By Shinae Lee ’19
Over the last few months, coverage concerning devastating natural disasters has dominated mass media. Hurricane after hurricane down south, wildfire after wildfire in the west. We are constantly bombarded with heartbreaking videos, images, and stories. We must not only focus on treatment, but also on the prevention of these disasters and the causes of these disasters. To do this, let us consider how we treat this perfect and beautiful creation of God that we call Earth.
In the beginning, God created us last. The animals lived here before us, the sky, the earth, the waters– everything was here before us. So why are we, as humans, so cruel to God’s creation?
Whether we are conscious of it or not, we all contribute to the pollution and damaging of the Earth. We cannot ignore the physical and scientific evidence, supported by research, saying that humans are causing harm to our planet.
Recently, we’ve seen wildfires not only in California, but also in other western states such as Washington and Oregon, and even Canada this year. It seems like these natural disasters are not as natural as they once were. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, data shows that the frequency and intensity of these wildfires have significantly increased in the last few decades.
Scientific inquiry and research can help explain that these fires do have a connection to climate change. Every summer, recorded high temperatures have been increasing, all over the country, all over the world. It may seem that just one or two degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius isn’t such a big deal. However, it is a fact that increases in temperature especially during summers, create conditions suitable to increase the likelihood of wildfires, make them stronger, and much more difficult to put out.
Not only does this harm wildlife and the natural earth, but people as well.
In California, people are missing and dying. Homes are destroyed and reduced to ashes, families are displaced and communities disrupted. Any sort of destructive natural disaster has significant financial consequences for individuals, families, entire communities and governments.
When I lived in California, north of LA, we had a fire during the fall of 2009. So many families in my town lived up in the mountainous hills close to the fire. People had to evacuate their homes and the sky was gray and full of ashes for weeks. We faced the lasting effects of the fire the following spring with mudslides. Homes and businesses were flooded, major roads and highways blocked and damaged. Two disasters in 6 months can take a huge chunk out of the city and state budget, not to mention the individual cost of repairs for people’s homes and neighborhoods.
Everything we do and everything that happens in our planet somehow affects what will happen next. It was no coincidence that the mudslide followed the fire.
Increasing temperatures lead to increases in the likelihood of wildfires, which leads to increases in the likelihood of mudslides, and this cycle goes on and on. As a single, collective human race, we contribute in causing harmful chain reactions all over the world, often with devastating results
We cannot keep taking our planet for granted. The fire I experienced in 2009 was nowhere near as destructive as the recent wildfires. Conditions have worsened so much over only 8 years, I fear that things will only get worse, sooner.
No, we were not the ones to decide to start burning fossil fuels hundreds of years ago. But this world does not belong to us, for God’s creation is not ours to destroy or disrespect.
But I do have hope.
When we have so much capacity to destroy and do harm, we also have just as much, if not more, capacity to do Good and to heal and love. It’s up to us to educate ourselves about this, and it’s on us to start caring about the Earth. No one can fix this for us, but we can start taking better care of the beautiful world we all share.
For more information about the research cited in this piece visit: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/313/5789/940.full and https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/09/why-is-2017-so-bad-for-wildfires-climate-change/539130/