By Dean Riddle
Imagine what it is normally like whenever you step outside — clear blue skies, sun shining brightly, clean air. Now, imagine waking up to a dark, gloomy sky every morning for months, with an eerie red tint to the sun as it peeks through the ashen skies — or even having to evacuate in the middle of the night. This is the reality of millions of people living on the west coast, where more than two million acres of land in California have been burnt through in 2020 alone, according to the New York Times. Furthermore, this figure disregards the damage fires have done in other states, which adds greatly to this statistic. This massive loss of native plants and wildlife is a signal for change.
Like most western states, California gets most of its precipitation in fall and winter, leaving the plants on the forest floor to dry out in the harsh summer heat. With California already having a naturally hot summer, the effects of climate change only exacerbate the issue, drying plants out even more and making fires even more volatile. Greenhouse gas emissions have only increased throughout the years, despite efforts from many individuals and small companies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increase sustainable practices. In fact, according to Michigan Local News, it’s getting so hot in some regions that rain clouds are not able to form. Rain forms by cooling water droplets as they rise, but if the above atmosphere is still too hot for it to condense into clouds, it results in a decrease of rainfall.
What happens in the west, doesn’t necessarily stay in the west. “Smoke from those fires traveled with the jet stream across North America bringing hazy skies and vivid sunsets to the east coast,” stated associate professor and Director of Sustainability Daniel Druckenbrod. “While the concentration of the particulate matter in the smoke had fortunately diluted during that transport to levels not hazardous to breathe, that transport is a visual reminder of the environmental connections between different locations on Earth.” Druckenbrod also noted that as greenhouse gas emissions continue to be released into our atmosphere, events such as these fires will become more common and extreme, concerning not only the west coast but the east coast as well, as the climate continues to change.
For most, the debate about the reality of climate change is over and the time to act is now. Our generation can easily get overwhelmed when it comes to acting on climate change. What can we do?
“The voting booth is a great place to make a change,” said biology professor Kerrie Sendall. “People need to spend a little time doing research on candidates and voting for people at the local, state, and federal level who believe climate change is a problem that needs to be addressed.”
Rider is hosting a two-part voting teach-in event, “My Vote Matters: Transforming Oppression into Opportunity,” on Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, to educate students about the history of voting, issues to vote on, how to register, knowing who is on the ballots at the local, state and federal level, dispelling myths about voter fraud and choosing the candidate that best aligns with one’s beliefs.
The choice for a sustainable planet starts with you. No matter how small the action may be, anything done to protect our environment is a positive one, whether it’s cutting down on power use, eating locally grown food or voting for someone that shares the same love and passion for the environment as you do.