PBS News aired a segment on July 24 announcing that 29 million acres of tropical rainforest were harvested globally in 2019, led by China and the Republic of the Congo, taking more than 2 million restricted acres of ancient, rare tropical woods.
The International Climate Conference, scheduled for Glasgow, Scotland, has been canceled by the UN and rescheduled for mid-2021.
We are leaving the Holocene epoch, the 12,000 years of stable climate since the last ice age, during which human civilization developed. Humanity is now in the Anthropocene epoch, a name coined by Nobel Prize winning scientist Paul Crutzen. He believes the name change is long overdue. Twenty of the last 22 years have set record temperatures. The great acceleration of climate warming levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is at the fastest rate in 66 million years. Fossil fuel burning has pushed carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million in 1850 to 417 ppm and rising today. We are in the sixth mass extinction in the 700-million-year. Seventy-five percent of species will become extinct by the end of the century if we stay on the same path.
The pandemic terrorizing the world at this moment is a wake up call for change, and a deeper understanding of our habitat. To move to an understanding of risk and reward on change that must come, a selfless and courageous cultural change must happen.
Consider the anthropogenic impact since January of this year:
Over the past 11 days, in late July, a meandering heat dome has been cooking the entire United States with triple-digit temperatures. At the same time, in Southeast Asia, multiple-foot torrential rains are occurring.
A tornado way out of season hit Tennessee, killing 25 overnight. Early season tornadoes six weeks later from Texas to the Carolinas and Georgia killed 33 and caused billions of dollars in property damage. Over the Memorial Day weekend, there were 18 more tornadoes from Iowa to the Florida panhandle. Over the summer equinox, wildfires with accompanying triple-digit temperatures are decimating eight western states. in Arizona alone, more than 260,000 acres have been obliterated. Central states are being battered by torrential rains and severe tornadoes.
Hurricanes and flooding occurred for the third time in five months in England and Europe.
Two biblical locust swarms two months apart ravaged East Africa.
Forty percent of Australia has gone up in flames. Massive extinction is happening right now with species that can be found nowhere else on earth. The habitat and food supply from the ground up does not have time to recover. Many charismatic creatures are now gone forever.
A report from Australia’s James Cook University Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mark Eakin of the Coral Reef Watch Program, stated the mass bleaching of the 1,400-mile-long ecosystem is of an unprecedented scale. The bleaching episodes brought on by the warmer than normal Pacific Ocean temperature are matched only by the 2016 bleaching that killed half of all shallow water corals.
In the Arctic: Isabella Velicogna, an earth science professor at the University of California, Irvine, and a senior scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a March 19 news release, “Due to the warm summer of 2019, Greenland lost 600 billion tons of ice, raising Earth’s sea level by 2.2 millimeters.”
North central Siberia, above the Arctic Circle, has been in the throes of an accelerating heatwave, with temperatures in the 70s and 80s. On June 3, it was reported to Vladimir Putin that an unanticipated permafrost melt caused a 20,000-ton diesel fuel leak near the city of Norilisk. The incident is being compared to the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. On June 22, the sustained Arctic heat wave escalated to beyond 100 degrees. Wildfires in the Arctic have re-released 59 metric tons of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
In the Antarctic: According to researcher David Holland, there has been a cleaving of “The Doomsday,” a glacier the size of Florida in the West Antarctic. It hasn’t entered into the ocean yet but it is the result of warming seas. In East Antarctica, Virginia Brancato, NASA scientist and lead author of a new study on geophysical research, states in a March 24 report extreme warming depths on the Denman Glacier, the deepest continental point on
Earth, could ultimately lead to trillions of tons of ice into the ocean.
There is only one place on earth where satellites cannot see to the ground: The Amazon Basin. Because of mists and the canopy, 20 tons of fresh water a day are captured and move like a river in the sky. At the time of Pangaea, the period when all the continents were one, the Amazon Basin became the crucible of life. It is the lungs of the planet today, taking 30% of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and giving us 20% of our life-giving oxygen. It has the Pantanal, the greatest bio-diverse wet land on the planet. Its ecosystem supports tens of thousands of life forms, including plants, insects, marsupials, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
Moira Birss of the nonprofit group Amazon Watch states that the basin is approaching a “tipping point,” and could be gone in the next few years. Twenty percent is already gone. San Paolo, Brazil, population 13 million, is already having fresh drinking water shortages. The phenomena will be exacerbated when the rainforest stops making its own rain. The forest will recede and disappear. Think about that for a moment. A few years and no rainforest.
There are three main financial players with more than $7 trillion in equity investment in the rainforest. And they are all in the United States. This is easy money, plundering Mother Nature’s bastion of life. It is unnecessary but easy.
Maybe we should enact a global law banning this unethical, and, if you believe in a higher spiritual power, immoral ecocide. The coronavirus is here now. What kind of consequence do you think will appear if human hand extinguishes the Amazon rainforest?
It’s not too late.
Joseph F. Doyle is a freelance writer based in Salem.