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Planet Hugging

Tree hugging is a thing of the past. It is not just about the trees anymore. It is about the air, the ocean, the earth, the ozone, the future. There are new concerns about the environment every day; it is a crisis unlike any other. You must care about the conditions under which the future generations will have to live, you must care about every aspect of the environment on the planet of which we live, and most importantly, you must care about fixing the problems that have already been created instead of simply making "Band-Aid" (Nering 352) solutions for these potential disasters.

However, this is coming from the heart and soul of a former six-year-old who aspired to save the planet and all of Her resources. A six-year-old who marched around the park next to her house on Earth Day alone with a homemade sign protesting pollution until the sun went down, and who is now witnessing the destruction of our planet by none other than those who claim to be working for the future of the world. It is a heart breaking experience. Now with the mind and body of an eighteen-year-old, and more conscious about the way global politics work, this environmentalist's dream is rapidly becoming a universal nightmare. The need for environmental salvation is even more evident now, twelve years later, as new policies and bills are being proposed everyday to tap into the indispensable resources of the planet. The future of the planet resides in our hands.

We were once the future generation of the world, now we are the next generation. We will have to combat different obstacles than our parents did, and their parents did, ones that they did not dream of facing in their lifetime but threaten our well-being. The decisions of one generation impact the future generations. Do you want our children and grandchildren to play in fresh air playground, or toxic waste dumps? The future generations will pay monetarily for the mistakes that are made today as is already occurring with this generation. The increase in oil prices has skyrocketed, with prices as high as "56 bucks a barrel" (Stout). They will also pay in ways we cannot possibly comprehend at this point in time. Every action or inaction that we take in this generation will affect positively or negatively on the welfare of future generations. With a raise in air temperature, due to the increasingly gaping hole in the ozone layer, fertile land will begin to disappear, which will be the cause of the decrease in the cultivation of crops, and therefore create famine. So, how do we completely prevent such tragedies from occurring? At this stage in the world's history, it is impossible to know. However, there are ways to diminish our affects on the planet as a whole, especially when it comes to the emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere and halt the expansion of this hole. If the human race continues at this rate of consumption of natural resources, and emission of pollution, we will kill the planet and any chance of a future for Her.

Bill McKibben, the author of The Environmental Issue from Hell, raises interesting points about the demise of our planet regarding her ability to maintain equilibrium. He expresses the validity of the argument that if we do not take care of the planet now, it will not be here for us to live on for very much longer. The deterioration of the planet at this rate will result in the unfathomable costs of our most prized natural wonders. The consequence of global warming will also come into fruition with the annihilation of marine life. The raise in oceanic temperatures will eradicate coral reef life by mid-century (McKibben 324), and also has begun to take its toll on Arctic animals, such as polar bears, who are "twenty percent scrawnier than they were a decade ago" (324) because there is an elimination of their food source due to the reduction of seals in the area. Seals are leaving the area because the warmer air temperatures is causing the ice to melt and ridding them of habitable space. "All in all, the 21st century seems poised to see extinctions at a rate not observed since the last big asteroid slammed into the planet. But this time the asteroid is us" (325). The depletion of natural forests, by deforestation, will also result in the drastic reduction of species by extinction, and eventually entire ecosystems. In this instance we are consciously exterminating entire species with a single order of lumber.

Another tragedy, as a result of global warming, is occurring that is affecting the human race, and not only the animal kingdom. With the widening of the hole in the ozone layer, which protects our planet from harmful rays of the sun, the heating of the surface of the earth is causing the polar icecaps to melt. This increase of water raises the water levels and floods the land. One such area is Bangladesh, in the Bay of Bengal, when in 1998 the floods from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers were so great that the rice crop cannot be planted (324). As McKibben points out, this disaster could potentially create a nation-wide famine, which would pose a problem for the entire international community. "Global warming is a moral crisis, too, if you place any value on the rest of creation" (324). What are humans doing to cause these self-imposed catastrophes? The answer lies in excessive consumption. Major industrialized nations cause most of the problems for the rest of the world. CO2 emissions from unnecessary entities, such as SUVs, cause the general populace to view pollution as an expected downside to their expected lifestyles. A

