Concern for the environment, from making sure you’re recycling everything you can in your apartment home to participating in ecotourism to help another community with its environmental challenges, is a central focus in many people’s minds these days. For good reason.
According to the United Nations’ World Meteorological Organization, there is a 75 percent to 80 percent chance of an El Niño event that will bring warmer temperatures globally. This El Niño event isn’t expected to be as strong as the last one, which ended in 2016 when humanity’s carbon emissions raised the heat and contributed to making it the hottest year ever recorded. El Niño events aren’t an aberration as they occur naturally, caused by unusually high sea temperatures in the western Pacific Ocean. They do affect weather around the world, though, causing droughts in places that are normally wet, floods to drier areas and bleaching of coral reefs.
Here in Arizona over the next century, our forests could retreat as temperatures rise and our deserts could get even hotter than we experience them now, according to a recent study published in the journal Science and led by the University of Arizona. Although climate change isn’t new, according to the study, it’s just accelerated now. It took thousands of years for the last ice age to end, but the current climate change took less than 200 years.
Researchers studying climates around the world concluded that while effects are being felt globally, historic drought conditions in Arizona and the Southwest in general continue. Wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres of Arizona pine forests in the last two decades, according to the report. Fires occur more frequently and, consequently, are more expensive to douse, due to climate change and the drought. What’s even more frightening is that experts say the forests may not return and won’t be the same if they do.
See how Arizona ranks
To help educate Arizonans about environmental conditions in our communities, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality created a webpage to provide information about issues. The page includes easy-to-use information to see monitors and forecasts on air quality across the state; see which water sites, lakes and streams are impaired; see where fish caught in the state are good to eat or shouldn’t be eaten; view groundwater and water reuse sites; and see the status of drinking water safety in our communities and schools. The page also has links to sites of concern to environmentalists as well as community cleanups.
Even though a federal appeals court recently upheld a 20-year ban on uranium mining in the greater Grand Canyon region, environmentalists are worried that the Department of Interior could rescind the ban. The state chapter of the Sierra Club has information on its website about fighting this issue as well as information about issues with wildlife, water, energy/climate change and the border. The Sierra Club promotes hands-on conservation work to engage Arizonans in learning about the state’s water resources and helping to restore and maintain them.
Once again on April 22, Earth Day will be celebrated. The theme for Earth Day 2019 is “Protect Our Species.” According to organizers:
- Land-dwelling wildlife species have declined by 40 percent since 1970.
- Marine animal populations have fallen by 40 percent overall.
- Bird populations have been reduced by about 20 percent to 25 percent.
- Freshwater animal populations have plummeted by 75 percent since 1970.
- Insect populations have also declined dramatically. In Germany alone, insects have declined by 75 percent in the last 30 years.
- Almost 50 percent of the world’s coral reefs have died in the last 30 years.
The goal for Earth Day 2019 is to promote a global conservation ethic and get more support for the protection of species—endangered and not. Earth Day projects and campaigns in many communities will focus on:
- Education and awareness
- Inspirational policy victories to save iconic species
- Individual action/behavioral changes
Fight plastic pollution
This past June 10, World Environment Day focused on beating plastic pollution, something that’s been in the news lately. Organizers produced a video that explains how the incredible invention of plastic has turned into a global nightmare and what dangers it poses. News media across the world publicized World Environment Day and published information about plastic pollution. As a result, India announced it would ban all single-use plastics by 2022. Some communities here have sprung into action to combat plastic proliferation. The city of Sedona recently initiated a “straw-free” campaign designed to encourage businesses to discontinue using single-use plastic straws as a result of reports about how much plastic ends up in the world’s oceans.
With so many issues needing attention, Care2, the world’s largest community for good, outlined seven issues needing environmental support around the world:
- Cleaning the plastic from the oceans
- Joining the fight to save public lands
- Saving the rainforests
- Rallying for rights to clean air and clean water
- Protecting wild rivers and their ecosystems
- Fighting climate change and supporting renewable energy
- Supporting a healthier food system.
Become an ecotourist
In addition to joining local conservation efforts, you could also volunteer for environmental causes around the world, protecting nature and wildlife on land as well as in water. Volunteer World says there are five benefits of volunteering to contribute to a meaningful cause: Happiness, experience, self-empowerment, meeting people and traveling. What began as a blog about volunteering now has more than 32,300 registered volunteers helping with more than 300 projects in 82 countries. Volunteers support reforestation of protected areas, plant crops for sustainable farming, maintain jungle trails in native forests, clean oceans, preserve coasts and marine landscapes and more.
Earthwatch also gives people the opportunity to work with leading scientists and fight some of the planet’s critical environmental issues. Current projects include investigating threats to chimpanzees and other primates in Uganda, discovering ancient societies in Portugal, studying climate change effects on lowly caterpillars in Costa Rica, and learning the role sea otters play in maintaining the health of seagrass habitat in southeast Alaska.