from The Lorax
written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1971
March has moved in with the strength of a lion. Roaring winds and a significant snowfall are making a liar of the groundhog. Just one month ago in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil predicted an early Spring. Now it’s cold. Single digit temps overnight only warming into the teens have put a damper on my gardening dreams. Heck, I don’t even want to go outside!
If it’s so cold, how can anyone talk about Global Warming? Or the more inclusive Climate Change.
Global Warming refers to the long-term warming of the planet, especially since 1970.
Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created mostly by burning fossil fuels.
Burning fossil fuels releases Carbon Dioxide (CO2) into the air we breathe and the atmosphere at large. Fossil fuels are not the only culprit, though and CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas.
Methane is also part of the problem, and a huge source of methane is cows. Contrary to the popular explanation, it is burping, a by-product of digestion, not flatulence, the other by-product of digestion, that emits most of the methane into the atmosphere.
Like the water cycle, our earth also relies on the carbon cycle.
A simple explanation of the carbon cycle describes the steps. Plants absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Plants are eaten by animals and people who emit it back into the atmosphere (from both ends of our bodies). The plants re-absorb the CO2 to complete the cycle. (Plants, including houseplants and trees, emit oxygen into the air.)
When we dig up carbon-containing minerals like coal (and oil, not a mineral, but still) and burn it, we add CO2 that was not previously part of the carbon cycle. Now we’ve increased the total amount of CO2 in circulation. We are shifting the balance of nature.
So the problem is complex, and worth considering. One pretty easy way to lessen the amount of methane pouring into the air we all breathe is to eat less meat, especially cows (beef). The new term is flexitarian.
Of course, the next question (at least my next question) has to do with the digestion by-product of beans, the alternative protein source. Turns out most human flatulence does not contain methane. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatulence#Environmental_impact (scroll down to the section labeled “Mechanism”)Whew!
You can find many lists of ways to lower your carbon footprint. I listed some myself not too long ago. (12/18/18 has a list for reducing use of plastic, which is a petroleum product.) Here’s a list from the Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/7-instant-ways-to-reduce-your-carbon-footprint_us_59321992e4b00573ab57a383
Even though each of us as individuals can make a significant impact and we should do all we can to protect and heal our Earth, working alone doesn’t always work best. Sometimes organizing is helpful, even necessary.
A group of 21 kids claim the federal government’s promotion of fossil fuel production and its indifference to the risks posed by greenhouse gas emissions have resulted in “a dangerous destabilizing climate system” that threatens the survival of future generations. So they are taking the United States Government to Court. Yep, they’re suing the US Government.
Last fall, US District Judge Anne Aiken agreed with the kids. She established their right to expect that they could live in a stable climate. It’s been called “the biggest case on the planet” by Mary Wood, a University of Oregon law professor. National Geographic published an interesting article about the case and the concerned kids who dare to dream big. https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/kids-sue-us-government-climate-change/
These kids are not the lambs of that March proverb! But they’re young. They’re enthusiastic! And they’re smart!
Let’s hope they win.
-—stay curious! (and proactive)