Start climbing your Fourteeners now.
If Greenland melts we lose at least 7 of those claims to fame. And if Antarctica thaws, a less likely scenario, then we’ll lose 36 of ’em.
Why? Because Fourteener means 14,000 feet or higher above sea level. If sea level rises, then mountains “shrink.” Greenland has at about 20 feet of sea level rising ice on it, and Antarctica has about 200 feet.
They won’t all disappear – we’d still have about 17 of our Fourteeners left if all the ice melts. But even a 10% drop in ice will force us to move the ‘Mile High’ marker somewhere else.
I don’t mean to bring this up as an alarmist, but I do want readers to take notice. In the coming decades we are going to see large changes in our weather systems.
I think the common perception of global climate change (or the misnomer ‘global warming’) is a cataclysmic life-ending holocaust, tantamount to nuclear war, asteroid collisions, or a Decepticon invasion.
But far from the end of life as we know it, global climate change will mark a change in the way our society runs itself.
There are two realizations that we as citizens (and not consumers) need to come to. Global climate change is occurring and accelerating. Technology is not going to fix anything.
We can’t wait for some miracle hydrogen economy. We can’t sit back and dream of atmospheric carbon scrubbers. We can’t rely on fantasies of solar and wind and the energy killer called recycling.
Instead we are going to have to adapt to a new environment. We will have to change the way we live. Not because we “should” but because we will have little choice. Being ‘green’ will very soon be synonymous with ‘economic.’
Energy and economics are so closely related, there is little point in distinguishing them. And we as a nation are wasting so much of it on inefficient design, in our cities, in our industry, and in lives.
We will have to rebuild our homes and businesses to become more energy efficient. We will have to give up personal fields of water wasting lawns. We will have to move closer to where we work. We will have to make our cities public spaces worth living in.
We will have to live closer together and learn our barista’s names. We will have to become neighbors again.
We might have to stop trucking our food everywhere and maybe build some better rails. We might even have to move production of food closer and stop relying on intense preservatives and refrigerated semis.
Jeez, that sucks.
It won’t be the end of the world. It will just be the beginning of a different world.
It will happen gradually. The feedback system of peoples’ habits and their wallets will respond to the changing energy prices and scarcity of previously cheap resources.
All I ask is that we grant some attention and trust to same scientific methods that gave us our cell phones and antibiotics, and climb some mountains while we wait.
Jesse Fagan is a sociology graduate student. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org