By Jake Sallerson
In both my own and subsequent generations, I can confidently say there are few who do not fiercely understand or recognize climate change to be the premier cause of concern for humanity.
What does seem to be up for debate, however, is what the root cause of this change is and how we go about identifying or balancing it?
The goal in writing this is not to spark a debate about which areas of activity such as greenhouse gases, geoengineering, natural global warming, or what any other perceived reasons are behind why our climate is changing. Instead I want to focus on the main particular and necessary component required for all of humanity to not only thrive but survive. Oxygen.
This simple yet vital element is the sole reason we are all here on this planet. Well, that, sunlight, water, air pressure, gravity and the ability to eat. Remove any single one of those and we perish.
And, though I would argue water will soon be in jeopardy putting us in an even more dire situation, let’s focus on the issue at hand for the time being again, oxygen.
Roughly 2.5 billion years ago, the Earth was a rocky barren world without oxygen. According to Wikipedia:
“Oceanic cyanobacteria, which evolved into multicellular forms more than 2.3 billion years ago (approximately 200 million years before the Great Oxygen Event or GOE), are believed to have become the first microbes to produce oxygen by photosynthesis. Before the GOE, any free oxygen they produced was chemically captured by dissolved iron or organic matter. The GOE was the point in time when these oxygen sinks became saturated, at which point oxygen, produced by the cyanobacteria, was free to escape into the atmosphere.”
For more information on this, see the BBC documentary How to Grow a Planet on Netflix.
The GOE’s importance should be readily obvious, as again without oxygen we all perish.
Let’s change gears for a second and transition to some more recent history. What was the real reason for the British expansion to America?
In the 1700s, England was the center of steel production; however, as making one ton of iron required burning 10 acres of forest, you can imagine how quickly they depleted their forests. In search of new energy reserves, they found endless forests in North America.
For more information see Modern Marvel’s American Steel, Built to Last on YouTube.
These forests at the time stretched across the country from one end to the other. We know this today, though we have all but obliterated America’s woodland basin since in the name of progress.
Sadly, what we did not understand at the time of the harvesting of these trees was without them we would be putting our very own and future generations’ existence at risk.
What becomes clear is the combination of two very dramatic events occurring simultaneously: the first being the removal of the entity which provides us our breathable oxygen (trees); and the second being what most of us know today as the endless insertion of carbon into the atmosphere.
Either one of these two events occurring independently of the other might not be such a dramatic area of concern; however, when you remove the one necessary feature that cycles CO2 into oxygen, and then also begin pumping vast amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, what do we really think is going to happen?
Putting up solar panels, wind turbines, hydropower and any other means of green energy is awesome and something that should be an everyday fact of life; but doing so isn’t going to fix the problem alone. We are destroying our filter and without a filter, regardless of how much we dial back our greenhouse gas emissions, it doesn’t matter anymore because the Earth’s ability to convert those gases back into breathable components for us is virtually nonexistent.
The solution seems reasonably simple to me. We need to start planting trees. And a lot of trees. Anywhere and everywhere we can. We need to induce a small scale Great Oxygenation Event of our own so as to recoup whatever damage we have caused, and potentially reverse the devastating and possibly Earth-ending, manmade, looming catastrophe we have in front of us should we choose to do nothing.
This is not a political issue. It’s not a religious issue. It’s not even a moral or ethical issue. This is an “if we do not do this, then we all perish” issue.
When the fix could be something as simple as planting trees, how is it that we won’t do so? Why? Who is preventing it and can we remove them? This is unacceptable and I am calling for support from everyone to bring this to the front of any and all issues you see as needing addressing. This is something we can solve.
This isn’t a Vermont issue nor an American issue. This is a global concern that needs addressing from the North Pole to the South Pole, the East to the West, and everywhere in between.
This one simple act could save humanity, at least in the sense of annihilation from self-destruction. I’m not saying it will prevent nuclear war – that’s a topic for another day – but let’s address one issue at a time.
When we look back 50 years from now and examine what we could have done, and realize that planting trees would have been the simplest and most cost-effective measure of saving our planet and ourselves, realizing our stubbornness and divisiveness is what prevented us from doing so, we are going to feel incredibly regretful and ashamed. I suggest being proactive and compassionate to ourselves, each other and our planet, if for nothing else then simply for the chance to keep living.
Sallerson lives in Warren.