You are on page 1of 7

Eastman 1

Andrew Eastman
Professor Prime
Sociology & 201
29 May 2014
Please Take the Blanket Off
For the majority of my 32 year-old life, climate change has been a hot topic. Years of
research using various methods at every nook and cranny of our globe points to the same
conclusion: pollution is causing our atmosphere to progressively warm. Even here in the Pacific
Northwest the summers are getting warmer and winters wetter. Much talk has been on efforts to
decline or mitigate the problem by using clean energy and hybrid cars. While that is likely to
slow this catastrophe, our attention needs to focus on the aftereffects. Inevitably, our civilization
will have to adapt to this ever-changing climate. Our ecosystems, agriculture, health, and
biodiversity depend on it.
Now when I say adaptation, I dont mean it in a sense of evolutionary mutations like
growing fins to swim the floods or large heat-dissipating ears in the dessert. So what does
adaptation look like? Within the previous couple hundred years weve adapted to a conventional
way of living; i.e., food trade and distribution, electricity, air conditioning, and speedy
transportation. These essential constructions have a price-tag, pollution. Pollution in the form of
carbon dioxide and methane, greenhouse gases, has acted as a blanket over much of the world.
Ironically, without carbon dioxide, CO2, our atmosphere wouldnt be habitable and our planet
would freeze. Though just as a carbon blanket can keep us warm and comfy, a thicker blanket

Eastman 2

during the summer is suffocating and we will burn up in hundreds of years. Our ecosystems,
agriculture and health are at risk.
Weve managed to reverse the cycle of growth and are slowly killing ecosystems. Our
diverse ecosystems provide us with farm lands, enriched soil, natural irrigation and agriculture.
Farmers in the past have shown a resilience when natural disasters such as floods and droughts
occur but this long-lasting change will test them at a different degree. Some of the considerable
effects would be increased crop water requirements, reduced water availability, greater crop
damage due to frost and heat stress, and increased pest and disease activity (Singh 2012). Just
over the past decade crops have been compromised further south.
Agriculture in the north will actually flourish while the summer season becomes mild and
humid, and the snowy winter changes into rain. Though, flooding will saturate fields and crops
will yield very little during the fall and spring, we can adapt to this particular change by building
greenhouses with pesticide free soils to grow during the harsh seasons. Draining the water from
the fields into reservoirs will prevent saturation and can be used during the longer summers.
While the north profits, the southern regions will experience longer droughts and farmers will
need to find a new method of irrigation. Livestock will be at risk of disease resulting from heat
stress and malnourishment from diminished feed sources. Cooling systems will likely be the only
saving grace. Whether or not those cooling systems are cost-effective is a question only the
farmers could answer (Berry, p. 31-34). As natural disasters increase, such as forest fires and
tornados, our forests and vegetation will need human assistance in order to recover quickly. We
can adapt methods such as quick replantation, alternating rotation times, and extending the
biodiversity by replanting with foreign species (Berry, p. 91). It will be interesting to see how we
respond to such changes. Hundreds of years down the road, my great-great-great-grandchildren

Eastman 3

might have foods like changos (cherries and mangos) or avocarrots (avocados and carrots)
on their dinner plates. Nutritious! Along with struggling food sources, our provisions need to
keep up with a worldwide growing population.
Typically biodiversity is greater in warmer, temperature-balanced climates with yearround rainfall and closer to the equator such as the Amazon rainforest. This is due to bacteria
growth and mild winters where life can flourish year-round. Without rainfall as a natural
irrigation, sweltering heat much like a sauna will inhibit plant and animal life. While the earth
warms, the equator will widen longitudinally towards the poles and biodiversity will head north
further from the equator. As this happens, migration patterns will be diverted and we could see
species such as toucans and parrots further north in our backyards here in the United States. As
crazy as that sounds, its already taking place. In the essay The Truth About Invasive Species
Burdick says, I have seen the future, and it lives in Miami (Burdick 1). Its true that some of
the migrating species were influenced by man via ships and purchased as exotic pets, but this
doesnt limit a flamingos natural instinct to stand in water, especially if they have no other
choice. The naturalized aliens include Cuban tree frogs, various South American anoles, and
South Asian pythons and boa constrictors (Burdick 1). Greater diversity conveys a degree of
biotic resistance, which helps preserve the integrity of an ecosystem over time.
When climate change and global warming first hit the media roughly 30 years ago, a
good majority of the tremendously profitable energy corporations turned their heads and
deflected the cause for as long as they could. While they continue to drill and pollute our streams
and skies, glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising. I saw it first hand over the course of just
two years while diving around coral reefs in Guam. The reefs were losing their vibrant pink and
orange color and turning white. This condition is called bleaching, caused by increasing water

