Exterpation On Earth And Humanity Essay, Research Paper
Ryan VincelMr. BeckEng.101 Sec 56 October, 1998The Extirpation of Earth & Humanity Last summer my Dad, my aunts boyfriend and I took the day and drove up to Lake Stockton to check on my dads boat. My dad kept his boat on a lift in a slip that he rented, so that he wouldn t have to tow it every time he wanted to go fishing. I guess he felt it was worth the expense than to fuss with towing it every time. Once we arrived, dad looked over the boat and felt it looked fine and that it didn t need much maintenance. We had planed to spend the day getting the boat ready for the summer fishing. We quickly got the boat in shape and decided to spend the rest of the day on the lake fishing.We first set out towards Master s Island. I had noticed that the water was blue with a tinge of grayish-green. The sky was also blue and clear and the trees had reached their full height of dark green. It was windy and the limbs blew back and forth on the trees that lined the lake. I had also noticed that the lake was down quite a bit than normal, and there were a lot of boaters; some fishing and some there to enjoy the lake. Because the lake was so crowded fishing wasn t very good. We tried to troll for bass but found that it was futile. We mainly spent the day catching small walleye and even smaller perch. Nothing we caught that day was very big. It actually was the worst day of fishing that summer because we spent a lot of time being hung up and loosing a bunch of lures on shrubs that we couldn t see. Generally when the lake is higher we wouldn t have to deal with the trees and shrubs that lay hidden beneath the water.However, what disturbed me the most was that, because the lake was so low, we also pulled up lots up garbage. Things like discarded shoes, cans and old shirts. Kevin, my aunt s boyfriend, got caught on an old tire once. He was extremely angry because he lost an expensive lure. My dad, at one point, caught a two-pound old diaper. Kevin was upset about loosing his lure, but we all were upset by the condition of the lake. Kevin made the statement, It takes Mother Nature hundreds of years to build a lake complete with its citizenry of plants and animals, but it only takes humanity less than a century to destroy it, this got me to thinking about my extra credit paper coming due in earth science that I was wrestling with, mainly a topic, and this seemed to spark my attention. At the time I didn t realize what I was getting into. However, with my research I discovered how fast mankind could pave over a prairie or erect a city as vast as the forest that once stood in its place. In the last one hundred years man has paved over thousands of acres of forest, mined millions of tons of coal and has extracted trillions of gallons of oil out to the earth. Man has burned almost as much forest as he has cut down trying to clear land for cattle and agriculture. With all this digging, burning, pumping, and paving man has brought Mother Nature to her knees. She no longer can walk freely at her own will. She no longer controls the winds that bring rain, snow or the cool breezes of early summer that blow across Lake Stockton. Man has taken her rights to the world away from her. Humanity has literally created a different atmosphere around the earth by increasing the amount of carbon dioxide and methane gas in the earth s skies. Humanity has released so much carbon dioxide in the stratosphere that he has altered literally changed the Earth s atmosphere. The Scripps Institution hired Charles Keeling to in 1958 to test the Earth s atmosphere for carbon dioxide. His findings revealed that the atmosphere was indeed filling up with carbon dioxide. Keeling s readings contained about 315 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Later readings showed that each year the figure increased at a growing rate of about .7 parts per million. Roughly, today it at 1.5 parts per million. (MCKIBBEN 12) The difference does not seem that drastic, yet when scientists drilled holes in the frozen glaciers; and tested the trapped ancient air millions of years old; and also by testing air trapped in old telescopes; they calculate that the atmosphere prior to the industrial revolution contained approximately only 280 parts per million carbon dioxide. 280 parts per million is the highest the atmosphere has been in the last 160,000 years. Today it is at 360 parts per million. These findings show a rate of 1.5 parts per million per year; In short the Pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be doubled in the next 140 years. (MCKIBBEN 12) What Keeling has discovered, as we have seen, carbon dioxide at very low levels helps determine the climate. If these low levels are even doubled it would have devastating effects on the earth s weather. In other words, its like adding to much salt to cake batter, or cooking it a couple of degrees hotter then one should at the same amount of time. 1.5 parts per million per year does matter. The 1.5 parts per million per year will not stay. It is inevitable that it will increase. The world s population is increasing. According to UN statistics released in May of 1989 it is expected to double and perhaps nearly triple again before reaching a plateau within the next century. This means that energy consumption will increase too. The population of the world in this century has more than tripled. In the last century industrial production has grown fifty-fold and as much as four-fifths of that growth as been since 1950. Almost all of it has been fueled by fossil fuels. What is very alarming about this is that China s population has increased from 2.1 to 2.4 children per women in 1986 and has remained there since. China who has just surpassed Russia in coal consumption, and has the largest reserves, has released plans that she will double her coal consumption by the year 2000. This means in short that the world will use two and three percent more each year. What makes this shocking is that it s going to be in coal, which is the leader in emitting carbon dioxide; for instance coal emits twice as much carbon dioxide as natural gas. (MCKIBBEN 13) Using up Mother Natures Fossil fuels is not the only way mankind has brought her to her knees. As I wrote before, mankind has cut down and burned a lot of trees. The deforestation that goes on today adds between about one billion and two point five billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere yearly. This is twenty percent more than the amount emitted by fossil fuels. Trees and shrubby forests only cover forty percent of the land on the globe and has shrunk by about a third since earlier agricultural times; which started to grow around the thirteen hundreds and exploded around the fifteen hundred with the improvement of the plow. It goes without saying that the forty percent of our forests are shrinking at an exponential rate with more and more technological advancement. Humanity strives to be more efficient in removing our forest for agricultural farming needs and raising cattle for beef, as it has become so popular.
