Earth Day 2021: We cannot stall any longer

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Top photo of Windansea Beach in La Jolla, CA by Tim Forekes

Today is Earth Day. It isn’t a party day, it isn’t a holiday — although it should be the latter and could be the former. It is a day we set aside once a year — once a year — to advocate for the protection of our planet. It’s something we should do every day.

Fifty-one years of Earth Day and what do we have to show for it? Global warming that threatens our existence as a species, within the next 100 years. And we are in the 6th mass extinction.

The Scripps Institute of Oceanography Pier,
La Jolla, CA (Tim Forkes)

According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, “Humankind faces catastrophic changes in climate patterns, sea level, ocean acidity, public health, and ecosystems due to climate change.”

Catastrophic. What does that mean? Well, literally it’s disastrous event, calamitous, according to dictionaries, but in regards to the climate crisis it means the Earth and all of the life on it are in mortal danger. That’s really not hyperbole, according to the science.

On their page about the climate crisis, the Scripps Institute said this about carbon dioxide emissions: “Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a colorless odorless greenhouse gas produced by numerous natural processes and by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and cement manufacturing. It is called a greenhouse gas because like the glass structure of a greenhouse, carbon dioxide molecules trap heat in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide accounts for two-thirds of the global warming currently caused by human activities with other compounds such as methane, nitrous oxide, halocarbons, and other gases emitted by human activities accounting for the rest.” They go on to say, “Global concentrations of CO2 are currently approaching 420 parts per million. The continued rise in CO2 indicates the likelihood that levels will rise far beyond 420 ppm before they stabilize. If the pace of the last decade continues, carbon dioxide will reach 450 ppm as soon as 2035. Carbon dioxide is the most significant human-made greenhouse gas, produced mainly by the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The pace of rise depends strongly on how much fossil fuel is used globally.”

So while the so-called conservatives whine about global warming activists like New York Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and 18-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg strongly speaking out against the fossil fuel industry and mega factory farming of animals that contribute large amounts of methane to the atmosphere — “She wants to take away your hamburgers!” — we are slowly, maybe not slowly, killing our planet.

Wave off La Jolla Shores Beach, CA
Photo by Tim Forkes

Years ago I noted the surprisingly cold temperatures in San Diego in the middle of July, when we should have been baking in the hot sun. It got me to look into what was happening to California with global warming. The results were startling. An ocean activity that naturally occurs called “upwelling” had significantly changed and that was directly affecting the weather in Southern California.

Climate change is having an adverse effect in all the world’s oceans and more locally, it affects the upwelling in the California Current System that runs from British Columbia down to Baja California. It is changing the fisheries up and down our coast and in turn drawing more warm water species to the region, like hammerhead sharks and false killer whales, which were spotted off the Scripps Institution’s pier for the first time ever.

We have also witnessed an increase in seal and sea lion populations, especially in San Diego. Local La Jolla residents and businesses are calling the sea mammals a nuisance because they have taken over the famous La Jolla Cove, which is California state protected marine reserve, and the Casa Cove, a man-made beach that was originally intended for families to frolic about in the ocean water.

Tourists go to La Jolla to see the seals and sea lions, plus all the marine birds that call La Jolla Cove home, but with the usually tranquil pinnipeds lounging about the rocks and sand of the two coves, humans are not allowed to enter the water, let alone go near the animals. Apparently the pinniped shit is polluting the cove to such an extent it is unsafe for human use.

California Sea Lions, La Jolla, CA
Photo by Tim Forkes

It’s amazing that this post went from Co2 changing the oceans to seals and sea lions making humans unhappy. But all of this is connected; from the warming oceans to the growing populations of pinnipeds, to the droughts and wild fires that have devastated California and a number of other Western states.

We can’t forget that this climate crisis has ignited the sixth mass extinction. The Smithsonian Institute of Natural History estimates about 15,000 species are in danger of going extinct. Besides succumbing to the effects of the climate crisis, these species are endangered by loss of habitat, due to human use and over predation by humans. People in Japan kill dolphins en mass because they are considered a nuisance to local fishermen. The government even uses the police to protect the people killing the sea mammals. Not to mention Japan just took itself out of the International Whaling Commission — the anti-whaling treaty — so they can hunt whales with impunity. Fisheries around the world are being depleted by over fishing.

Chicarita Creek in San Diego
Photo by Tim Forkes

We are at a major moment in this climate crisis, and in many ways we are past the tipping point when no amount of new conservation can help a species or ecosystem. We can’t stall any longer, can’t acquiesce to the greed of the fossil fuel industry, or the wanton slaughter of marine mammal for the fish we eat, or the destruction of the world’s rain forests just so we can raise more beef for our hamburgers.

The first thing we can do is push our government to pass President Biden’s infrastructure plan that addresses many climate needs. Then we can push them to pass the Green New Deal in the U.S. Senate. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) is the primary sponsor in the Senate. You ever notice when the right wants to attack the Green New Deal with their ridiculous claims they always go after the Latina woman in the House, AOC, and not the white man in the Senate?

Brown Pelicans, San Diego, CA
Photo by Tim Forkes

The two have reintroduced the bill and will push for its approval and passage once again. And as if this is any surprise the Republicans are saying it’s too expensive and socialism. Unless it’s tax cuts for the wealthiest among us, it’s too expensive and of course anything pushed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is automatically labeled “socialist.”

We have to beat back the negativity of the so-called conservatives and do the right thing — pass the Green New Deal. The world depends on it.

Chimpanzee and Gorilla researcher Jane Goodall said, “You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

So go out and make a positive impact on our world.