Today’s college students have grown up with climate disaster always looming near. Time is marked by extinctions and natural disasters, images of polar bears clambering on melting chunks of ice and footage of people whose homes have been destroyed by hurricanes. That makes it hard to understand why the environment has become a political issue: everybody lives on this planet with a front row seat to its ongoing dilapidation.
Unfortunately, man-made institutions still manage to take priority over this crisis, from politicians' preoccupation with money to laws that protect the ongoing exploitation of the environment.
Between the fires out West and hurricanes terrorizing areas surrounding the Atlantic, the urgency of the situation is becoming increasingly clear. In order for the planet to survive, it is time to urge politicians with more persistence than ever before, demanding action on prominent environmental issues such as limiting greenhouse gasses and deforestation.
The Environmental Protection Agency defines greenhouse gasses as gasses released during human activity into the atmosphere that have the capability to set Earth’s temperature over time and can remain in the atmosphere for over 100 years. The EPA also reports that the two greenhouse gasses that have caused the most damage to the atmosphere are carbon dioxide and methane, as they are used liberally in agriculture, deforestation and production.
According to The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has risen from 315 parts per million in 1958 to over 400 parts per million today, and is predicted to stay above this level for generations to come. While it is true that the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere will continue to grow exponentially whether action is taken now or not, slowing the increase can at least act as a form of damage control.
Deforestation is one of the greatest contributors to the increase of greenhouse gasses. Cutting down trees releases large quantities of carbon dioxide, which the OEHHA reports already makes up 65% of the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. According to National Geographic, deforestation occurs during the process of timber cultivation and when the ground is cleared for agriculture, manufacturing, or construction.
National Geographic also reports that the amount of forested land has been decreasing dramatically across most continents, but is particularly problematic in tropical forests because their abundance of biodiversity is put at risk. When the loss of habitats and communities combine with the levels of carbon dioxide released from cutting down trees, deforestation proves to be one of the worst offenders in the climate crisis.
To many, the recent rise in natural disasters makes the situation seem entirely hopeless and for good reason: things are looking bad, and have been looking bad for a long time. However, the level of crisis the planet is at now is at a breaking point, and politicians are facing more pressure than ever from their constituents to create real change.
The climate crisis is a gargantuan issue, but if the people begin to push for restrictions on greenhouse gasses and deforestation, and more resources put into sustainable farming, energy and general ways of living with the fervor of people living on a dying planet, there is a good chance that widespread lethal disaster can be avoided in this lifetime.
Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.
Assistant Opinion Editor