Happy Earth Day! Today, April 22, is the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement, and it is a day on which worldwide events are held to support environmental protection. It is celebrated in more than 190 countries. How wonderful to officially acknowledge and celebrate our home!
I’ve been very lucky (and am very thankful) that I’ve seen a lot of this planet. To date I’ve visited at least 27 countries on 5 continents. I’ve seen deserts, glaciers, rain forests, pine forests, fjords, lakes, rivers, islands, oceans, mangroves, beaches, valleys, sounds, rock formations, icebergs, and jungles. One of the many things that traveling does is open my mind to how varied life is on this planet. There are so many different places and ways to live – none of them better or worse than any other – just different.
In the past 7 years or so, an interesting thing has been happening. In every place I’ve visited during that time, people have mentioned a change in their climate. Whether it was too much rain, not enough rain, snow at the wrong time of year, snow for the first time, unusually high temperatures, or unusually cold weather. And there have been unusual sighting such as seeing birds that haven’t been seen in that part of the world before, or seeing a type of whale in their waters that they don’t normally see.
The planet is changing, big time. I remember the first unsettling moment I experienced regarding climate change. It was in 2009. I was on a three hour tour on a small boat in Alaska looking at the stunning “Sawyer Glacier”. Someone asked our guide if we’d see it calve (calving is when a piece of ice at the edge of the glacier breaks off and falls into the water). The guide (who visited the glacier weekly) told us the chances were very, very slim since he rarely sees that happen, and already saw it calve the week before. And, he pointed out, we would only be there for 20 minutes. He went on to say that if we did see it calve, it would be a bad sign that it was melting too quickly. In the next breath, we heard a huge cracking sound in the distance, and watched the far right edge of the glacier break off and fall into the water. In our 20 minutes in front of the Sawyer Glacier, we saw it calve 4 times. It was pretty spectacular and at the same time very ominous. Even our guide was concerned.
Two of the four times I witness the calving of the Sawyer Glacier
Being Earth Day, I feel I need to address “global warming”. There are still many global warming “deniers” out there – many of whom I’ve run into throughout the years. So since it is Earth Day, I’m going to take a moment and give a brief explanation of global warming. I am not an expert or a scientist, but I am informed. I’ve read many, many articles from lots of different sources over the years, watched countless documentaries, and have spoken to many people from all over the globe during my travels. Funny enough, the only deniers I’ve met have all been in the USA. I’ve also noticed that the “deniers” have three things in common:
1. A disregard for science
2. They are uninformed
3. They lack common sense
Yes, I’ve been warned that global warming is a “conspiracy” to con us by the government and/or those “greedy green energy companies”. Yes, I’ve heard that it is just a “liberal hoax.” Yes, I’ve heard about the one “scientist” who says man has nothing to do with global warming. Yes I know the warming of the planet is a natural state of the earth. I’ve also been told many times that there are “record low temperatures” and record snow falls, “proving” that global warming is ridiculous and can’t be real. When I am told these comments, I quickly realize I am speaking with a person who is very uninformed about climate change. For those who don’t quite understand what global warming is, here is a brief, layman’s explanation:
GLOBAL WARMING 101:
Basically, the sun’s rays penetrate our atmosphere and warm the planet’s land and water. The planet warms from absorbing some of the sunlight, and then gives off heat – some of which radiates towards space leaving our atmosphere, and some of which remains in our atmosphere, trapped by a “blanket” of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gasses. This “blanket” of gasses is what keeps the Earth warm and livable for us all. However, it has been scientifically documented that since the Industrial Revolution, humans are using energy in greater quantities and creating more carbon dioxide gas than would have naturally occurred. The extra carbon dioxide and gasses drift up into the atmosphere making that “blanket” of gasses thicker, which traps even more of the Sun’s heat, thus, making the planet warm quicker than it would if that blanket wasn’t as thick. That is generally the concept.
If you do even a small about of research, you will find that just about every independent science organization from around the world agrees that man has directly contributed to speeding up the warming of the planet. Since the industrial revolution (around 1750), human activities (mostly burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture) have substantially added much larger doses of CO2 and other heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere. For instance, cars emit gasses. If you double the amount of cars being used, you double the amount of gasses emitted in the air. The more gas burning cars we use, the more gasses we emit into our air. It is common sense. Another example: Trees take in CO2 and convert it to oxygen. If man cuts down trees (which we’ve done by the billions), naturally, there are less trees removing CO2 from the air, leaving more of it in our atmosphere. Again, common sense.
All these gasses contribute to a thicker “blanket”, which makes the planet warmer. And that has many other consequences, among them the melting glaciers. One thing glaciers do is reflect the suns rays away from the Earth – like a mirror, as opposed to absorbing the sunlight like the oceans. As the glaciers shrink, we get a smaller “mirror” reflecting the sun’s rays away from the earth, and a larger surface (more ocean) absorbing the sun’s rays. I could go on and on (but I won’t). But one last point. As for the natural warming of the planet, research has proven that if you take away all of the gasses emitted by human activity since the Industrial Revolution, the planet would be fluctuating in the range it was before that time, instead of rising to the level it is now. Here is a great video which explains the science of it here if you are interested:
THE CIRCLE OF LIFE:
My first trip to Costa Rica opened my eyes to nature in a way I had never before witnessed. I stayed in an Eco-Lodge in the Osa Peninsula, which is described by National Geographic as being “the most biologically intense place on Earth”. There was life everywhere – mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects and so many different trees and plants. I saw monkeys, toucans, scarlet macaw’s, crocodiles, tapirs, sloths, poison dart frogs, eagles, snakes, spiders, iguanas, and so many other forms of life.
A monkey eating a colorful grasshopper, in the Osa Peninsula.
Two Scarlet Macaws in the trees, in the Osa Peninsula.
What I learned while being there was that everything in the rainforest has a place. It is a total balance of life. There were termite mounds on many trees. They eat the dead trees and keep the forest green. There were trees that grew like a parasite around another trees, killing the original tree. The new tree would become hollow inside where the dead tree was – becoming a perfect protective home to wildlife. Everywhere you looked, things worked together, like pieces of a puzzle fitting together. This got me thinking about the “circle of life”. And I realized how out of balance we are. There are just too many people, and we don’t give back to the Earth. We are no longer part of the circle. This inspired me to write a song, “The Circle” which can be found on my CD, “Revelations”. I even recorded some forest sounds in the Osa Peninsula, which I included in the song. Here are the lyrics, and you can hear the song by clicking at the bottom. Let’s each do something to help our home become more balanced. Why not plant a tree? It is a start!
by Jay Jacobson
Nature does thrive in its pure state
All things alive do integrate
Quails eat the seeds and the fox eats the quail
The quail turns to dirt so that seeds can prevail
Living things all have a proper place
Nothing in the forest goes to waste
One thing dies yet another is gained
Give and take is the plan of how life sustains
We have stepped so far from the circle (We’re buried in a box)
As God we are miscast (Don’t even feed the worms)
We have stepped right out of the circle (We sit on porcelain)
Outside it we won’t last (Don’t fertilize the grass)
The circle is bigger than us
The circle is stronger than usThe circle is begging us to return