Leif Reads Eaarth: What's changed is changed

Friday, February 11, 2011

Leif Reads
Every month, Ash and I are going to focus on one "eco-friendly" book for Leif Reads. To see what this feature is all about, visit this page.

Last week, Ash started off with an introduction to Bill McKibben, the author of Eaarth, and 350.org, the organization he founded. If you haven't yet checked out her post, you should!

I thought it would be great to focus today on two issues that Eaarth talks about. I randomly picked up the two, out of the many many topics in it. But at the crux of both of them is the mother of all issues - climate change.

"I didn't see one cube of ice"
Melting Arctic ice
(Picture source)
The Arctic is that famous crop of ice on the northern face of any world map you see. It's the one part of the earth I mostly took for granted. For years, I've heard of all kinds of changes in the rest of the world, including the melting of the Antarctic ice due to the ozone hole, but the Arctic seemed invincible, almost mighty, like the king of the gods. But,...
Arctic ice has been melting slowly for two decades as temperatures have climbed, but in the summer of 2007 that gradual thaw suddenly accelerated... in 2008 both the Northwest and Northeast passages opened for the first time in human history. The first commercial ship to make the voyage through the newly opened straits... had an icebreaker on standby... but the captain reported, "I didn't see one cube of ice."
The passages opened up for the first time ever, and already there's been talk about ownership and opening them up further for international travel. A disaster, really, because this rapid melting heats up the ocean and swallows up land! Even a slight change in the water temperatures affects all the organisms living in it.

The Lost Islands
Disappearing Islands
(Picture source)
...the president of the Maldives announced that his low-lying nation was planning to save a billion dollars annually from its tourist income so that it could buy land and relocate the population to Sri Lanka or Australia before the ocean finally rose too high for its survival.... A few months later the Pacific island nation of Kiribati announced a similar plan.
One of the basic lessons we learn in Geography is how the earth keeps changing constantly; how lands merge, waters divide, mountains rise, and islands sink. But these changes take ages, and I came to believe they won't happen today nor tomorrow. Plus, whenever I visualize an island disappearing, I always see an unpopulated mass of land, slowly being overwhelmed by the surrounding water. I don't see Maldives or Seychelles. Or even Australia or Hawaii. So, when I came across the passage above, it was a crude jolt.

The melting ice (from the Arctic, the Antarctic and even those beautiful breathtaking glaciers) ultimately spike up the ocean levels. Which means, more people start packing sandbags around their territories, beaches become smaller, and low-lying lands disappear. This happens all the time, except the timeline has been squeezed tighter now.

Eaarth talks about many more drastic changes. Most interestingly, the author Bill McKibben gives a sound analysis as to why we can't continue living the way we did so far. The above two are the ones that most shocked me, but they were most definitely not the only ones. Almost all of them have their roots in either climate change or dwindling fuel resources. It's funny how whenever I pass by a gas station and stare at that big billboard screaming out the daily fuel rates, I see more than just my wallet up there now. I see the old Earth, the new Eaarth, I see the Arctic and the Maldives too up there, the ozone hole, the catastrophe in the Gulf, and the increasing hurricanes, floods and droughts worldwide. It's like a reel slowly turning in my retina.


Bibliophilebythesea said...

The author makes some valid points, which is already being evidenced by all of this crazy weather throughout the US and the world. Can you believe parts of Texas just had 2' of snow, and now this week it's going to be 70 degrees.

bermudaonion (Kathy) said...

That's part of the reason I bought a hybrid car. You wouldn't believe the comments I've gotten since I bought it - people don't understand the concept at all and seem to think I'm crazy for buying into it.