Dartmouth College has been on the cutting edge of research about how climate change is impacting the environment.
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There are days when I get seriously concerned about whether or
not we will move substantially forward in the fight against climate
change. Despite all the dire news that comes into my mailbox, I
have also been encouraged to read about research that continues the
efforts to understand and document scientific findings.
I recently received information from Dartmouth College about the
work coming out of its Environmental Studies department. I read
three of their abstracts. One looked at how climate change is
leading to the rise of ocean surface temperatures, thereby
increasing the possibility of fish accumulating more mercury. Another looked
to land issues, and how climate change is impacting the forests of North America.
I spoke with two experts from Dartmouth to discuss what the
Aaron S. Weed, a Postdoctoral Research Associate and a
lead author on the study about forests, gave me a primer on the
importance of trees in the environmental equation. In addition to
being a source of timber, recreation, and water storage, they play
a major role in renewing the air supply by removing the carbon
dioxide and creating oxygen. Warmer temperatures change the balance
of nature, altering the "bio-diversity" of forests."
Assistant professor of geography (under which climatology falls)
Jonathan M. Winter spoke to me about the National Climate
Assessment, recently released in draft form. He related that
since 1895, there has been a 1.5 degree Fahrenheit
increase in temperature. The most recent decade has been the
hottest on record. Over the next several decades (by 2040), we will
see a 2 to 4 degree Fahrenheit warming in most areas. By 2100, the
low-end projection will be 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, with the high
projection at 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit of increased warmth. Each
region of the country will be impacted differently. Winter will be
warmer with more rain, and summers will be warmer as well. Climate
change will worsen asthma
by 2020, with an increase in ground level ozone due to warming.
Beyond the science, I was intrigued by a series of papers examining the impact of climate
change on Indigenous peoples in the United States, from
"socioeconomic vulnerability to human rights." I was struck by the
thought provoking premise presented by Nicholas James Reo and Angela K. Parker in their essay entitled, "Re-Thinking Colonialism to Prepare for the Impacts
of Rapid Environmental Change."
Four hundred years ago, European settlers came to North America,
where Native tribes had developed a way of living that was
integrated and respectful of their environment. They employed
sustainable practices in hunting, farming, and in their use of land
and water resources. Reo and Parker maintain that the practices of
the colonists set in motion a wide spectrum of changes in the
environment and health that led to disease, overharvesting,
deforestation, and invasive species.
They write, "" when indigenous communities were decimated by
disease and eventually alienated from their known environments,
land tenure innovations based on deep, local ecological knowledge,
disappeared. Colonists, and their extractive systems aimed at key
animal and plant species, became the new shapers of cultural
landscapes. Rapid ecological degradation subsequently ensued, and
New Englanders created a difficult project of stewarding a far less
resilient landscape without help from indigenous land managers who
would have known best how to enact ecological restoration
Polluting the air with unregulated carbon
pollution from power plants, fracking, toxic dumping, mountain top coal removal, the XL Pipeline, to name a few, are some of
the shortsighted actions that affect our climate.
Who will pay the price? It will be our children -- and the
currency will not be monetary.
This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force
Tell the EPA You Support Limits On Carbon Pollution
From Power Plants
Marcia G. Yerman is a writer, activist, artist and curator based in New York City. Her articles--profiles, interviews, reporting and essays--focus on women's issues, the environment, human rights, the arts and culture. Her writing has been published by the New York Times, Women News Network, Huffington Post, Ravishly, AlterNet, The Women's Media Center, and The Raw Story--among others.
Marcia ico-founded CultureID, a platform for those doing work in the cultural arena with political/social intent and content. It is archived at CultureID.org.
Having served as a consultant to non-profit organizations and the business sector, Marcia is active in the new media space, recognizing it as a force for building relationships to bring awareness to social justice issues.