Thompson: The Anthropocene will be the end of our world

Madison Thompson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

When people think of the end of the world, they think of mass wildfires and flash floods. This is starting to look more like our potential future. 

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The Anthropocene can be thought of as the era in which humans are the primary drivers of planetary change, as opposed to natural forces.

With the perpetuation of the Anthropocene, an era scientists named to mark the dominance of humankind over Earth, climate change will continue to exacerbate the cycles we created.

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that between 1970 and 2012, the global population of vertebrates such as mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have plummeted by 58 percent. Human activity will continue to burden these populations to the point where they could drop two-thirds by 2020.

If this trend continues, there would be no wild animals on Earth by the middle of the century.

Humans need to  heed that the Earth can and will keep living without us. The earth does not need us in order to function, but we definitely need the earth and its resources.

These cycles are driven by an increasing demand for food and energy. The Amazon, for example, is taking one of the hardest hits due to palm oil and cattle ranching.

In California, we know the condition of climate change as the state continues to burn. Of the top 10 most destructive fires in California history, six have occurred in the past 10 years.

According to Colorado State Forest Services, over 2.9 million people now live in the wildland-urban interface. These are defined as areas where homes are built in areas that are prone to wildland fire. This also threatens major wildlife areas.

Fires don’t always have to be bad, though, and we shouldn’t think of them in a completely negative light. 

They’re an important component to a functioning ecosystem. Fires clear underbrush, kill disease and usually regenerate habitats. Unfortunately, with the onslaught of constant fires, new habitats may not be able to form which leave wildlife with nowhere to go.

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Scientists mainly attribute this uptick in fires to climate change, but more specifically, jet streams.

Jet streams are the rivers of wind high above the Northern Hemisphere. Recently, they’ve been weaker, meaning they aren’t pushing weather systems along as effectively as they should be.

This leads to the stagnation which makes fires so powerful. Without proper mitigation of greenhouse gases, we are likely to see longer fire seasons and abnormal weather patterns.

Climate change is not just about the world becoming hotter. It is true that the main goal in mitigating climate change is to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius, but this is because a hotter atmosphere can hold more moisture. 

Without any place for that moisture to go, storms will become more intense, and snow and frigid weather will also increase.

These patterns will have an undeniable effect on not only humans, but also the habitats and evolution of other species.

With this knowledge, we need to start asking the tough questions. What implications does this have for our food system? How much do we need to worry about the price of resources skyrocketing? Are coastal cities economically and infra-structurally prepared to deal with sea level rise?

We need to change our perspective about our place on Earth. We are not something that is removed from Earth’s processes. 

We need to conceptualize the environment and the Earth as a whole as something we are active participants in. The issues forthcoming generations are facing, though they were not caused by them, must be addressed through action if we want to see a world with biodiversity and habitable land.

Humans have taken a huge toll on Earth and its ecosystems. We need to continue to research to understand the interrelatedness of our actions to their consequences with the hope of leaving a better world for future generations.

Madison Thompson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online @heyymadison