The dodo is gone. Three billion passenger pigeons obliterated. A North American bison population of 60 million reduced to thousands. Half-a-million square kilometers of Amazon rainforest lost. The great cetacean species decimated by whaling. In 1965, the North Sea fishing industry was landing 1 million tons of herring; 10 years later, the stocks collapsed. In 1992, the Newfoundland cod industry crashed — there were none left. London choked in sulfurous smog, killing perhaps as many as 12,000 people in 1952.
Why is it that the devastating impact that humans can have and have had on the terrestrial and marine environments is readily acknowledged, but when it comes to climate, there is incredulity?
Grant Piper, in his Dec. 25 letter “Global warming trend beyond us“, while recognizing that human activity contributes to global warming, argues that the “primary cause” is the “warming phase” following the end of the last ice age.
Aside from the fact that interglacial temperature cycles are incorporated into climate-change modeling and that there is a plethora of research that suggests that the burning of fossil fuels is overriding these cycles, what strikes me as discomforting is Piper’s flippant dismissal of the issue: Even if human activity were the culprit, he blithely states, “one day our species will become extinct”.
The air in London is clear and clean. North Sea herring stocks have rebounded. Huge efforts are being made to slow the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Bison again roam the American Plains, and the whales, thankfully, are still with us — all due to concerned, concerted human action.
This time the job is a bit bigger. Yes, Piper is right — in time, the human species will become extinct and our planet will die. But hopefully we will not hasten our future demise by ignoring the chance we have to act now. We wiped out the dodos; let’s not do the same to ourselves.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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