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By: James Parle
The Gallup organization recently reported an alarming environmental trend in the United States. Gallup’s 2010 survey revealed that U.S. citizens perceive global warming as a decreasing threat. Between 2008 and 2010, as reported by Gallup, there was a 10% decline in those who considered global warming a serious concern. Moreover, when citizens were asked in 2010 what President Barack Obama’s priorities should be, the economy was ranked first (83%) and global warming last (28%) out of twenty-one categories.
A number of environmental issues, such as oil spills, have direct physical repercussions. Most people won’t tolerate an oil slick on their local beach. In the instance of global warming, at least for the time being, the issues tend to surface in distant locations. The polar caps for example are thousands of miles away from many of the greenhouse gas emitters here in the U.S. When was the last time you personally visited the North Pole to see how the polar bears were doing?
As the name suggests, global warming occurs on a scale that requires thinking about the entire world and how we are all connected. Inundated by hectic daily routines, fuming boss, and perpetually ringing smartphones, most people simply let global warming drop off their list of concerns.
Global warming deserves far more national attention than it is currently afforded. Might a simple way to envision global warming make it more accessible and thus reveal its greater priority?
To put global warming in perspective, I propose a simple thought exercise. Close your eyes and place yourself in your favorite outdoor panorama. Imagine the blue sky above you. It’s endless, right? Open your eyes, take a deep breath, and look upwards towards the sun. Think for a moment how much air is really above you. It turns out that the atmosphere’s thickness is roughly similar to the thickness of an apple’s skin relative to its diameter.
If you could drive your car straight up into the sky ten whole miles, 90% of the air by mass would be in your rearview mirror. Think of how big Earthis relative to those measly ten miles of air supporting humanity. Driving at freeway speed you could cover the same distance in less than ten minutes.
Since you’re in your car, consider that there are ten cars for every square mile of land. Each car emits greenhouse gases that alter the composition of the atmosphere. On top of that, there are one hundred and twenty people for every square mile of land who are involved with emitting a myriad of other emissions. With all of the cars and people dotting the land, it starts to become easier to see how we might have an impact on the apple’s thin skin.
Keep in mind that the air around us is precious. Just because we have a raging economic fire to put out does not mean that we can ignore the cracks in our world’s foundation. We have little choice but to make curbing emissions a priority.
We may be preoccupied, but Mother Nature keeps counting.
For additional information on the subject please see the recent New York Times article titled “Where Did Global Warming Go?”
Bio: James Parle has a background in technology and before coming to Presidio Graduate School spent five years working in wind energy. He has a passion for improving the world around him and looks forward to combining his previous engineering efforts with his latest deep dive into sustainable business practice. Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, he is entertaining the possibly of one day starting his own venture. In his spare time he enjoys getting outside and is interested in one day hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border.