It s hard to believe that a few cows can harm the atmosphere. The problem is, there isn t just a few cows anymore. Mankind now owns 1.2 billion heads of cattle, not to mention a large number of camels, horses, pigs, sheep, and goats. Together they all belch about 73 million metric tons of methane into the air each year, a 435 percent increase in the last century. Anaerobic bacteria in the intestines of cows and other grass-eating animals break down the cellulose that they chew. That is why cows and other animals, unlike people, can eat grass. This matters only because the anaerobic bacteria excrete Methane, or natural gas. Methane gives off carbon dioxide when burned though only half as much as oil. Burning it is not the problem. Not burning it is. When it is released into the atmosphere by the animal s digestive system it is twenty times more efficient than carbon dioxide is at trapping solar radiation and warming the planet. The large herds of wild animals like the buffalo that have roamed the earth before man had a chance to tame her also emitted methane gas. The difference is that man breeds for business and Mother Nature doesn t. (MCKIBBEN 15)With everything totaled, mankind has assaulted Mother Nature more with methane gas than with carbon dioxide. Scientists have taken samples of Antarctic glaciers and have found that there has been a fluctuation in the concentration of methane in the earth s atmosphere (between .3 and .7 parts per million for the last 160,000) it peaked during earth s warmest period, 1987. That means that the warmest that the earth has ever been, that mankind can tell, was just eight years ago. In 1987 the Earth s atmosphere was composed of 1.7 parts per million of methane. In another perspective at this time there is two and a half times as much methane in the earth s atmosphere as their was through all three glacial and interglacial periods. If that s not shocking enough, methane concentration in the earth s atmosphere is rising at the rate of 1 percent per year. (MCKIBBEN 17-18) Mankind is also pumping all sorts of other gases into Mother Natures home. They are smaller amounts than carbon dioxide and methane, but together they all are destroying the planet. Nitrous oxide, chlorine compounds, and some others all trap warmth from the sun. Most even more efficiently than carbon dioxide. The gases cause fifty percent of the warming. The other half is caused by water vapor. As you can see the gases trap heat and heat creates water vapor. The British Meteorological office concludes that with all this extra water vapor the earth will warm two-thirds as much as it would with the carbon dioxide alone. (MCKIBBEN 18) It s hard to conceive, however, continued global heating will also increase sea level by one to possibly three meters within the next one hundred years. Should the seas rise to such levels devastation would be drastic to shore lines and even inland farmland soil moisture. It would change the face of the Everglades, it would push barrier islands further toward the present coast, and it could contaminate coastal water sources. It would result in the lessening of freshwater wetlands and reduce stream flows. It would reduce water quality and increase concentrations of toxic wastes such as landfills and existing illegal dumpsites and chemical spills. (OPPENHEIMER 5) All of us, I mean every one on this planet, are the cause, in some fashion, slowly changing the atmosphere by releasing carbon dioxide, methane gases, and other gases like chlorofluorocarbons into the air. It s hard to tell just what the out come will be, but it is certain that Mother Nature will not have anything to do with it. Few people are aware of the destruction that humanity has done to his home. Ever since Keeling set up his post in Hawaii and at the South Pole mankind has been watching the skies with fervent eyes. They have performed numerous experiments, modeling, in order to determine what the outcome will be if the earth continues to warm. Thousands of dollars have been spent, if not millions, setting up intricate computer programs that can simulate the Earth s weather patterns. Some of this technology, I m sure, is used to predict tornadoes and hurricanes. The way they do this is scientists inter the chemical make up of the atmosphere, then change a few variables to see what happens to the patters. (SCHNEIDER 40-61) One alarming thing stands out to the scientists (as clearly as the condition of the lake stood out to me) when they conduct this test. Dramatic shifts in weather patterns occur. Should the weather patterns change so drastically, the climate zones that we experience today will change–for each one degree Celsius increase of global warming temperature zones shift by about 100 miles. Should something like this happen, for instance, the ecosystem that Yellowstone National Park exists on today will have moved by at least 200 miles. The effects to the rest of the earth would be devastating. Trying to even fathom what would happen to the earth is something I find hard to conceive. (OPPENHEIMER 5) However, I do think a lot about what is going to happen to the wild life in and around Stockton Lake and the other lakes in the Ozarks. I wonder how many more fishing trips I will be able to take with my father and Kevin. And if the lake will be enjoyable for me and my children, when it comes my turn to be a father and wish to teach them to fish and enjoy nature. The population has grown so that the lake stays pretty crowded any more. My dad and Kevin can remember a time that the lake had very few people on it most of the year and even in the heavy fishing season. I tried to remember if there was ever a time that we were the only people on the lake, but I could not think of a single time that we were alone or at least scene only a couple of other fishermen. I m sure as an adult one can see the changes that occur as life passes. Things are seen in different perspective when your young. Until now I have been mostly blind to the effects that mankind can actually do to mother nature. I can certainly see how humanity needs to change his attitude towards his home. I am certainly going to try to help. If not for my children s sake. Perhaps humanity can give them a beautiful world full of blue-green lakes and deep rich green forests like that which surround Lake Stockton. Perhaps in time we will learn to let Mother Nature have a hand at raising our children like she did for me. I can only hope that it s not too late.
Mckibben, Bill, The End of Nature. NewYork: Random House, 1989Schneider, Stephen Henry, Global Warming: Sierra Club Books, 1991Oppenheimer, Michael, Dead Heat: The Race against the Greenhouse Effect. New York: Basic Books, 1990