Our planet faces an environmental crisis that is without compare in historical times. Burgeoning human populations, global warming, depletion of natural resources, species extinctions, wars and genocidal conflicts make this an extremely dangerous time in our history.
Educate Yourself to Save the Earth
Saving The Earth offers books and resources to educate and inform about the magnitude of the challenge facing us – and to point the way towards effective action. There is no single intervention that will reverse global warming, rapid population growth or the depletion of natural resources. We must learn to pay attention to the costs and consequences of our actions so that it is possible to choose those that are most environmentally conscious and beneficial.
The Environment Is a Complex Interactional System
The Earth, the biosphere that contains a teeming abundance of life, is a vast system. Our actions and interventions therefore must be informed by systemic thinking, with the realization that each and every action has an effect on the system as a whole. A reductionistic approach that treats single symptoms will not improve the overall health of the biosphere – but can lead to a cascading chain of reactions to the intervention, many of which can be unwanted.
Recent history is filled with evidence of this limited view. Extensive use of DDT after World War II had many effects other than eradicating unwanted insect “pests” – it affected the entire food chain, including greatly depleting the songbird population. Widespread use of fluorocarbon gases as propellants in aerosol products has resulted in significant disruption in the ozone layer that protects the earth from ultraviolet rays. Seawalls built by beachfront homeowners to stop beach erosion have actually increased overall beach erosion. Hydroelectric dams constructed in streams and rivers have wiped out salmon runs that depended upon those waterways to reach their spawning grounds. The worldwide use of non-degradable plastics has caused the remotest beaches in the Pacific to be strewn with tons of plastic waste. Phospate compounds added to soap products had the unexpected effect of severely polluting rivers. Overuse of groundwater for irrigation in the west has depleted underground aquifers.
The Threat of Global Warming
And, most horrifyingly, it appears that human activities have altered the earth’s climate. The burning of fossil fuels, use of aerosols, and cement manufacturing are the three largest contributors to the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, which produces the “greenhouse effect”, warming the earth. This global warming leads to increased melting of the ice covering both poles, which means that sea levels are rising. The result is that many population centers built on low-lying ground will be submerged in the next century.
These changes may increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, and tornados. Seasonal variations affect agriculture and animal reproductive patterns worldwide. Other consequences include higher or lower agricultural yields, glacier retreat, reduced summer streamflows, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.
It is in the oceans that many elements of this climate change due to global warming are most visible. Sea level rise has been called “the dipstick of climate change.” Best estimates for sea level rise this century are between 6 and 20 inches. Three dozen small island nations will find much of their territory drowned.
During recent years tropical sea-surface temperatures have been the highest ever recorded – causing the worst coral die-off ever seen. 16% of the world’s coral reefs are suffering extensive mortality.
Small temperature changes can have large effects. The 2 degree Centigrade increase in temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Alaska since 1980 has caused an 80% decline in planktonic animals – the foundation of the entire ocean food chain!
The Environmental Movement
The problem we face is large. Yet there is much reason for hope, as people and organizations worldwide are devoting their energies to addressing the complex challenges of halting, and reversing global warming. Public awareness of the problem is increasing; one symbol of this is the Nobel Peace prize in 2007 awarded to former Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”
There is a large, and increasing, body of scientific knowledge that is available to guide more enlightened policies and actions to address global warming. Many technologies already exist, for example, that can drastically increase fuel economy in automobiles. A number of U.S. states, cities and corporations are forging ahead with green initiatives, using recycling programs, renewable energy sources, alternative-fuel vehicles, and guidelines for sustainable design of new buildings. Programs for installation of solar panels in homes are becoming widespread.
Use Saving the Earth to Find Answers for Your Environmental Questions
Saving the Earth offers a wide array of selected and recommended books on various aspects of global warming and our planetary crisis. These books include academic texts, manifestos, scientific works, popular environmental books, and the best of nature writing. It is put forward with hope and confidence that it is possible to learn from our mistakes and work together to create a healthier planet Earth.
“This landscape, this earth, is our home. The forests are the cathedrals; the fields are the banquet halls; the clouds and sky are an ever changing ceiling and the rivers and streams are the paths that keep us all flowing. This place is so familiar to us, yet still so mysterious. There is as much to learn from the vastness of the starry sky as there is from a small stone picked up out of a stream, or a single leaf held in the hand. We live here, but we long for something more. Our souls hunger for the eternal. I believe that the eternal is here, right now in the present. If we pay attention we can catch glimpses of its fire everywhere, burning through the windows in the spaces between things.”
Jennifer Leah Collins "Artist's Statement"