Is It Hot in Here or Is It Us?: Global Warming, Essay Example

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Essay

Not long ago, it seemed like we were all ready to face the consequences of mass destruction we ourselves created.  The tide of feeling was that global warming was turning the polar regions into warm puddles, the entire balance of Earth’s natural environments would dangerously shift, and we would probably be responsible for our own extinction.  Decade upon decade of mass pollution, it was universally agreed, had effectively reversed the beautiful, natural cycles of the planet’s climate.  Impassioned leaders like Al Gore took to the media and spread the message like Gospel.  Mankind, just like in every science fiction movie, had finally wrought its own end.  We were doomed, we had only ourselves to blame, and this massive responsibility was generally accepted.

Which makes it all the more interesting that, today, the great wail of despair and guilt appears to have been silenced.  Suddenly, the new awareness, largely supported by science, holds that we may not be so evil after all.  More exactly, vast evidence reveals that our own, beloved Earth tends to release a great deal more in the way of toxic gases and carbon refuse than we could hope to contribute.  New research, or research nobody cared to examine closely before, pointed to histories of global change on a scale we can only imagine.  The Earth, it seems, occasionally goes through upheavals with absolutely no help from us, from tectonic shifts generating mountainous tsunamis to volcanoes erasing entire land masses.  Moreover, if the icecaps are truly melting, it may have nothing at all to do with anyone’s inappropriate behavior.  It turns out that we have been living in an ice age lately, if a mild one, and the planet also undergoes climactic changes on this scale all the time.  We are still not quite sure exactly how or why the planet emerges from crippling ice ages, but that we are here at all is evidence that, one way or another, it does.

This has been very good news.  This has brought about a sigh of relief so enormous, it could alter the atmosphere all by itself.  Of course, we as a species may be doomed anyway, but at least we can rest easy, knowing we are not actually responsible for the collapse of all humanity.  It is nice to realize that all our waste and excess is not terribly significant, when it comes to maintaining a habitable climate.  This may be, in fact, the first time in recorded history that humanity is pleased to be ineffectual.  Better yet: there is also a strong current of thinking that asserts we can get through these changes just fine.

Now, while it is very comforting to both be relieved of global murder and to know that we may survive these temperature quirks of the Earth, there is still a rather important lesson here, and it would be not good to lose sight of it in our relief.  Namely, if the planet creates drastic change all by itself, it is still change occurring by means of natural forces, and this is not a formula anyone should be interfering with.  Simply, we cannot know just how radically, or if at all, we are affecting climate change with our waste, but we can safely assume that adding to whatever’s going on in ignorance is not an especially smart way to proceed.  In other words: knowing just a little is no license to act as though we know all there is to know.  Not where the atmosphere and life are concerned, anyway.

We do know that, as monumental as the Earth’s natural and climactic forces are, the balance always remains delicate, and a seemingly minor adjustment to, say, salt levels can equate to oceans rising and overtaking coastal regions.  We know that, no matter who or what is doing it, a change of a single degree over an extended period of time sets off an extraordinary chain reaction to life itself.  With just a little additional warmth, the ice caps break apart and an entire species, as in the case of the polar bear, faces extinction.  Yes, extinction is a natural process.  Yes, untold millions of species have gone extinct long before mankind ever raised the thermostats or dumped some unpleasant refuse into a lake.  However, it is one thing to note the results of natural processes, and quite another to blindly carry on in behaviors that must, to some degree, affect them.  Given the magnitude of what is at stake, there can be no such thing as harmless, or inconsequential, irresponsibility on humanity’s part.  There can be no dumping that does not, even minutely, affect these forces because, once we get rid of it, waste has nowhere else to go.  The key word, again, in all of this is: delicate.  Our atmosphere, that which enables all life to scurry about, is a layer so thin that, were the Earth the size of an desk globe, a few coats of varnish would nicely and accurately represent its mass.  On a planetary scale, it is tissue paper.  And we have been playing with scissors.

This being the case, then, perhaps we need to jump back a little from the point Z we so gladly ran to from A, when we came to know that our impact is not solely responsible for global warming.  It might be a very good thing for us to breathe back in that sigh of relief, and swallow with it a little of the blame we were so ready to shoulder.  The reality is both odd and inescapable: as mighty as the winds and the waves are, they exist because of forces calibrated by nature’s expert hand.  They wield their immense power because a carefully balanced system in which heat, oxygen, and moisture engage in the choreography that permits them to sustain us, when they are tranquil.  When we pollute, we do not pollute the tsunami or the immense ice sheet; we pollute the tiny arenas which eventually feed into the larger arenas, and we must surely set in motion a domino effect of unimaginable scope.

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