Home » Uncategorized » The march of the deserts: Then and now

The march of the deserts: Then and now

Global warming is causing a variety of changes in our planet and one of them is desertification. Only a very small minority of scientists now doubts the reality of global warming. The argument is whether human produced greenhouse gases or natural long-term climatic cycles are responsible for it. As with most everything in nature there is usually more than one cause. The cause of global warming is something that is without a doubt of concern but on such a vast scale as global warning we sometimes have a hard time rapping our minds around the concept.Looking at global warming on a geological perspective there have been several periods of warming and cooling in the last 420,000 years. Each period of warming was directly associated with a planetary rise in CO2 and methane gases. Earth is currently at the peak of one of these cycles. Only it should have started oscillating downward a few hundred years ago if previous peaks can be used as examples.The current peak has higher levels of the two gases and temperatures than any other previous cycle with no indication of when or if it will start to shift downward. Carbon dioxide has increased 9.3% since 1980. So, what is causing this and from purely a practical standpoint does it really matter?My father taught me a lesson years ago when I tried to fix the family lawn mower. After hours of frustration trying to find the problem my father said, ‘It doesn’t matter what is wrong with the thing, what matters how are you going to mow the lawn’. He was a very first principle kind-of-guy. As individuals, how we deal with global warming is much the same thing.An example of how climate shifts changed the weather and affected a civilization can be found in history of the walled city of Ur in the Middle East. Ur (2100 BC) was a city of trade and commerce. Many outlying communities raised cattle and sheep and grew a variety of grain crops. The central administration was far seeing enough to store grain against the bad times. So with this, the city functioned well and grew. When the winds started to shift over the Indian Ocean, rains that watered their animals and crops began to arrive at different times and in smaller amounts. The rainfall did not change rapidly but ebbed away in a series of up and downs.Ur’s administrative body did the best it could but within 75 years they were doling out stored grain out of the reserves by the teaspoon full. The crops could not produce enough grain on the greatly reduced water supply and the herdsmen moved their animals away in a literal search for greener pastures.Since the mid-1990’s the world has been losing an area the size of Baldwin County ever year to desert. That is about 1,376 square miles, up from 840 in the 80’s and 624 in the 70’s. To look at in another way China has lost an area the size of Indiana since the 1950’s.When interviewed, Eskimos in northern Canada indicated that the weather is warmer now than anything in their oral records going back hundreds of years. With the Arctic pack ice vanishing food is becoming scarce for animals and natives alike. The tundra is retreating and being replaced with brush and trees. Because of this the beavers have moved where they create their dams, which is changing the water quality and negatively affecting salmon eggs.Record temperatures are causing some conditions and situations to arise that governments and people had not planned on. In France the faces of glaciers are melting rapidly and have caused rock avalanches along numerous alpine roads. In America we are used to large-scale forest and brush fires. Europe is now finding out what we have faced for years. Portugal has had three separate forest fires, which burned a total of 741,316 acres of timber. Last year, local governments due to funding problems closed municipal swimming pools.

This lead to a 15% increase in drowning in Germany, due to residents seeking refuge from the heat in river and lakes. In the summer of 2003 France experienced an estimated 15,000 deaths due to the European heat wave. Even a European icon that we are all familiar with is having its face changed due to the heat. Permafrost on the Matterhorn has melted to the extend that thousands of tons of soil and rock have sloughed off the north facing slope, resulting in a permanent change in that alp’s shape.

As shocking and tragic as these events are, it is how we deal with these changes and the future events they about bring about that will shape our collective future. Global warming is not something that is happening to someone else but rather to us all. How we deal with this will be something our grandchildren will either curse us for or bless us.

Think Global – Act Local!

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