Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

My friend Megan, the world's best photographer (literally), alerted me to the fact that today is Blog Action Day in regards to Climate Change, so I figured why not bounce back into posting on Spargel with some thoughts on the topic.

Over the past year, Jeff and I have been amazingly lucky; we have seen some of the world's most spectacular landscapes. We've watched the sunset over Torres del Paine, seen icebergs calf off of Perito Merino Glacier, experienced the fragility of the Galapagos Islands, come within arm's reach of breeching whales, felt the heat of geysers in the cold desert morning, stared gapjaw at the Iguazu and Victoria Falls, laughed in delight at the antics of Africa's wild animals, stared in silence at the magnificence of gorillas in the wild, relaxed on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, climbed active volcanoes, and gone scuba diving among delicate corals and delightful marine life.

We've also seen mudslides wipe out villages. We've seen farmers stand in barren fields waiting for rains that never come. We've seen great swaths of forest stripped by logging companies. We've seen oil pipe lines destroy the Amazon. We've seen the remains of towns wiped out by floods, tsunamis, and overflowing rivers and lakes. We've watched as people throw trash out the window of buses. We've searched in vain for recycling bins. We've found toothbrushes atop coral reefs and plastic bags in the surf. We've refused to touch some waterways for the amount of garbage that is visible to the eye, not even imagining all the pollutants that we can't see.

Climate change is real. Sometimes we can feel it. Perhaps we did this summer, when normally hot parts of the U.S. end up getting drenched all summer or normally cooler parts see the mercury hit 100. Often we hear about it. Monsoons coming late or not at all. Mudslides occurring in areas that usually don't see much rain.

Some amount of climate change is natural. Let's go ahead and get that out there. The earth has not existed in the same state since it came into existence. If it had, we wouldn't be here. Or we'd be in hiding from the dinosaurs. But the speed at which it is changing in this current era is not natural. We are speeding it along. How much we can slow it back down remains to be seen, but we shouldn't just shrug our shoulders and say oh well. We need to act. Otherwise the amazing places we saw may become only memories. Otherwise the terrible things we saw may only become worse.

Recycle. Take a bike instead of a car on short errands...or longer if you're tough. Lower the thermostat and put on a sweater instead. Be thankful that you live in a country where the water from your tap is not only drinkable but probably delicious and quit wasting money on plastic bottles that only pollute our landscape. Stock up on re-usable bags for your shopping trips and forget the plastic bags. Start a garden. Eat locally. Do what you can.

As for travelers, it's not always easy in the developing world when the people's concerns often don't go beyond meeting basic needs. Unfortunately, it's these places that are most often affected by climate change, so do what you can while you're there. One of the things we took on our trip that we really, really loved was our Steripen. It's small, easy to carry, and saved us money as well as kept us from adding to the already huge plastic problem. After just one minute of sterilizing, we had a liter of drinkable water straight from the tap. If you're going anywhere where you don't think you'll be able to drink the local water without treating it, then I suggest you get one.

If you're feeling uninspired, a little too comfortable in your current life to make any changes, then I suggest you go outside. Take a hike. Go to the lake. Ride your bike through the local park. Stay up and stare at the stars. You don't have to go to one of the official wonders of the world to see how wondrous our world is. Let's keep it that way. I want my children and my children's children and descendants that I can't even begin to imagine to get to see the beautiful things I and in person, not just in a book recounting the way things used to be.