Alaska’s Permafrost, Along with the Rest of the World, is Melting – Are we actually screwed (or could the vegans help save us)?

I will be 57 years old in 2050, the year that our human and factory-farmed shit will have hit the fan, so to speak. Based on just about all my research, 2050 is going to be one hell of a year. Our oceans may be fishless by 2048, oil production will have reached its peak, and we are estimated to have 2 billion more mouths to feed.

So what is Alaska’s permafrost and how does it relate to 2050? As explained by the New York Times, permafrost is a thick layer of land that stays frozen all year. Alaska’s permafrost contains plants that froze before having a chance to decompose, making them full of carbon dioxide that hasn’t been released into the atmosphere. By 2050, a lot of Alaska’s permafrost could be gone.

Permafrost melting is dangerous because when the ancient organic material thaws, as stated in the New York Times, microbes convert some of it to greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, which can cause even more warming in our atmosphere. In fact, “scientists have estimated that the process of permafrost thawing could contribute as much as 1.7 degrees Fahrenheit to global warming over the next several centuries, independent of what society does to reduce emissions from burning fossil fuels and other activities.”

1.7 degrees may not seem threatening, but as the documentary Chasing Coral points out, think of how an increase of just 2 degrees impacts your body – you start sweating with chills, aches, and pains, as your body tries to fight a fever. Our environment- such as our coral reefs, rain forests, deserts, and glaciers- also suffers with this seemingly slight increase in temperature.

glacier meltingAbove: Ice melting in Gangotri National Park, India.

When permafrost melts, it also weakens the landscape’s foundation as areas once composed of solid ice turn to water. As reported in the National Geographic‘s article, “Alaska’s Thaw Reveals– and Threatens– a Culture’s Artifacts”, the average of Alaska’s coastal temperatures has already risen more than three degrees Fahrenheit in the past half century. Since 1900, the level of oceans worldwide has risen about eight inches, making coastal populations especially helpless against powerful waves and storms. In short, permafrost is vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, and, if it continues to thaw, will only exacerbate such issues.

Thawing may be a gradual process, but with the current state of our environment, it’s a terrifying reality that will have drastic impacts on wildlife and human survival. If we keep depleting our earth of its natural resources, competition for those resources will heighten. According to the National Geographic, Alaska’s thawing permafrost has revealed thousands of artifacts that had been frozen in the ground for centuries. Perhaps as a symbolic foreshadowing from our ancestors, the artifacts are believed to be from the 550-year period known as the “Little Ice Age”. The Little Ice Age is a time period when the climate was changing, so conditions became harsh, and battles for resources bloody.

So, let’s get to the point: are we all doomed? Well, we’re all going to be wiped out one way or another. Much of our coral reefs are bleached, rain forests destroyed, oceans over fished, and there’s a hole the size of Antarctica in our ozone layer. To top this off, not nearly enough people or companies are trying to save the natural resources we were gifted with on this earth. Yet, I still have this defiant feeling that trying to save the breathtaking beauty of this earth & all of its magical beings is worth every shot, no?

Whether you like it or not, you have an impact on this earth and its beings Every. Single. Day. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it until the day I die: The best thing you can do to help the environment, its wildlife, world hunger, and your health, is to adopt a vegan lifestyle (or at the very least, cut down on your meat intake).

Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq ft of forested land, 20 lbs CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life (cowspiracy.com/facts). 

There’s nothing to fight for if there’s nothing to save. Yet we’re at a critical time in the world when there is still so much worth fighting for and saving. Don’t take the lazy way out, claiming there’s nothing we can do because we’re all doomed. Do your research, form your values, and make your actions align with your aspirations.

Peace & Love.

Sources:

Fountain, Henry. “Alaska’s Permafrost Is Thawing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Aug. 2017, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/08/23/climate/alaska-permafrost-thawing.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news.

“Facts and Sources.” COWSPIRACY, www.cowspiracy.com/facts/.

Orlowski, Jeff, director. Chasing Coral. Netflix, 14 July 2017, www.chasingcoral.com/#film.

Roach, John. “Seafood May Be Gone by 2048, Study Says”. National Geographic News.  November 2, 2006

Williams, Ann. “Alaska’s Thaw Reveals-and Threatens-a Culture’s Artifacts.” National Geographic, National Geographic, 15 Mar. 2017, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/04/artifact-melt-alaska-archaeology-climate-change/.

Featured Image: Photo by Jeremy Goldberg on Unsplash

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