As college students, we wake up every day and go about our business as if the events of that day are a given. We know there will be clean water readily available to brush our teeth and take a shower. We step outside and breathe in fresh air as we walk to class. Some of us will look around at the trees or the lake, while others will have their heads down checking in on their various forms of social media. At Rider, we are lucky that we live in a place where we have the ability to take advantage of our resources and not have immediate worry about how climate change is affecting things like water availability or crop productivity. But around the world, and even within the United States, these concerns are constantly on the minds of thousands of individuals.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency in 2014. In April 2017, Brown issued an executive order officially ending the state of emergency. A survey by the National Drought Mitigation Center estimated the total number of Californians affected by the drought to be 10.3 million.
There are entire industries that are affected by climate-driven drought, resulting in a loss of goods for consumers. While it’s too early to tell what is lost as the result of the 2017 wildfires stemming from drought, it has been reported that only 10 to 30 percent of grape crops in Napa and Sonoma counties will be viable in the next few years. This not only impacts the production of wine, but the many California families that depend on its production for business.
The drought has also affected almonds, pistachio and orange crops. A decrease in these goods means that, eventually, climate change can affect the available options for students in our own dining halls on campus. When less food is harvested, it increases the price of crops that are able to be sold in stores — a bad sign for shoppers on a college budget.
Droughts in more distant places can also impact your daily routine. Brazil recently had the worst drought in its history. As a result, the coffee industry was impacted by a reduction of exported coffee beans from the country. This undoubtedly has a financial effect on Brazil, but if you personally like coffee, you may need to start paying more to get your daily intake.
Military experts are concerned with the role of climate change and human conflicts. Former Army officer Michael Breen commented on this connection in the film “The Age of Consequences.”
“Think about relationships we don’t often look at,” he said. “The civil war in Syria, now going on for years, hundreds of thousands dead. The entire region is in chaos as a result.” The movie details how a three-year drought helped the war emerge.
According to the American Security Project, it is determined that climate change will increase regional and local tensions in “hot zones” around the world. In these regions, climate change will act as an accelerant of instability by multiplying problems like water scarcity, food shortages and overpopulation. According to the National Intelligence Council, by 2025, unprecedented economic growth, coupled with 1.5 billion people will put pressure on the world’s resources – particularly energy, food and water — raising the specter of scarcities emerging as demand outstrips supply.
At Rider, students are exploring the world where climate instability has led to social breakdown and war in less-developed countries. Political science professor Elizabeth Radziszewski showed her class “The Age of Consequences.” She stated, “I chose the film for my U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security course this semester to help my students understand the connection between climate change and violent conflict, especially in those countries where political institutions are ineffective in responding to climate-induced effects such as droughts or flooding. We live in a highly connected world where developments in one part of the globe can affect our interests here at home, which means that when climate change contributes to instability somewhere else, we can no longer ignore it. The film makes these connections apparent.”
“The Age of Consequences” was selected as the next Rider Green Film. It will be shown on Dec. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. in Sweigart 115.
Printed in the 12/6/17 issue.