are minorities and the poor.” There is not one square inch of Earth that is not actively affected by the Climate crisis; although, much of it is concentrated in areas that people do not think twice about. Under previous governmental leadership, all protection for these communities was completely revoked, worsening their state. Whether it is particulate matter or toxic carcinogens, this problem is far from alleviation and needs desperate attention. 

Sources:

Erickson, Jim. “Targeting Minority, Low-Income Neighborhoods for Hazardous Waste Sites.” University of Michigan News, 19 Jan. 2016, news.umich.edu/targeting-minority-low-income-neighborhoods-for-hazardous-waste-sites/.

II, Vann R. Newkirk. “Environmental Racism Is Real, According to Trump’s EPA.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 28 Feb. 2018, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-trump-administration-finds-that-environmental-racism-is-real/554315/.

Jenkins, Lisa Martine. “’They’re Living With It Every Day’: Environmental Injustices Leave Minorities With Pollution Anxieties.” Morning Consult, 6 July 2020, morningconsult.com/2020/07/06/environment-racial-inequality-pollution/.

Pinderhughes, Raquel. “The Impact of Race on Environmental Quality: An Empirical and Theoretical Discussion.” JSTOR https://www.jstor.org/stable/1389310?seq=1/.

U.S. Rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

In short, The Paris Agreement is explained by the United Nations as, “a legally binding international treaty on climate change.” The primary goal is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius in comparison to pre-industrial levels; however, ideally, 1.6 degrees. To do this, efforts would entail reaching a global peak of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Thus, ensuring long-term reparation and a climate neutral world. As of just recently, the United States has contributed to a list of 174 countries world-wide. With combined contributions, these ideals seem more and more obtainable.

Biden’s Signing of Executive Order to Rejoin Agreement

As of January 20th, the 46th president, Joseph Biden, was inaugurated into office. Just hours after this action, he signed a number of significant executive orders- one being to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Because predecessor United States president, Donald Trump had removed the country from this agreement, Biden took quick action towards a reversal. This is only one of the multitude of actions Biden has taken thus far. The New York Times reports that, “President Biden on Wednesday will direct federal agencies to determine how expansive a ban on new oil and gas leasing on federal land should be, part of a suite of executive orders that will effectively launch his agenda to combat climate change. . . .”

U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden became the 46th president of the United States earlier today during the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Significance of the Paris Agreement

Although the list of actions Biden has already taken is consistently expanding, The Paris Climate Agreement remains quite a significant one. Due to the combination of 175 countries’ efforts, the future of the environment seems a little more hopeful. In fact, NPR expresses that this agreement is, “the largest international effort to curb global warming.” Since the U.S. is the second largest contributor to global carbon emission [following China], it was vital for Biden to take immediate action. Although, it will take a lot more than rejoining this agreement to gain control of the Climate Crisis- with the consistent imploring from American citizens, assigning of environmental experts to more government positions, and the controlling of emission outputs- this goal is more and more visible on the horizon.

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Sources:

Berwyn, Bob. “The US Rejoins the Paris Agreement, but Rebuilding Credibility on Climate Action Will Take Time.” Inside Climate News, 21 Jan. 2021, insideclimatenews.org/news/21012021/biden-paris-climate-agreement/.

Friedman, Lisa. “Biden Sets in Motion Plan to Ban New Oil and Gas Leases on Federal Land.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Jan. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/climate/biden-climate-change.html.

Rott, Nathan. “Biden Moves To Have U.S. Rejoin Climate Accord.” NPR, NPR, 20 Jan. 2021, http://www.npr.org/sections/inauguration-day-live-updates/2021/01/20/958923821/biden-moves-to-have-u-s-rejoin-climate-accord.

Unfccc.int, unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement.