I’m sure many of you have a bucket list. I know I do, and it includes some of the following adventures: scuba dive the great barrier reef; walk across a glacier; swim with jellyfish that can’t sting; experience the diverse wildlife in the Galapagos; swim with sharks. I’m beyond fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience all these things. Not just because it’s an incredible privilege to have the means to do so, but because these things will not exist in the near future.
That’s right, I’m talking about climate change. Global warming. Global climate change. Call it whatever you want – it exists. It’s real. And it’s happening right now. We are destroying our world at a rapid pace; while we already knew this, our travels have solidified our knowledge that this nightmare is real and unfolding before our eyes. And frankly, it has terrified me. I’d like to share some examples of global climate change and human destruction we’ve seen around the world so far. Together we can spread awareness of this very real, global threat and cause some serious action – fast.
Examples of Climate Change
Melting Glaciers in Svalbard and New Zealand
Svalbard was one of our favorite places we’ve visited. One of the highlights of our trip was a boat tour, during which we saw a massive glacier. While we were eating our lunch on the boat, a huge chunk of the glacier split off with a loud crack and swiftly sank into the ocean. We all watched in awe as the chunk of ice formed massive waves that eventually came under our boat. Watching a glacier melt in front of your eyes is pretty unforgettable, and because of global warming, this is happening to glaciers worldwide.
Want to walk on the Franz Josef glacier? Well, you’ll have to take a helicopter now, because the glacier has melted so much, even just within the past 8 years.
Jellyfish Lake in Palau, Micronesia
The main reason we were so excited to visit Palau was to experience their famous Jellyfish Lake, part of an Unesco World Heritage site. Needless to say, we were extremely disappointed when we found out a month before we arrived that we could no longer tour the Jellyfish Lake. Adult jellyfish are no longer spotted on these tours. Due to hotter temperatures and a severe drought, the numbers of the jellyfish in the lake decreased from 8 million to 600,000. We can expect more magical, natural places like this to have similar fates at this rate.
Unpredictable Weather and Storms
We’ve experienced this everywhere, but it was most apparent in Micronesia. These countries used to have distinct wet and dry seasons, but because of global climate change, these seasons no longer exist. We experienced lots of rain in Palau and Yap in October, which historically has been a dry month, and they had one of the driest “wet” seasons in years, which is apparent in the Jellyfish story above.
Dying Coral Reefs in Lombok, Indonesia
The first time I went to the Gili Islands in Lombok, Indonesia, I raved to everyone about the snorkeling and how it was the best I’ve ever experienced. The coral was plentiful and colorful, unlike many sites I saw in Australia. I was incredibly disappointed when I returned to the Gili Islands a few months ago and discovered that the state of the coral has declined immensely. It’s not nearly as vibrant or alive as it was a few years ago, which is an incredibly rapid and drastic change. The Great Barrier Reef is essentially dead due to global warming; coral reefs all over the world are seeing the same devastation. These delicate ecosystems are under a severe threat.
Examples of Human Destruction
Trash in Cat Ba, Vietnam
While not a direct result of global warming, seeing the volume of plastic pollution in the gorgeous Lan Ha Bay, Vietnam, was utterly unnerving. We toured Lan Ha Bay instead of Ha Long Bay because of the latter’s dire situation. Trash was everywhere in Vietnam, but seeing floating plastic bags and bottles among these gorgeous limestone formations was truly heart-breaking. Now that they’re building a bridge to Cat Ba, I’m afraid it will only get worse.
Air Pollution in Asia
We saw people wearing face masks all over Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Singapore, Japan). While people wear these masks for different reasons, many wear them to protect themselves from the poisonous smog. It’s quite unnerving to look at the pollution levels in large cities like Hanoi.
Fuel in the Reefs of Coron, Palawan
The turquoise waters of Coron look gorgeously untouched…from the surface. I was appalled when we went on an island-hopping tour and jumped into the water with our masks and snorkels. Instead of seeing colorful corals and fish, Pete and I were distracted by the waves of what looked like clear fog, warping our vision under water. At first we weren’t sure what these waves were, but we put it together once we realized that all the boats kept their engines running while we snorkeled, causing thick ribbons of fuel coursing through the same waters we swam through.
Call to Action
Hopefully by now you’re asking what you can do to help (I know I am). Here are some pretty basic changes you can make in your life to help stop global warming. Not only can you directly impact the pace of climate change, but you can influence your friends and neighbors through your choices as well.
Eat less beef. 10-12% of U.S. emissions are due to beef. A simple diet change, even just reducing the amount of beef you eat, can make a huge difference with the amount of methane gas. Personally, I decided to cut out all beef from my diet. Will I miss Big Macs? You better believe it. But it’s something simple I can do to make an impact.
Don’t litter. Carpool. Recycle. These should be pretty easy for you, and by doing so, you will set a good example.
Educate yourself. Watch the National Geographic documentary Before the Flood. I used a lot of the facts from this documentary in this article. In addition, the Before the Flood website is very easy to understand and breaks down the ways you can take action.
As Leo in Before the Flood says, “This is the most important issue of our time.” I know that there are endless good causes out there, but this one is extremely important. Because, to be frank, who cares about anything if our world is completely destroyed? We can’t ignore this problem anymore, or our planet will cease to exist as we know it.