Every glacier in the world is smaller than it once was. All the world is growing warmer. John Muir, 1894.
The recent spotlight on climate change seems to suggest that it is a rather new phenomenon. However, climate change has been occurring throughout earth's history, as cold spells gradually give way to periods of warmer temperatures, and vice versa.
Yet the climate change that the planet is experiencing now is anything but gradual. Before John Muir's time, few believed that the earth's climate was changing, or that glaciers were responsible for the massive rock formations in Yosemite and elsewhere. That's because the changes that were taking place were too subtle to witness in one's lifetime.
Now, for the first time in earth's history, the changes are occurring so rapidly that they can easily be observed within the span of a generation. Alaskan villages are having to be relocated because rising sea levels and thawing ground are making it too dangerous to remain. The polar ice caps are melting at rates that can easily be measured from one season to the next. Patterns of precipitation are changing all over the globe.
It is clear that humanity is at least partially responsible for the accelerated change. There are, of course, those who still insist that this is not true. There are also those who told Muir that glaciers had nothing to do with Yosemite, and there are those who insist that Iraq really did have nuclear weapons in 2002. And the moon landing took place on a Hollywood sound stage. Whatever. Some people just have trouble adjusting to a new world.
And it is a new world in which we live in. A world in which we must care about more than just ourselves, and more than just our own little corner of the world. It's a new world, but it's not exactly a new idea.
The prophet Ezekiel spoke against those who would pollute the earth, making it harder for others to live.
Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture? When you drink of clear water, must you foul the rest with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have fouled with your feet? Ezekiel 34:17-19.
Is it such a big deal that I use an excess of electricity if I can afford it? Is it such a big deal that I overwater my lush lawn here in arid southern California?
I can afford the water, but what about my neighbor who can't? As water becomes more scarce and the price goes higher, it becomes more difficult for him. My excessive use contributes to the shortage, making it more difficult for him.
If the wind blows the exhaust from my car away, is that OK? 25% of southern California's pollution comes across the ocean from China. China. So where does the pollution California produces end up? Denver? D.C.? Denmark?
Therefore the land mourns, and all who live in it languish; together with the wild animals and the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing. Hosea 3:4
Among the wild animals who are perishing are the polar bears. I mention this because a few weeks ago, my eight year-old son and I were watching a documentary on TV about some paleontologists searching for dinosaur bones in Alaska. At the end of the show, my son said to me, "When I grow up and the polar bears are extinct, I want to be a scientist so I can study polar bear fossils."
He loves polar bears. Hopefully there will be more than just bones for him to study when he grows up.
This post is part of Blog Action Day.