…the trend line is clear: 17 of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.
“It’s not a wake-up call anymore,” Cynthia Rosenzweig, who runs the climate impacts group at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said of global warming and its human toll. “It’s now absolutely happening to millions of people around the world.”
Be careful before you call it the new normal, though. Temperatures are still rising, and, so far, efforts to tame the heat have failed. Heat waves are bound to get more intense and more frequent as emissions rise, scientists have concluded. On the horizon is a future of cascading system failures threatening basic necessities like food supply and electricity (Sengupta).ah Despite these alarming facts, nothing dramatic or global or far-reaching is getting accomplished. The journalist, David Wallace-Wells who wrote the biggest story on climate change last summer for NYMag is now asserting that, ah
climate change is not a matter of “yes” or “no,”…[but is] a binary process where we end up either “fucked” or “not fucked.”
It is a system that gets worse over time as long as we continue to emit greenhouse gases. We are just beginning to see the horrors that climate change has in store for us —but that does not mean that the story is settled. Things will get worse, almost certainly much, much worse.
Indeed, the news about what more to expect, coming out of new research, only darkens our picture of what to expect: Just over the past few weeks, new studies have suggested heat in many major Indian cities would be literally lethal by century’s end, if current warming trends continue, and that, by that time, global economic output could fall, thanks to climate effects, by 30 percent or more. That is an impact twice as deep as the global Great Depression, and it would not be temporary (Wallace-Wells).ah The facts are only becoming more and more dire and as reported by Wallace-Wells, journalists are trying to honestly report but are also still hesitant to attribute summer fires and more commonly occurring heat waves to the effects of climate change.
The varicolored mountain, with sediment created from mineral deposits over millions of years, was discovered only about five years ago, locals say. But it has become a must-see attraction for hikers, bringing much-needed cash to the area but also prompting concern about possible damage to the previously unspoiled landscape…But there may be a high price to pay for the tourism boom….John Widmer….lamented the environmental destruction occurring from the large number of tourists, adding that “the beautiful and fragile alpine environment is getting completely demolished” by the hordes of eager hikers who journey to the mountain. “I’m ashamed at the fact that we, too, personally destroyed a bit of the Andes during our trek to Rainbow Mountain (Magra y Zarate).ah The struggle truly is, how do you balance the need to protect vulnerable sites but also benefit from “the flood of tourists [that] also brings with them a flood of cash to the small community of indigenous Pampachiri people living near the mountain” (Fessenden).
Indigenous peoples are among the first to face the direct consequences of climate change, owing to their dependence upon, and close relationship with the environment and its resources. Climate change exacerbates the difficulties already faced by vulnerable indigenous communities, including political and economic marginalization, loss of land and resources, human rights violations, discrimination and unemployment (UN).ah The irony is not lost on me and it is something that was incredibly heavy on my mind during my travels. How can I even pretend to claim that I care about the environment, empowering global majority groups, and learning from others when I contribute negatively to sources that will ultimately hurt the world and the people and places in it? The earlier article cited about la montaña also very hopefully suggested that “just as photos on the internet helped establish Vinicunca’s popularity, perhaps reporting about the dangers of over-tourism at the colorful mountain can mobilize preservation efforts for its future” (Fessenden). I definitely agree that reporting and raising awareness can be helpful but I am still unclear on where I stand and what I should do about air travel. Kalmus suggested that quitting air travel would help enormously and that alternate modes of transportation like “slow travel” would be sufficient replacements–suggestions I don’t disagree with. The disconnect and the denial is something I know that I and plenty of others struggle to grapple with…it’s easy to be busy with the rest of your life and dismiss your impact. But, I would argue that individual impact is huge and that anything you can do to ~reduce, reuse, recycle~ would help but I would encourage you to really think about what else can you do and to empower your decisions. Can you cut out air travel or car travel or change your diet or not use an AC? Can you recognize that using fossil fuels might not even be making you happier? Think about all the misery (and emissions!) caused by sitting in traffic and getting stuck with a flight delay. Doing something is better than nothing…because we can’t look back to 2018 and realize that all we did was debate about the harm of straws. You can’t rely on politicians, celebrities, and scientists to fix this problem because I believe that individual decisions and choices have an empowering impact that act as a ripple effect. As Kalmus advises, you need to try to make these changes out of a sense of joy and love because we love this planet, the beautiful places we visit, and people we meet and you can’t forget that they’re nothing but our neighbors and our community that we need to work towards protecting and preserving. Now consider what really needs to be given up–because the answer is plainly apathy.