Julie V.

7th Place - $1,000 Resolve to Evolve Scholarship Winner

The Environment: Right, Wrong and Future

Julie V.

"The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard," a quote by former Wisconsin governor, Gaylord Nelson who was also a co-founder of Earth Day. The Earth houses many organisms from the smallest paramecium to humans to the largest elephant. Every action on the Earth happens for a reason and all nature is set in sync with the environment. At present, the balance between Earth’s atmosphere and the environment has been disrupted. During the 20th century, the average global surface temperature has increased by .6 degrees Celsius. The snow cover and ice extent have decreased and the average global sea level has risen. Global warming, the predicted increase in global temperature, does not only affect one population of humans, but all organisms worldwide.

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The sun is the main energy source for many organisms and streams through the atmosphere to heat the Earth. As heat radiates from the Earth’s surface, some is absorbed by gases in the troposphere. The gases that do not absorb and radiate heat are called greenhouse gases. These gases trap heat near the Earth’s surface and cause the atmosphere to increase in global temperature. Carbon dioxide is a huge greenhouse gas and accounts for most absorption of heat occurring in the atmosphere. Studies have shown that with each year, the high carbon dioxide levels of winter were higher and the summer levels did not fall as low. The large increase in carbon dioxide levels may be due to the burning of fossil fuels, meaning humans are the largest culprit of global warming. Power plants the burn coal or oil let off immense amounts of carbon dioxide and even the cars that serve as the popular mode of transportation let off millions of tons of carbon dioxide each year from burning gasoline. The increase in carbon dioxide will lead to various problems: low-lying areas flooding, erosion of beaches, increase of salinity in bays and estuaries which will negatively affect marine life, change in ocean current patterns causing more hurricanes and typhoons, heat-related deaths, alteration of plant species, increase in drought and increasing spread of insect borne diseases. The push for more power plants and the unrelenting use of cars is hurting the environment more than people realize.

Although global warming is a man-made problem hurting the environment, there are many things people are doing to help the environment as well. Many nations have joined the Kyoto Protocol which required developed countries to decrease emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by five percent below 1990 by the year 2012. Other nations have engaged in reforestation projects to reduce carbon dioxide. Since plants need the carbon dioxide to photosynthesize, they take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. To ensure environmental stability, people can plant more trees and any type of plant to help control carbon dioxide increase. Since one of the main productions of carbon dioxide is the burning of gasoline from car use, people can make pledges to lessen transportation by gasoline vehicles and walk or bicycle. Also the use of solar-powered cars can be implemented. It is an alternative way of obtaining energy without burning fossil fuels. Solar-powered cars have photovoltaic cells on the surface of the vehicle that are used to convert sunlight to electricity. Before we can do any of these things to ensure environmental stability though, we need to understand that everybody is contributing to carbon dioxide production and everybody is allowing global warming to occur. Although everybody has some part in the destruction of the environment, that means everybody can make a difference by contributing anything small to reverse the effects of global warming.

"The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard," is a concept that needs to be taken into consideration by all people living on Earth. Although the larger effects of global warming are not immediately present or affecting those of today’s generation, they will affect others of future generations. The ultimate test man’s conscience today is his willingness to sacrifice something. Are we really willing to sacrifice something for future generations who we might never meet? That’s the question that we should be asking ourselves and the answer should be yes. Maybe our generation now will not see the devastating effects of global warming, but future generations will feel the blow from our mistakes. Before it is too late, there are many simple tasks everybody can practice to reverse the effects global warming has already imprinted on our environment. Our biggest problem may not be figuring out what we can do to help, but our willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations.

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