Humans are Earth cancer.
Since this deadly disease took the life of my mother when I was 16, it isn't a statement I make lightly. We consume, discard and repeat, all while decimating the very resources that have kept us alive. We do this all while ignoring any warning signs that show us that continuing this behavior will ultimately lead to our demise. Unfortunately, if you look at recent history and couple it with the numbers released by the scientific community this century, you’ll see that the outcome is grim at best.
Starting on a local level, we’ve begun to feel the repercussions of our actions.
If you’ve been keeping an eye on the environmental news of the Centennial State, you’ll know that a main headline-grabber this year has been the Colorado River. The source of this attention comes from the fact that the federal government is about to get involved in completely overhauling the amount of water that is redistributed from the river to the states who utilize this natural resource both down- and upstream. These include New Mexico, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Nevada.
In early April this year, the Biden administration released a highly anticipated analysis of the Colorado River crisis that paints a pretty dire picture. Decades of overuse, combined with years of drought worsened by the climate crisis, have spurred a sharp drop in water levels in recent years at Lakes Mead and Powell, the nation’s largest reservoirs that power Hoover and Glen Canyon and provide water for drinking and agriculture to millions.
Officials worry the water may one day be too low to turn the turbines in the lakes that generate electricity or drop so far that it won’t be able to reach the intake valves that flow out into the river. If that happens, an event known as a “dead pool” would occur—this is when water wouldn’t flow downstream to southern states at all, and the river would effectively stop.
In the draft analysis, the US Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation offers two different scenarios for how to slash water usage should the levels in Lakes Mead and Powell continue to plummet, with the immediate goal of keeping enough Colorado River flowing through the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams to supply hydroelectric power to hundreds of thousands of customers.
In both cases, the cuts would be massive.
States, farms, and tribes could be forced to cut nearly 2.1 million more acre-feet of their Colorado River usage in 2024. That is roughly 684 billion gallons, nearly equivalent to what the entire state of Arizona was expected to use from the river this year alone.
Yet, this solution is going to address only one of the aforementioned culprits that caused this problem in the first place: overuse. It isn’t going to fix the issue of drought caused by climate change; it’s a band-aid.
Oddly enough, it seems that another state with a massive ecological disaster on its hands has decided to go the route of using a band-aid as well to try and solve a nearly unsolvable dilemma.
I recently wrote an article about how the Great Salt Lake is going to be dry within roughly five years and how if it did evaporate, the levels of toxic dust that would be released could directly impact those who live on Colorado’s western border. It seems that those with power in Utah are readers of Rooster Magazine because shortly after that article was published, some steps were taken to address the issue … in the most dip-ass way imaginable.
Beginning in early May, the Weber Basin Water Conservancy District used its “flood rights” over four weeks, and in total delivered 71.6 billion gallons of water taken from various upstream locations to the Great Salt Lake.
This will help extend the amount of time the giant lake has before it completely evaporates. But again, like with the issues surrounding the Colorado River, this is just a two-pronged band-aid. In reality, it’s playing “water whack-a-mole” and stealing from Paul to pay Peter. Eventually, if this method is used for future prevention, it’s going to cause other environmental issues in the areas where the water is being sourced.
The second issue with these methods is that they don’t stop the systemic problem: manmade climate change. Sadly, it seems we’re not alone as a nation, and the methods being implemented worldwide to fight this self-imposed scourge have also fallen short.
We know from reports that an environmental collapse is just a waiting game at this point. In 2022, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report stating that by 2050 the oceans will have more plastic in them than fish. And later that year, Greenpeace added an even darker element to the IAEA report when they released a study showing the amount of plastic that is actually being recycled in the US is only at about 5%. With this constant barrage of plastics being released into our water, the death of our oceans is guaranteed.
But these statistics only prove that our water is going to be irreparably harmed. Thankfully humans, as a species, aren’t that reliant on this substance in any major way … right?
Sarcasm aside, it’s important to note that when it comes to the bigger picture, the awaiting catastrophe we’re facing with our levels of water pollution is only the tip of the (melting) iceberg.