Eastman 4

temperatures and ocean pollution (Hooidonk, 2009). In 2005, a scientist named Gordon
Hamilton went to visit one of the worlds largest glaciers in Greenland named Kangerdlugssuaq.
His helicopter landed on the same coordinates where the glacier was just year earlier. Within that
year, the ice melted away as far as he could see. Stunned, Hamilton jumped back into the
helicopter and tracked the tail of the glacier and landed again. He was now standing nine miles
further inland than he was before. Thats right, in just a year Kangerdlugssuaq had receded back
nine miles (Wallace-Wells 60-81).
Aside from the obvious health risks related to decreased oxygen levels, other
environmental threats are looming. Many countries have limited access to water due to drought
and natural disasters. This problem will spread over the course of the next century. Its
imperative that we collect and transport every drop of clean water via reservoirs, pipelines, and
other transportation methods. If we dont find alternatives to mitigation measures, we will only
make things worse. For example, an increase in air conditioning units will disperse more carbon
emissions into the atmosphere and speed up climate change. With temperatures rising, water will
become land-locked and stagnant. This water harbors tiny mosquito soldiers that will infect
livestock and communities. Indirect effects of blood borne pathogens and disease will be felt
across the globe. Epidemics such as yellow-fever and malaria will spread quickly if we dont
implement a resistance against those nuisances. This is a costly task but important. One way to
control mosquito larvae is by draining the wetlands (Berry 242). This could create a problem
with biodiversity, which is dependent on water; not such a practical solution. Mosquitos grow on
the surfaces of water, so a nontoxic barrier could be the answer. Most plant and seed oils such as
sunflower and safflower oil could be spread over the surfaces which would prevent eggs from

Eastman 5

being laid. Its possible that the one substance thats slowly killing us, oil, could be a saving
grace to thousands. Ah the irony.
Lets revisit those tremendously profitable oil companies and a town called Williston,
North Dakota. A rock formation called Bakken, after previous land owner and farmer Henry
Bakken, is the new hot spot for the jobless, homeless, and roughly 450 private oil companies
looking to pump out 7.4 billion barrels of light sweet crude oil (Wikipedia). A process of
extracting the oil and natural gas from shale in the ground called hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, is used subsequently to drilling. A high-pressurized water mixture is pumped into
pipelines deep under the surface and cracks or fractures the rock. Thereafter, the oils and gases
are free to rise up to the wells and are then pumped out (Wikipedia). Interestingly, these harmful
natural resources are also finding their way into our drinking water sources and have become
another health risk to the surrounding populations. We continue to find new ways of damaging
our environment and livelihoods.
What used to be an insignificant droplet on the map, Williston has become a mecca for
infrastructure, jobs, and socioeconomics. Over the next couple of years, its estimated that 30,000
potential workers will migrate to the region. Even a stripper named Tatiana has profited from this
oil boom and the exhausted, black-splotch clothed working men looking to loosen up after a
rough days work (Warnica 2012). A new problem has arisen in the area. With a growing
population, so grows the homeless and crime rates. The community and housing developments
cant keep up and many are resorting to man-camps and sleeping in their cars and RVs. New
money brings more crime such as drug dealers and domestic violence, all of which is
outnumbering the local police departments. Its likely that Williston will catch up to the demands
of this surge but after the crude is pumped out of the ground we have to ask, whats left for the

Eastman 6

town? My theory is everyone will leave with deep pockets and a waste trail and then, On to the
next town!
Williston is just a case in point of our history and the driving greed, i.e. Marshall,
Michigan and Grand Isle, Louisiana. As Im an advocate for mitigation techniques and lifestyle
changes, which I carry out daily, Im looking towards the future of my childrens children. Not
much stands in the way of the aftermath of a butterfly flapping its wings and neither will the
environment. Much data suggests that weve already gone past the point of no return and all
thats left is to sit back and wait, or continue to mitigate and adapt.
Our environment will continue to give warnings to the end of our existence. Its how we
react to this new crisis that shows our character and whats really important to us. Focusing on
the current problems will create solutions to the future and its uncertainties. In order to keep
climate change at bay, we must make adjustments to our energy sources. In order to survive our
destructive way of living, we must adapt to a thickening carbon blanket. Please take the blanket
off, Im getting warm.

Eastman 7

Works Cited.
Berry, P. (2009). Biodiversity in the Balance : Mitigation and Adaptation Conflicts and
Synergies. Sofia: Pensoft.
Burdick, Alan. "The Truth about Invasive Species." 50 Essays. By Samuel Cohen. 4th ed.
Hooidonk, R. v., & Huber, M. (2009). Equivocal evidence for a thermostat and unusually low
levels of coral bleaching in the western pacific warm pool. Geophysical Research Letters,
36(6)
Singh, V. (2012). Climate change and its impact on agriculture: A review. International Journal
Of Agriculture, Environment & Biotechnology, 5(3), 297-302.
Wallace-Wells, B. (2010). ON THIN ICE. Rolling Stone, (1114), 60-81.
WARNICA, R. (2012). BOOM, BUSTS AND TROUBLE. Maclean's, 125(19), 32.