The Human-Generated Apocalypse
13 November 2015
A Human-Generated Apocalypse
Apocalypse: it’s a word that makes you want to do one of two things. You either want to crawl underground and hide like one of those insane families on Doomsday Preppers, or watch The Walking Dead. I’m convinced that there is no in-between. It’s interesting to me how the word apocalypse has slowly changed meaning from the very real panic of “quick go hide under your desks, children” to the fun and entertainment of “let’s go kick some zombie butt!” The entertainment business has so freely put this “it’s-no-big-deal” idea into people’s heads by creating TV shows, ads, and other forms of media encompassing the idea of an apocalypse, that I’m not quite sure if anyone truly understands the all too real threat of an actual end to the world as we know it. No, not an alien invasion, a zombie attack, or even a bombing. This apocalypse is much more real. In fact, it is even more terrifying because we have the power to stop it, but instead are the ones giving it the power to destroy us. If you haven’t already come to a conclusion, I am referring to the environmental crisis. We as humans remain ignorant to the fact that we are destroying the world through our everyday activities such as driving to work, filling our cars up with gas, or printing off funny cat pictures (we all do it). These activities all contribute to a large-scale change in global climate, decrease in nonrenewable resources, and increase in deforestation and will very quickly cut us off from the necessities that we need in order to survive. We have already put ourselves on the path to ultimate demise, and if not set right again, our actions will lead to a human-generated apocalypse.
How often is it that you hear one say “I’m just one person, and I can make no difference in the world?” This is something I hear quite often and, in all honesty, is something that I have said many times in the past. When the world is so big, it seems as if there is nothing that just one person can do to make a difference. However, what if I told you that by simply changing the way you live, you alone could add days or even weeks onto the life of our world? That is quite a significant difference for one person to make, and it is absolutely possible. How? Well, before we go changing the world, we must first identify the problem. One of the largest issues surrounding our environment today is global climate change. Many people have heard this term before (most likely followed by the words “is a myth”), but contrary to popular belief, global climate change is absolutely not a myth. In fact, it is a very real phenomenon that has been observed and studied by scientists for years.
Global climate change can easily be defined as the rising of our earth’s average temperature over time, which is a natural occurrence. However, lately it has been rising at an increasingly faster rate than normal, putting our earth at great risk (Unilever). The thing is, although climate change is normal, scientists say it usually fluxuates between cooler and warmer temperatures, never bringing the average down more than a degree or so (the safe range being within two degrees maximum). The scary thing is that in the past 100 years, that average has gone up 1.4°F and only seems to be going up even faster than before (Shaftel, Holly). This has caused polar ice caps to melt at a rate of 13.3% every ten years, putting many polar animals at risk for extinction, forcing many people out of their arctic homes, and causing sea levels to rise at a surprisingly fast rate (Shaftel, Holly). The below image depicts the actual loss experienced within only 28 years.
If the image is not enough to convince you of the true nature of the apocalyptic issue at hand, just think about this: if the average global temperature continues to rise at the rate it is at now, not only will ice-land cease to exist, but thousands of islands and coastal cities will flood destroying over half of the earth’s land mass, wiping out resources, killing millions of people, and forcing others to flee inland (National Geographic). In this case, we may as well be creating our own world-wide version of The Hunger Games, only there is no escape.
There may be a narrow window of escape now, however, but only if we act fast and with force. Currently, we as humans live a very unnatural lifestyle compared to the natural world around us, and it is taking a toll on the environment. For instance, simply driving a car that runs on gasoline emits numerous toxic fumes known as greenhouse gasses into the air that are not normally there. Because of their overabundance, they then become trapped in the atmosphere causing heat to become trapped along with it. This is known as the Greenhouse Effect (Unilever). As shown in the image below, the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere has drastically increased with human-generated emission of excess greenhouse gasses, and it seems more than reasonable to draw the conclusion that it has contributed immensely to global climate change.