Back in 2009, a large group of scientists identified nine limits that humans should not cross if they want the earth to remain hospitable to civilization. These included, among others, the availability of fresh water, the conservation of natural areas, pollution levels, the ozone layer, and of course, climate change. Now, for the first time, a new report just published in the journal Nature quantifies the thresholds for each of these problems that should not be exceeded for the Earth’s system to be safe. In addition to figuring out the amounts of these thresholds, the report also shows that seven of these thresholds have already been crossed in all or large swaths of the planet.
Our climate crisis is clearly a runaway train that has no intention of stopping.
Of course, I know that there will be those who point to things like the historic Paris Climate Agreement as a means to show that there is indeed a conductor at the helm of this locomotive and the breaks are being applied as we speak.
However, I’m not sold on the idea that something like the Paris Climate Agreement is going to work. Especially since we already tried that in the 90s under the name of the Kyoto Protocol.
The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997 and entered into force in 2005. Signed by 192 nations, it was the first legally binding climate treaty. It required developed countries to reduce emissions by an average of 5% below 1990 levels and established a system to monitor countries’ progress. Though it held many of the same climate-saving metrics we would see in the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol had three major issues.
First, the treaty did not compel developing countries, including major carbon emitters China and India, to take action. The second problem for Kyoto came when the United States signed the agreement in 1998, but then never ratified it and later withdrew its signature. Thankfully, both of these issues were rectified by each nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement—though this was mainly due to the level of criticism brought about by the world stage, and not because it was the “right thing to do.”
The last issue Kyoto had which led to its failure—and one that I feel will ultimately cause the Paris Agreement from being successful—comes from a study released by National Geographic stating, “Because of its lack of worldwide support, the Kyoto Protocol has been limited in its success: greenhouse gas output has increased since 1997, not decreased.” Since ex-President Trump pulled us from the Paris Treaty during his presidency, all while Biden put us right back in it, it shows that this lack of support is still present in the United States … depending on whoever is in charge.
We have to accept reality. By the year 2100, the environment of the Earth is going to be hanging by a thread. We need to start looking at the future of humanity with more of a survivalist mentality, as opposed to figuring out ways to maintain our way of life as we understand it and the creature comforts we currently take for granted. To be honest, at this current pace of Earth’s deterioration, there are only two options.
The first is that we hope "El Douché" Elon Musk can build some kind of bio-dome on the Moon and find a way to successfully transport large amounts of humans there as a way to restart humanity. Since I’m a realist, I'm not going to hedge my bets on this taking place. Therefore, I look at option number two: we figure a way to GMO the shit out of our food until we can sustain a large amount of human life in a small area of farmable space.
Because the globe keeps warming, water levels will eventually rise to overtake major cities. Once this does, tens of millions of people (conservative estimate) from major coastal cities—Miami, all of New York’s five boroughs, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, just to name a few—are going to be displaced. This will cause a mass migration inward to any available land; meaning the “fly-over” zones of America will see a major influx of new citizens.
States like Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and even Colorado will see population explosions. What makes this situation even more taxing comes from the reduction of the farmable area that is going to occur with the amount of land these migrants are going to need just to live their daily lives. This is why we need to start investing in GMOs as of yesterday.
The numbers show that the increase of Earth’s heat and other contributing factors to environmental damage isn’t going to slow down any time soon. As a species, we need to learn to grow the most amount of food in the smallest amount of space. This is where everyone’s favorite scientist Bill Nye comes into play; he agrees with this idea.
In his Netflix series “Bill Nye Saves The World,” he made his feelings on the matter of genetically modified foods crystal clear, "I believe the advantages of genetically modified crops outweigh the downsides.” He continued, "GM crops are a tool; not the only tool. As we expand our cities, delete our water supplies, and cause our planet to warm, we're losing farmable land. And that means we need every tool we can get our hands on."
He’s right. Over the next 75 years, our planet is going to change drastically, and at some point, the bill is going to be due. And when Mother Earth comes calling for payment, it’s going to come at a price to all of humanity collectively. And from the examples given by both Utah and the federal government above when it comes to handling a massive ecological disaster, unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a band-aid big enough to cover the entirety of humanity’s ass.