In my last life, I was probably an environmentalist in some shape or size.
My interest in the habitat for our humanity started to manifest itself (in this life) when I entered Bucknell University and took a number of classes in undergrad to qualify for an Environmental Studies minor. At that time, way back in 1995, such focus wasn’t deemed too useful as a career so I opted not to take the remaining class in environmental chemistry and instead focused on economic theory, finance and accounting in order to secure a much coveted job at an international investment bank.
But hark, my interests in the subject matter surface every now and then when topical news highlights the problems in our current business/politcal/environmental/economic system. The environment, sustainable development, post industrial alternatives, fair trade, “green policy” and endangered species are tags that catch my eye when perusing news of the day. Seeing the big picture and understanding the vast dependencies instead of believing our economy functions on a linear system is of particular interest.
What caught my attention recently is the evolution around the discussion as to whether polar bears should be added to the the endangered species list because their habitat is melting. National Geographic covered this subject back in December of 2006 when the administration was sued by the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council. “If the bears are given federal protection, they would be the first U.S. mammals officially deemed to be in danger of extinction because of global warming, the conservation groups said.”
Fast forward to 2008, this month (May), the “U.S. Department of the Interior added the polar bear to the list of threatened species under the Endangered Species Act” according to Bloomberg news. This is a seachange (pun intended) and I believe a turning point of epic proportions. This recognizes that global warming and the associated habitat destruction due to melting ice caps is the culprit vs oil and gas mining in the arctic.
Evidence that surfaced back in 2005 that polar bears were drowning because they couldnt swim the distances, often more than 60 miles on occasion, from one ice flow to another, caused alarm. More recent situations such as the Ayles Ice shelf (which is the size of Manhattan) snapping free from the North Pole back in 2006, rang additional environmental alarm bells. CNN recently covered the 5,500 square miles of ice shelf (about the size of Connecticut) that is literally hanging on by an ice thread and about to break off into the ocean. Are we literally seeing the ice caps melt before our eyes? In 20 years, will we have discussions like “I remember when”…..
Adding the polar bear to the species list is “the” turning point in my opinion, with respect to the global warming discussion. The consciousness of the average citizen is aware of the problem. We just now need to figure out how to empower people to “make a difference” and potentially change their behaviors. Invest now and make proactive decisions today or react tomorrow.
Nothing captures the challenge of the diametrically opposed forces (in this country at least) causing some of the problems of global warming than the photo below. Our need for a robust economy powered by our expenditure and consumption, our consumer equation founded on the tenets of “planned obsolescence” to perpetuate our consumption, the consumption creating mountains of waste, the ever increasing needs of an energy source (fossil fuels, nuclear, etc), the need for a strong military in these trying times, the need for a strong economy in order to fund a strong military….the cycle continues.