Opinion: Enough with the good news!
Let me start this off by saying that this is my opinion. You’re welcome to disagree, but hear me out. I saw a Facebook post the other day captioned “Good news for those worried about the planet” and it’s popped up on my feed a few times since then. I get the thinking behind good news, but I can’t get behind it when it comes to our planet. Here’s why.
You’ve probably heard of Greta Thunberg. She’s the teenager who started the school climate strikes. She has been quoted saying “our house is on fire” and believe me, she’s not kidding.
We have less than 11 years until we reach an irreversible point in climate change. To understand why ‘good news’ is actually dangerous, let me start off by explaining our impending doom.
"Let me start off by explaining our impending doom..."
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane are greenhouse gases. That means they’re really good at trapping the sun’s heat in our atmosphere and warming the earth’s surface. They’re a necessary part of our biosphere because the warmth they keep in the atmosphere keeps conditions ideal for life on earth. But there can be too much of a good thing.
Carbon dioxide levels are higher than they have ever been, reaching over 440 parts per million. Photo from Wix.
Human activity like deforestation, transport and agriculture are generating greenhouse gases faster than they can be reabsorbed by the earth. So they’re building up in our atmosphere, slowly warming the earth’s surface more and more. That has consequences beyond just making winters less severe. When the earth’s surface reaches just 2 more degrees higher than it is now, the permafrost in the poles will melt.
"Consequences beyond just making winters less severe"
Permafrost is frozen earth, far north, in and around the Arctic Circle. It becomes a problem when it melts because for thousands of years it has trapped the bodies of dead plants and animals and they have decayed, creating methane. Methane is 25 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2. As the permafrost melts, all that methane will be released into the atmosphere, exponentially hastening climate change.
As the planet gets warmer, the poles will become less cold. You’d think that doesn’t matter, and you’d be wrong. The coldness of the poles is what drives our current weather patterns and ocean currents. Basically, the world as we know it will become chaos.
Extreme weather like droughts, floods, fires and cyclones will become more frequent and more intense, each affecting humans directly by physically destroying communities and impairing crop agriculture and consequentially food security.
Only 0.003% of water is fresh, accessible and suitable for human use. Photo from Wix.
Not only that, but when the poles get warmer, ocean currents will change. Normally, cold water sinks at the poles, and moves around the world at the bottom of the ocean, bringing nutrients and temperature control to the rest of the sea. As the poles get warmer, this will happen less intensely, affecting oceanic ecosystems everywhere.
"It will be an ugly spiral we wont be able to get out of."
Phytoplankton (tiny sea plants that produce 50% of the world’s oxygen) won’t be getting the nutrients they need to do their job, so they won’t be able to sustain fish populations or absorb CO2, further worsening the effects of greenhouse gases. It will be an ugly spiral we won’t be able to get out of.
"Now here's my problem with good news..."
Now here’s my problem with good news about the planet. NO GOOD NEWS IS GOOD ENOUGH TO UNDO THESE EFFECTS.
"“Either we prevent temperatures from rising above 1.5 degrees (Celsius), or we don’t. Either we avoid chain reaction of unravelling ecosystems, or we don’t. That’s as black or white as it gets. Now we all have a choice: we can either create transformational action or continue with business as usual and fail.” - Greta Thunberg. Photo from Wix.
Our home is smouldering and we cannot simply look past it because we don’t have the energy to deal with it. Yes, it’s awful, but for us to actually achieve any significant good we need to realise that panicking is long overdue. When we panic we will get stuff done to hopefully slow this down.
"Our home is smouldering."
Think of it this way: Some smoke is appearing somewhere in your kitchen. Maybe there was an electrical fault. Now there’s a fire about to start and burn down your entire home. You know it’s there and it’s upsetting but you choose to ignore it and admire your garden or your cosy lounge. Your beautiful garden or lounge do not matter because your house is about to catch alight! If you don’t do something about the flames, there won’t be a garden or lounge left to admire! You have to put the fire out!
Wildfires and other natural disasters will become increasingly common. We've already started seeing the increasing intensity with the Knysna fires and the California fires in the last two years. Photo by Wix.
Good news about the planet is a distraction. It’s taking your attention away from the thick clouds of smoke billowing from your kitchen. It gives you the illusion that everything will be okay so you’re less impassioned about making a difference. It’s time for panic stations. We can’t admire the world and the few good things happening and pretend everything will get better because if we get too comfortable and do nothing to save the world, there will be nothing worth admiring.
"It's time for panic stations"
Yes, there are good things out there and there are people doing incredible stuff to save the planet, but that doesn’t mean everything will be okay. We all need to do our part.
Now I’m not about to rant and just leave you upset. There are things you can do but you need to look at your lifestyle and consider an overhaul. What you eat can save the world; what you plant can save the world; what you say can save the world.
Enough apathy disguised as good news. We have less than a decade to make a change. We don’t have time for distractions. Our house is on fire and we need to wake up to the smoke and put it out.
You can learn how to lower your carbon footprint here.
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