The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 27, 2013

My View: Act now on Earth Day: The future of our grandchildren is at stake

Leigh Pomeroy

— As we approach Earth Day we might be inclined to thing of all the things we need to do for the planet:

But I’m afraid to tell you that’s not going to be enough. Because if you’re in your late teens or early 20s, odds are the planet of your grandchildren will be vastly different. For example:

Will your grandchildren like visiting Kansas? That’s great news because they won’t have to go anywhere. Minnesota in 50 years will have a climate — and vegetation — like that of the Sunflower State today.

Will they like going to Florida? More good news as their Disney Cruise will be able to dock right at the gates of Disney World because much of coastal Florida will be under water.

Will they like studying American history? If so, they better visit Delaware within the next few decades, as the first state to join the union will also be the first to leave it as it disappears under the rising Atlantic Ocean.

Will they enjoy eating shellfish? They better get their fill in now as the oceans will be so acidic due to dissolved carbon dioxide that no shelled animal will be able to survive.

Will they relish going to Japanese restaurants and eating sushi? More good news: Sushi will still be around, but your grandchildren better like raw jellyfish, because most of the other fish we enjoy now will be gone from the oceans.

Will they like elephants, rhinos, orangutans, tigers, koalas and polar bears? The good news is that some of these animals may still be around, but they’ll be found only in zoos and wildlife parks.

Will they like birds? Nearly everybody does, but your grandchildren better get used to seeing fewer in the sky, because by 2100 as many as 30 percent of all avian species will be extinct.

Will they want to visit Brazil and the Amazon rainforest? The good news is that many species of rainforest trees will be able to survive the heat; the bad news is that up to 85 percent of the rainforest may be gone due to deforestation, drought, fire and extreme weather.

Will your grandchildren have plenty of clean, fresh water? Fortunately yes, but most of it won’t come from aquifers, rivers or lakes like today. It’ll come from our society’s waste liquids — including our own pee and poop. In fact, comprehensive wastewater recycling systems already exist and are being installed all around the world, including in cities in the U.S.

Will your grandchildren like people? Well, they’d better, because there is going to be a lot more of us on the planet in 2100 — as many as three billion more than the seven billion who live on earth today.

If this scenario seems too scary, there are silver linings on the horizon. The primary one is technology, which has saved us many times in the past — for example, the so-called green revolution in food production in the last 50 years.

Long over is the debate on whether man-made climate change is occurring. The scientists are universally in agreement even if too many politicians and pundits disagree, mainly because their next hefty paychecks depend upon their continued denial of reality.

Long over is the argument over the carrying capacity of the planet. While we don’t know exactly how many Homo sapiens the planet can comfortably hold, we know that already there are too many. Just look at the far-reaching negative impacts we’ve already forced upon other species.

Taking a stand means projecting yourself into the future of your grandchildren and deciding what kind of planet you want to bequeath them.

Do you want them to enjoy the oceans you’ve swum in, the mountains you’ve skied, the cultural offerings of the cities you’ve visited?

Yes, by all means switch out those light bulbs; recycle those cans, bottles, paper and food scraps; invest in weatherizing your house and, please, buy a hybrid car. These are all great, but they are not enough.

You, me, all of us must step up and hold our leaders and politicians accountable right now. For if we don’t do that, our grandchildren will most certainly suffer — and that’s not many years away.

 

Leigh Pomeroy is president of the Mankato Area Environmentalists and a member of the Region Nine Renewable Energy Task Force.