How to effectively destroy a beautiful planet
Climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and more: looking at one week of news from around the planet
With just 34 days left in 2021, our countdown by week in the last 52 days of the year brings us to week 18, the first week of May. I just searched for the environmental news of that week, which was all profoundly disturbing. Add another 51 weeks like this, and you get a picture of yearlong destruction taking place all over the planet at a vast scale. You will likely wonder if we will never learn from our mistakes.
Emissions from China
To give you an impression of the news in such an average week that makes me worried about our future, let's make a quick tour around the planet. Starting in China, research from Rhodium Group concluded that China now accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the world's developed nations combined. China accounted for 27% of global emissions. The U.S., the second-biggest emitter, contributed 11%, while India surpassed the European Union for the first time with about 6.6% of the global total.
Per capita emissions from the U.S.
However, China's per capita emissions remain far less than those of the U.S. Another way of comparing emissions data is to look at the total historical amount of greenhouse gasses released. That makes the OECD members still the champions of global warming because these developed countries have pumped four times more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere than China since 1750.
China has vowed to reach net-zero emissions by 2060, with a peak no later than 2030. However, China is heavily reliant on coal power; the country had in May 1,058 coal plants, which is more than half the world's capacity.
The Amazon rainforest
The news of Week 18 doesn't get more hopeful when we move around the planet to South America. A study published in the journal "Nature Climate Change" found that the Brazilian Amazon, which you might call the lungs or our planet, released roughly 20 percent more carbon dioxide than it absorbed during the 2010s. Again, we, humans, are to blame for causing forest degradation and deforestation. Forest degradation, the permanent diminishing of a forest's biological diversity and wealth, contributed 73% of the gross biomass loss of the Amazon, while deforestation contributed 27% of that loss.
Ice loss in Antarctica
How much more bad news about the environment can you get in one week in May? Well, there is more if we turn our eyes south to Antarctica. A study in nature warned that unless we speedily reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, the world faces a situation where there is an "abrupt jump" in the pace of Antarctic ice loss around 2060. That would fuel sea level rise and place coastal cities in greater danger.
Robert DeConto, an expert in polar climate change at the University of Massachusetts, was the study's lead author. He said in The Guardian: "If we did nothing at all to reduce emissions, we could get 5 meters of sea-level rise just from Antarctica by 2200, at which point you'd have to remap the world from space. It would be unimaginable."
Australian sea lions
Rising sea levels already have far-reaching impacts all over the world. So for one more news flash of Week 18, we move from Antarctica to Australia, where rising sea levels combined with fishing practices and chemicals are among the possible causes for a dramatic decline in the number of endangered Australian sea lions. A study published in the first week of May found that a unique seal population in Australia has fallen by 60% in just four decades.
The largest bear in the E.U.
The scale of these problems challenges our imagination. But the least we can do is take care of the environment around us and, for instance, be kind to animals and prevent willfully destroying beautiful nature. To look for a positive example, let's turn to Europe, the last leg of our worldwide trip after having toured China, the Amazon, Antarctica, and Australia. Unfortunately, the first news flash I found about the environment in Europe in the first week of May makes you wonder if we will ever learn. Arthur was likely the largest bear living in the European Union. In early May, environmental groups accused a prince from Liechtenstein's royal family of shooting and killing Arthur in contravention of a ban on the trophy hunting of large carnivores.
The destruction of a beautiful planet
I have now for 18 days followed the environmental and other news of the first 18 weeks of this year. When you scroll through so many news items, you start to wonder if we have all gone mad. We collectively destroy billions of years of evolution that have resulted in so many unique forms of life, all connected in delicate ecosystems. And wherever you look in the news of this year, by date, region, or theme, you learn more depressing facts about our destruction of such beauty.
So what can you do?
You can play a role in stopping this: vote for politicians that make preserving the environment, including our climate and biodiversity, an absolute priority. And in case you missed the other message: don't shoot innocent wildlife, like beautiful Arthur, who lived in the depths of a vast Romanian forest. But I guess you knew that already; otherwise, you wouldn't have made it to the end of this post.
Meanwhile in Ottawa
In the first week of May, there were beautiful tulips all over Ottawa.
What I wrote in Week 18
I wrote every day. For instance, on May 4, I published about William Bradford, the Governor of the Plymouth Colony, who wrote the first description of the periodical cicadas; he was not amused by these 'flies' that 'deafen the hearers.'
Shall I repeat it all again? All those words about why I do hope for you and for me that you subscribe? I will leave that for tonight, a Sunday night, I have written enough for this evening. I hope you enjoyed it.
And for those that just joined as paying subscribers: thank you so much, I really appreciate it; you make this publication possible for all.
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