If the history of the planet was placed onto one calendar year, mankind’s existence would be seen at 23:59 on December 31st; the last minute of the last day – a flash of the 4.543billion year existence of this planet. We look back on the history of our species, we gaze in awe at the sporadic traces of our ancestor’s abilities and contributions; shadows of legacy’s through the pyramids of Giza, Stonehenge, the Terracotta, and Machu Picchu. It makes me wonder, what representations of our era will be left behind when we are gone?
Easter Island, a small Chilean island in the South Pacific known most notably for the ‘moai’, a collection of large stone figures which were carved by the Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500. The ‘moai’, believed to be a receptacle of the scared spirit and representatives of the native’s ancient Polynesian ancestors, still survive today – though they came a heavy price for the Rapa Nui.
The building and transport of the statues placed a great demand on the ecosystem of the island. Over-exploitation of the natural resources led to deforestation, which resulted in the lower production of crops due to soil erosion. The shortage of wood also meant the construction of fishing boats was unsustainable. A food shortage quickly followed which then manifested itself through civil war. By the early 1700’s when Europeans reached the island, the Rapa Nui had been almost completely wiped out. A people’s belief, that the sacrifice of their environment was for the greater good, eventually lead to their demise.
Syria has been engaged in civil war since 2011, a conflict which has caused the migration of millions of refugees and the loss of nearly half a million lives. It is also experiencing what is believed to be the worst drought in 900 years. While it is true the drought may not have directly led to the conflict, it may have created the instability in the region – a contributing factor, along with many others which led to the war. This is not a standalone incident, as we are seeing something very similar in Nigeria.
The global top ten warmest years on record are all post 1998, and the top five are post 2005. 2014 is the second warmest year on the list, 2015 – the warmest and 2016 is currently tipped to be the warmest year ever recorded. Of course, having three record years in a row does not necessarily prove the planet is warming, it is long term trends that we rely on for accurate predictions. Unfortunately, these tell the same story.
I woke up this morning to the news that the US had just voted Donald Trump into the presidency. No stranger to controversy, Trump has openly demonstrated his Jurassic views on subjects such as immigration reform, but it is his complete disbelief in the reality of climate change that could cost us all. His position on climate change is clear having previously described it as something ‘created by the Chinese’. Fears that he may deconstruct the Paris agreement and increase fossil fuel consumption are growing. The US is currently placed second in the worlds list of highest emitters of carbon dioxide. China, which ranks first, has been actively working to reduce their reliance on fossil fuel consumption amid pressure from the public concerned over air quality in major cities like Shanghai, Tianjin and Beijing. This has resulted in China seeing a drop in CO2 emissions for the second year running.
Looking to the future we have two very real possibilities ahead of us. One, we continue as we are. The world’s most powerful countries continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere, dump electrical waste disguised as ‘reusable’ into countries like Ghana, and shopping, iterating the cycle of consumerism. Or we can change!
Whether climate change is real or not is no longer a debatable subject, despite Donald Trump and his fellow deniers’ best efforts to have people believe otherwise. We are on the brink of irreversibility, and it is imperative that we all act now. We need to learn to live within sustainability, we need to reduce our carbon emissions globally, and collectively we need to put pressure on governments to invest more in renewable energy, or the history of the Rapa Nui, may repeat itself on a much larger scale.