So what can we do? Well, it’s a long shot, but switching to green living does prove to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses emitted into the atmosphere, and it seems to be an overall healthier alternative for the environment. Green is a term used to describe alternative forms of energy such as solar power and wind as opposed to things such as gasoline or electricity. When a person lives green, they are saving the world from the dangers of toxins and unnatural occurrences in the environment that happen because of the unnatural way that we tend to live. However, in order for this to be effective, it needs to be a large-scale movement. Even with the idea of green living taking off, the number of people using modern devices that emit these harmful chemicals still dominate by billions, and it doesn’t seem as if they are backing down. The modern, but unhealthy, way of living has taken over and has claimed many people victim to its call. It is only a matter of time before those people take over, and the green initiative is buried with the remains of our pre-apocalyptic earth.
There are other issues at hand, however, which also contribute to the cause of global climate change. One of these is the all too real possibility of us using up all of our non-renewable resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium. These things are all natural resources that are produced by the earth, but once extracted can never be replenished (Carty, Sue). Oil is one of the most common resources as it is used in many forms as gasoline in automobiles. However, it is estimated that if consumption continues at its current rate, the oil supply will run out in only 14 years (Carty, Sue). Similarly, natural gas, uranium, and coal will also cease to exist within the next 35 years. This will only increase the cost of the scarce amount of collected resources that are left, and leave us lost with no source of energy in the shambles of a world that we have destroyed. If we continue on this path of high consumption, not only will these resources become extinct, but their over-use will cause a toxic amount of pollution in the atmosphere, thus causing the climate to change at an even faster rate and initiating the apocalyptic event.
So, what does this look like for us? When we think of an apocalypse, we usually envision a dark, burned, colorless world where life is scarce, and necessities are almost nonexistent (like The Walking Dead, but without the zombies). It’s scary to think about, but this image is about right. When nonrenewable resources are gone and global climate change wipes out life and land, there will be nothing left. Nothing but a barren world of empty buildings and now useless modern day items that we once ignorantly valued over the well-being of our own world.
Some of these over-valued items are paper products. The overuse of paper products and failure to dispose of them properly is one of the biggest contributing factors to deforestation which, in turn, contributes to global climate change. Trees naturally produce and release oxygen into the environment and absorb excess carbon dioxide. When too many trees are cut down however, not only does the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere decrease, but atmospheric carbon dioxide rises to an unhealthy level, becoming trapped and contributing to the Greenhouse Effect. On average, about 18 million acres of forest are lost each year, over half of which are removed illegally (Bradford, Alina). The below image depicts recent rainforest loss within a period of only 25 years.
One thing that we can do in order to help prevent further deforestation is very simple: conserving and recycling, another green initiative. By doing these things, we can cut the rate of deforestation for the purposes of manufacturing paper products, while also reducing the amount of waste that pollutes the environment. By decreasing deforestation, thousands of wildlife creatures such as the rhinoceros and other already endangered animals would be able to remain in their natural habitat, and the abundance of dangerous chemicals could be halted. However, the issue still remains that what’s done is done. What rainforests have been destroyed will never return. Yes, trees grow back, but it would take thousands of years for the rainforests to return to their natural state, and those animals that will become extinct as a result will cease to exist. As long as modern “necessities” remain a priority, deforestation is a price that we, along with our earth, will have to pay.
Now I am not trying to discourage you from taking a stand, but you have to realize that these solutions are simply not enough. Being green may buy us some time, but it will do nothing in the long run if the movement doesn’t spread. I’m talking world-wide here. This isn’t meant to be some motivational speech that you would see on a TED talk where “as long as I change one person’s life, my job is done.” On the contrary, if only one person’s life changes, it’s about the farthest thing from done. If only one life changes, we remain on the path to self-destruction. In order for us to stop the apocalypse that we are creating, the entire world must join in the movement, and that is where the problem lies. As long as modern ignorance to this issue exists and dominates, the apocalypse will continue, slowly but surely stripping the world of its resources, natural sanctuaries, and ultimately, its life. So be the change, but don’t stop there. A movement may start with one person, but it ends with the world. Be that person, and you could begin the ultimate demise of the human-generated apocalypse.
Bradford, Alina. “Deforestation: Facts, Causes & Effects.” Live Science. n.p., 4 Mar. 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
Carty, Sue. “Nonrenewable Resources.” Love to Know. n.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
National Geographic. “Sea Level Rise.” National Geographic. n.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.
Shaftel, Holly. Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. NASA, 8 Nov. 2015. Web. 8 Nov. 2015
Unilever. “What is Climate Change? How Can We Take Action?” Unilever. n.p., n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.