I had a meeting in Alaska a couple of weeks ago. I flew from Sioux Falls, to Minneapolis, to Anchorage. For work, I study land-use and land-cover change, and try to predict what will happen in the future. So when I fly, I always (try to) get a window seat, and ponder the landscape below. And, inevitably…it’s depressing.
What I REALLY find laughable are those climate-change skeptics who seem to use their religious belief as a reason why climate change can’t be real. A line of thinking for these folks seems to be that man is INCAPABLE of affecting the earth at that scale, that only “god” can do so. All I have to say to these people…have you ever flown? Have you ever LOOKED at the landscape below as you fly over? On my trip, I flew over what some would think is some of the most “wild” landscapes in North America, in Alaska and western Canada. But this “wild” landscape is anything but. Clear-cutting of forest means that the once unbroken forests of the West are now a maze of cuts and logging roads. Flying from Minneapolis over the northern part of the U.S., and you see the vast expanses of grassland that are now solid farm fields. Fly over a major metropolitan area, and you see endless miles of homes, industry, and roads.
But yet some climate change deniers say humans are incapable of altering the earth’s ecosystem at that scale? We’ve already forever changed a majority of the earth’s land surface. That alone would cause climate change, even without the burning of fossil fuels.
One sight you see ever more frequently when you fly are the effects of mining and energy extraction. When you’re driving in the West, you see it, but the scale isn’t as readily apparent as it is when you’re flying over. IN areas with natural gas extraction, when you drive, you may see an individual, small patch of land with a well. When you fly over, you see hundreds upon hundreds of wells, interconnected by a maze of pipes, electrical wires, and roads.
There’s VERY little that has a more devastating, long-term effect on the landscape than mining. The New York Times today had a story this week about the area around Picher Oklahoma, and Treece, Kansas, an area where suitability for human habitation has FOREVER been changed. For the sake of a few decades of short-term financial gain, the lead mining waste in the region has forever altered the landscape, where just TOUCHING the water gives you chemical burns, where every breath of air draws in a dose of lead, where sinkholes from the mining activity may open up and swallow you at any time.
Fracking proponents say the practice is “safe”…despite the practice being VERY new, despite there being VERY little analysis of long-term effects. Just in the last decade, when technological advances have made fracking economically feasible, people living near fracking activity have ALREADY been impacted by water that is no longer drinkable, and by ruined landscapes. Once your underground water source has been contaminated by something like this, there’s no going back. That water source is unlikely to be suitable for human use for many, many centuries to come.
People and their greed. People and their complete and utter selfishness. It doesn’t matter if it’s a poacher of wildlife at the small scale or an oil company at the larger scale…ALL people care about are themselves, and their short-term financial well-being.
The people of Picher, Oklahoma and Treece, Kansas may have a word or two on the effects of such short-term greed. Two once-thriving urban areas…now ghost towns.