One wonders what the Wicked Witch of the West must have been thinking in that terrifying moment in the Wizard of Oz after Dorothy doused her with water, when she realized that she was melting and no amount of evil spells was going to change that? With the recent deluge of melting glaciers and warming seas, it seems we residents of planet Earth may be reaching a very similar moment.
Our glaciers are melting at an ever-quickening pace and there seems to be little we can do to stop it. According to recent studies, the Helheim glacier, one of the largest in Greenland, is melting at a rate much faster than expected. If it continues, Greenland will likely become much smaller and SEAS COULD RISE AS MUCH AS THREE FEET DURING THIS CENTURY. The accelerated melting is attributable to Greenland's warming temperatures, which have risen five degrees Fahrenheit in the last ten years.
One of the most critical side effects of glacial melting is the threat posed to the Gulf Stream which could be shut down by the rising ocean water levels. The Gulf Stream protects Northern Europe from freezing temperatures. THE LAST TIME THE GULF STREAM FAILED, BRITAIN WAS COVERED IN PERMAFROST FOR MORE THAN 1000 YEARS.
A new scientific report by British oceanographers found that the overall movement of the Gulf Stream seems to have slowed down by 30% in the last fifty years. The slowdown is caused by increased glacial melting and warming ocean temperatures. While this has long been expected, scientists are alarmed to see these changes so soon.
Unfortunately, Greenland is only one of the many areas where glaciers are melting. In the Himalayas, whole villages are being destroyed by floodwaters from lakes overflowing with water from melting glaciers.
Glacier lake catastrophes used to happen once a decade, now they occur every few years.
Ultimately the Himalayan glaciers will shrink to the point that their meltwaters will die out and the rivers that have been fed by the melting will all but evaporate, causing a severe shortage of drinking and irrigation water. Hydroelectric plants that supply power to the region will also be affected. The region is already experiencing a loss of vegetation that in the long term could lead to starvation for the region's population.
Ice in the Arctic region is melting as well. If current warming trends continue, WITHIN 100 YEARS THE ARCTIC MAY BE ICE-FREE IN THE SUMMER, something that has not happened in a million years. The melting ice in the Arctic bodes badly for polar bears, seals and other animals in the region.
What scientists stress in all of these situations is that the process of melt-off has reached such a level that it may well be unstoppable; we may be at a point of needing to adapt and respond to the very harsh realities of global warming. A chilling thought.
We are already feeling the impact of global warming in a number of ways.
Rising ocean temperatures have caused what scientists term a catastrophic drop in sea and bird life numbers in the Pacific Northwest. Populations of seabirds such as cormorants and fish such as salmon and rockfish are at record lows. Similar events are taking place in the North Sea.
In addition to the impact on our oceans and seas, a recent report found that CARBON DIOXIDE LEVELS ARE THE HIGHEST THEY HAVE BEEN IN 650,000 YEARS. The World Health Organization has found that 150,000 DEATHS AND FIVE MILLION ILLNESSES ARE DIRECTLY ATTRIBUTABLE TO GLOBAL WARMING.
But that's not the bad news. The bad news is that these stories tend to get buried on page A18 of the newspaper (if they're covered at all), pre-empted by the latest car accidents, political foibles and other human-interest stories.
Climate change should be a Page One headline and at the top of our national agenda as well. Yet our media refuses to connect the dots and we have elected leaders who seem to think we are exempt from global reality. No need to act, just stay the course and keep driving those SUVs up the river De-Nial.
One wonders what part of deep brown smelly stuff our media and pols fail to grasp? Do we perhaps need to send the lot of them to see "Chicken Little" so that they can practice saying, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling"?
No, best to leave our heads firmly planted in the sand.
Marshall is a
feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the
Feminist Peace Network.
Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad
Off Our Backs, The Progressive, Rain and Thunder,
Articles by Lucinda Marshall
Other Articles by Lucinda Marshall