Slow walk – To delay a request or command, to drag one’s feet, to stall, to obstruct, to drag out a process.
Seeing the photos of the massive fires, or frightening smoke levels on America’s west coast has had a profound impact on me. I asked my daughter in LA to describe the situation in one word, and she said “hellish”. My other daughter who lives across the river from Portland said the air is “Sh*t”. Our air quality has been identified as “Hazardous” the highest level of warning. We are one hundred miles or more from any of the larger fires. But there is still quite a bit of smoke in the air coming from forest fires in Washington and Oregon. We had incredible winds and strange skies over the past few days. I went outside for a few minutes to take photos of the town and the beach. These terrifying fires are a direct result of conditions created by climate change. Although I will remain an optimist, I believe the powerful forces will continue to prevent the reduction of emissions below a profitable threshold. We are witnessing an inevitable decline of our home planet’s health. To protect corporate bottom lines and through negligence and greed, the powerful have been slow walking the climate apocalypse.
I’ve been a nature lovers since I was a little kid and my mom taught me about plants. In grade school I read Dr. Seuss’ McElligot’s Pool,which started me thinking about biodiversity. As an adult, back in 1995, I was very proud to be one of five representatives from my state for NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth’s Global Change Education initiative. For over a dozen or so years, I worked on countless environmental education projects. When I lived in China, I taught all my students, at the university and young kids, about environmental issues. My university students participated in the One Day on Earth project in 2011 and 2012. I was invited to the UN for Earth Day 2012, but I could not attend. We all have to become advocates for the environment. To paraphrase the Lorax, we have to speak for the earth.
Timeline for Slow Walking the Apocalypse
1930 population reaches 2 billion 1960 human population reached 3 billion, 1975 human population reached 4 billion. 1987 population reaches 5 billion. 1999 population 6 billion. 2011 7 billion. Currently 7.8 billion
Ancient times to 1970: “Climate change” has been known about since ancient times. The concept of greenhouse gasses can be traced back over one hundred and fifty years. And global warming has been known about since at least 1938 (Callendar effect). In the 1950s, using early computers, scientist determined that doubling CO2 levels would increase the global temperature by 3-4 C. In 1958, measurements of CO2 in Hawaii and Antarctica began and continue today. Within four years the results proved global CO2 levels were rising. 1958-59 International Geophysical Year brings increased funding for studying the climate. In 1963 experts concerned about global warming first warn about the highly likely rise of sea levels. On December 24, 1968, the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo showed the fragile beauty of our planet.
70s and 80s: The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. In 1972 the UN held its first environment conference. At the same time in 1972 huge droughts in Africa, India and the Ukraine increased concerns about climate change. 1975 Wallace Broecker used the term “global warming” was used for the first time in a scientific paper. 1979 World Climate Research Program launched. 1981 the election of Ronald Reagan brought a tremendous backlash against the so-called environmental movement. 1981 was the warmest year on record. In 1986 there was a nuclear reactor meltdown at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union. 1987 Montreal Protocol agreed to restrict ozone damaging chemicals. At the UN in 1989, Margaret Thatcher (who has a degree in chemistry) warns about rising CO2 levels and calls for a global climate change treaty. 1989, Fossil-fuel and other U.S. industries create the Global Climate Coalition to influence politicians and public opinion against action related to climate change.
1990s: In 1991 scientist discover mass extinction event 55 million years ago was directly related to incredible warming caused by massive increase in greenhouse gasses. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro developed countries agree to reduce emissions to 1990 levels, but the US blocks serious action being taken. 1993 – ice cores from Greenland suggest great climate change impacts can occur in as little as one decade. 1995 – public grows more concerned as there are reports of Antarctic ice shelves breaking up and signs of Arctic warming. In the 1997 Kyoto Protocol developed countries agreed to reduce emissions by 5% on average by 2012.
2000s: 2000 Global Climate Coalition dissolves as corporations begin to be hit by climate change impacts. 2001 President George Bush withdraws the US from the Kyoto Protocol. That same year, in 2001, IPCC’s third report identifies greenhouse gas emissions as cause of increased global warming. 2003 deadly heat wave in Europe increases the difference of opinion between Europe and the US. 2005 Kyoto treaty goes into effect. In 2006 atmospheric carbon from fossil fuels reach eight billion tons a year. 2007 levels of sea ice decreasing more rapidly than predicted. In 2008 fifty years of data from Hawaii show a rise in CO2 levels from 315 ppm (1958) to 380 ppm (2008); by 2013 that number had risen to over 400ppm. By 2008 climate scientists come to realize that even if all greenhouse gas emissions were halted global warming would continue for thousands of years. The failure of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference signals the end of serious efforts to avoid dangerous climate change.
2010 – Today: 2011 nuclear reactor disaster at Fukushima, Japan. Researchers determined the 2015 collapse of West Antarctic Ice Sheet is inevitable which would raise sea levels by several meters. Also in 2015, many nations sign on to the Paris Agreement to set and report greenhouse gas reductions. Today: The mean global temperature is 14.8°C, which is the warmest in tens of thousands of years. The level of atmospheric CO2 is 415 ppm, the highest in millions of years.
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