Challenge Of A Lifetime Faced With Complacency

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With each passing month, new research comes out that more definitively links our burning of fossil fuels to a warming climate. Distressingly, these studies often also magnify the imperative for those of us who call Planet Earth home to start paying attention and take action.

But we are too busy with our today’s needs to be burdened with worrying about our children’s future. Looking out 100 years, we shrug; not our concern, not our problem. Those facing the life-threatening challenges we’ve baked into their future will undoubtedly curse our existence.

Our seasons are out of whack. We talk of how spring arrives earlier, winters are milder, and the summers are getting hotter. Now research published in the well-respected magazine Science details to the level of “fingerprinting” just how our activities leave an imprint that can be identified and separated from natural occurrences in weather patterns.

 “In general, the researchers found that temperatures have been climbing more in summer than in winter….” Ron Meador of MinnPost writes. Those of us living in the north and center of continents, away from the moderating influences of oceans, see more extreme temperatures –cold in the winter and warmth in the summer. We are now seeing “this seasonal ‘heartbeat’ becoming stronger with human emissions of carbon dioxide. What this means is that while both summers and winters are getting warmer, the extra warmth is larger in summer,” Meador writes.

What does a warming climate mean for Minnesota? Less snow and more rain; hotter summers and more irrigation for crops; more air conditioners running and more electricity needed are among some of the answers.

For a more graphic vision of what is coming, look to our north.

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is a wondrous land of pines and lakes. Its beauty and seclusion provide an escape from civilization for people from around the world. Now imagine the lakes of the Boundary Waters on an open savannah with few trees; its magical environment gone. It’s the future.

“The Boundary Waters may seem unchangeable and stoic. But humankind’s actions over time are far too much for nature,” Cody Nelson of Minnesota Public Radio writes. “If you know where to look, you can already see the Boundary Waters transforming from a lush forest into a desolate grassland.”

“Warmer temperatures caused by human greenhouse gas emissions are letting maple and oak start invading the region.

“Later on when the summers get really hot, because it’s shallow rocky soil, most of the trees will die and it will end up being savannah,” University of Minnesota forest ecologist Lee Frelich told Nelson. “So grassland with scattered oak trees.”

With the loss of trees and a warmer climate, nature will change in many other ways as well. Animals that find their home in the Boundary Waters, the lynx and moose, will have to migrate north or die as the available food patterns for predator and prey change.

It isn’t just that the world is getting hotter that is bringing destruction to the world’s biodiversity. The oppressive growth of population combined with more purchasing power in the pockets and purses of people around the globe are also having an impact.

In 1818, the world’s population was just over 1 billion. Today, it is approaching 7.7 billion. By 2050 it will be close to 10 billion. What all those extra people do is consume – food, water, goods for their homes, more energy to cool and heat those homes, and space. More consumption demands more production. More production demands more land be stripped of native habitat and plowed under. More homes demand more urban sprawl. More energy requires burning more fossil fuels.

“Earth is losing plants, animals and clean water at a dramatic rate, according to four new United Nations scientific reports that provide the most comprehensive and localized look at the state of biodiversity,” AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein reports.

“The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem was about more than just critters, said study team chairman Robert Watson. It is about keeping Earth livable for humans because we rely on biodiversity for food, clean water, and public health, the prominent British and U.S. scientist said.”

A warming planet threatens biodiversity and the future of some species in another less obvious way.

“Global warming is screwing up nature’s intricately timed dinner hour, often making hungry critters and those on the menu show up at much different times, a new study shows,” Borenstein writes in another story.

“Timing is everything in nature. Bees have to be around and flowers have to bloom at the same time for pollination to work, and hawks need to migrate at the same time as their prey. In many cases, global warming is interfering with that timing, scientists said.”

The pattern in play isn’t going change or slow down.

What some fear is that messing with nature’s dinner hour is going to mess with ours eventually.

Food critic, chef, and author Andrew Zimmern sees the impact of a changing planet in his talking with climate experts, his reading, “and laying my eyes on things around the world.”

“I can sit here and talk to you about food trends coming from some other place that will be the next hot thing, but it’s not gonna matter when you can’t grow corn in Iowa,” Zimmern said in an interview. “All you have to do is look at the harvesting schedules of grapes around the world to see that crush dates are happening earlier and earlier and earlier.

“Our global ecological health, when you start talking about thirty, forty years out, is going to impact our food lives more than any other trend, and unless we address our unhealthy planet, we’re not going to have a choice when it comes to fish. We’re not gonna have a choice when it comes to chicken and beef and lamb. We’re not gonna have a choice when it comes to vegetables and fruits, and we’re going to be taking half of our meals a week in a nutritional supplement that we dissolve in water.”

What can we do to at least try to give our children a future? Talk to those running for public office. If they deny our climate is changing, if they support America’s exclusion from the Paris Climate Accord, deny them your vote. Support local and state conservation initiatives. We aren’t powerless because of our opponents; we lack a voice because of our complacency.

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