The Future of the Biosphere The environment in the age of globalization

Sometimes I think about all the places I’ve traveled, and all those places where I shared laughs and memories. One of my fondest has been Montana when I was eight. My extended family and I went to Yellowstone National Park, went on underground tours, and stared at the night sky for hours. My brother and I giggled as my father panicked about how the buffalo were getting “too close” to the car. We slipped around in centuries old caves, with goofy flashlights on our heads. We admired how much bigger and brighter the sky seemed to be here than in Westport. Another memory was a trip my family took to some small islands in Sweden. The land hardly rose too much above sea level, and we were baffled-honestly, baffled-by how amazing and exotic this place was. Both these trips showed me how much I didn’t yet know about the world. How I hadn’t yet seen as much as I’d thought I have. And then I think: What if either of these places never existed? What if I never got the chance to go? What if, because of deforestation, Yellowstone National Park never existed? Or, what if I could never go to the islands in Sweden because it was submerged due to melting ice caps?

These coral atolls in the Marshall islands that have been lost to global warming.

Due to environmental changes, places like these are already disappearing. According to the Scientific American, 80,000 acres of rainforest are lost everyday. Our President-elect Donald Trump, and his transition team, have made it very clear that they plan to cut back advances President Barack Obama has made to reduce carbon emissions. What does this mean? New York Times writers Jasmine C. Lee and James Pearce write that carbon dioxide levels could increase from 6.2 to 6.9 by 2025 if they continue at the “business as usual” rate. This means flooding and loss of habitat life in both oceans and on land. Hank Green of CrashCourse on Youtube stated that carbon has killed 1000 plants and animals in all, but most have been over the past 100 years. Many more species could die if the business as usual rate continues. Trump could spend many acts that could potentially help save the environment. He has talked about dismantling the Clean Air Act, which calls upon 191 different nations to reduce their carbon emissions and focus energy companies on renewable energy instead of fossil fuels. Trump says he wants to increase the scale of the fossil fuel industry, claiming that it will help create more jobs. At first I thought this was a smart decision. Now, I’m not so sure. There was a time when I was a Trump supporter. In some ways I still am. From my perspective, in debates, Hillary wouldn’t say her solution to the problem given. Trump on the other hand, actually said something, no matter how insane it might seem to viewers. That was why I supported Trump. Now, I’m starting to doubt my position as a supporter as I did research about how Trump could affect our environment. Not only is he a climate-doubter, but he is increasing jobs in the fossil fuel industry. He’s trying to increase the quality of life of Americans, but in a way, isn’t he doing the exact opposite by increasing carbon emissions? Although, this idea for creating more jobs through fossil fuels is starting to capture the attention of other nations around the world.

Deforestation in the amazon rain forest. Every second, an area of the rainforest the size of a football field is destroyed.
This graph shows the growth of climate change since 1998

Some political leaders are worried that without Trump to follow through with the Clean Air Act some countries will do the same. As a world power, America has a large influence on smaller nations. The US gave out billions of dollars last year in financial assistance. This forges a strong connection and gratuity for the US. America also makes an influence through economics, military, innovation, and culture. So, in many important world wide decisions, country leaders look to the US for leadership and their opinion. Most politicians concern however, is in developing nations. Their economies are unstable as it is, so cutting back on the fossil fuel industry, which is often an important factor in their economy, could be devastating. Even in countries with stable economies government leaders remain to be concerned. In October of 2014, Britain announced that they were going to cut back emissions by 40%. Citizens are worried these cut backs can increase bills or taxes. Eric Pianin for the Fiscal Times writes, “Fears of literally ruining the environment and fueling costly and lethal natural catastrophes by continuing to depend on fossil fuels for much of their energy collide with worries that a carbon tax or other schemes to reduce consumption will drive up energy costs for average people and eliminate many jobs in the industrial and utility sectors.” (Pianin) People are worried that by reducing the impact the fossil fuel industry has they might have to pay more to use renewable energy. This made me think about research I did on renewable energy a few years ago. Solar panels, when first installed can be costly, but after a few years homeowners actually start to save money than if they had kept using electricity from providers. This makes me question whether the government has done anything to assure the public that no tax will be imposed, but I assume that the government can't promise anything. This is another reason governments are still a little unsure if cutting back on fossil fuels is a positive move. Although, one thing is for sure: Trumps’ decisions could affect that of the globes.

Data was not available for countries that are gray.

Although Trumps presidency doesn’t mean there’s no hope for our environment. State and local governments can make an impact as well. The New York Times reports that the energy industry is shifting focus. It claims, “This summer, California strengthened policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Nine northeastern states began working together in 2009 under a cap-and-trade program. Last month, more than 300 companies called for the United States to continue with its emission reduction plans.” (Lee) Already, businesses and local governments are making an impact on the environment. Charities can help change the environment too. Environmental organizations like these help bring awareness to our changing world and help fund research. One such charity is Conservation International. They sponsor field projects, fund scientific research, and partner with businesses in order to raise money for their cause. Charities, like Conservation International, can make a huge impact. CI claims they protect 601 million hectares of land and sea, which would have been lost if not for their efforts.

Everyday I take advantage of what our environment gives us; a home. And because of us, our home is dying. Trump has the power to change this. Yet, not only does he want to do away with the actions that could solve it, he wants to increase the cause. Climate change has already had disastrous effects. These could be amplified if the “business as usual” rate does not change. Trump’s position could have a nauseating domino effect causing other government leaders to back out of the Clean Air Act as well. If this happens, we won’t be able to slow increasing carbon emissions. This means possibilities will be lost. Memories will not be made. Kids won’t gawk in wonder at Swedish islands, because there won’t be any left. Although, state governments and environmentally conscious charities are aware of what could be. With their support, we all can make a difference, and save the Earth I have grown to love.

Works Cited

“5 Human Impacts on the Environment: Crash Course Ecology #10.” Youtube, uploaded by CrashCourse, January 7, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eTCZ9L834s

Lee, C. Jasmine. Pearce, Adam. “How Trump Can Influence Climate Change.” The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/08/us/trump-climate-change.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fearth&action=click&contentCollection=earth&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront

Pianin, Eric, “Europe’s Bold Plan to Help the Environment Could Hurt Their Economy.” The Fiscal Times, October 27 2014.

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