t the rate that humans are expending the planet's oil reserves, the estimated period of time left before the oil wells run dry "is considerably less than 100 years" (Nering 352). The supply of oil in the world is not growing; it is a "mirage" (351) as the author of The Mirage of a Growing Fuel Supply, Evar D. Nering, explains. "Calculations also show that if consumption of an energy resource is allowed to grow at a steady 5 percent annual rate, a full doubling of the available supply will not be as effective as reducing that growth rate by half-to 2.5 percent" (352). Halving our consumption of oil may seem like an unrealistic goal, but taking many smaller steps towards the reduction of our usage will eventually lead to a beneficial impact on the planet. Nering goes on to say that "Reducing the growth of consumption means living closer to where we work or play. It means telecommuting. It means controlling population growth. It means shifting to renewable energy sources" (352). The solution to the earth's salvation is not in discovering more oil wells because this is only a short-term solution, or a "Band Aid" (352), but rather in discovering renewable resources that can benefit the planet and future generations. These poignant remarks explain in terms of statistics and logic where we stand in terms of solutions for the betterment of our planet.

However, there are many who would rather view the current circumstances as otherwise, such as the current American senators who are aiming at uncovering a miracle well in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This proposal to drill is contrary to the solution for the survival of our planet, but appears to be a lucrative business proposition for those involved.

Drilling into the land of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would mean degrading the sentimental value that it holds to so many people of not solely the United States, but of the world. Jack Kelly, a reputable writer from Hawaii, weighs the losses and the gains of drilling in the Arctic in his article The Arctic Refuge; The Last Frontier. It is home to diverse ecosystems, breeding grounds for many species, and is altogether a gorgeous expanse of natural beauty. "Imagine multicolored fields of wildflowers as far as the eye can see beneath a backdrop of mountain peaks, under a sky so brilliantly blue it seems almost unreal. Melting snow feeds immense rivers that race down the mountain slopes and then quietly spread out on the coastal plain, eventually making their way to the sea" (Kelly 1).

Now imagine this scene with oil rigs, and disruptive piping; not as aesthetically beautiful. Allowing for the drilling in this area would not necessarily mean an endless supply of "Texas Tea" either, but more along the estimation of a "six months' use in the United States" as determined by the U.S. Geological Survey (Kelly 1). The senators who are in favor of this bill are also claiming that since there is success in Alaska already in the Prudhoe Bay Area, there will be success elsewhere (Kelly 2). It is a contortion of facts by certain senators, and is creating a debate among the Senate. Specifically the two senators from Hawai'i are surprisingly endorsing this bill, though it will impede heavily on the nature of the Arctic and its wildlife, which the Senators Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye from Hawai'i, have always fought for in the past. It is tactics by legislators, such as this, that endorse the continual consumption of the natural resources of the planet, rather than supporting the scientific research needed to discover renewable energy. Though there may be successful drilling in the Prudhoe Bay Area, "the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has determined what might produce enough oil for six months' use in the United States" (Kelly 1). The reason this oil would only last six months is because of the rapid rate of consumption that the United States currently employs, which corroborates Nering's proposition of the necessity to halve the consumption rate of Americans. The Hawaiian Senators are typically environmental activists, but were persuaded to vote in favor of the bill. Their decision was crucial to the splitting of the votes, and will lead to the eventual drilling in the arctic.

Drilling in the Arctic National Reserves and global warming are only two examples of the ominous deterioration of the planet and Her reserves. If drastic measures are not taken immediately then the demise of the planet will be on our shoulders. The danger to our planet caused by humanity's current ignorance will weigh heavily on the future generations. It is imperative that our course of action as responsible human beings be to save the planet. There is a looming necessity to change our actions to become more environmentally sound, and to save our planet from destruction. We must reconsider what our true impact on the earth is and how we can alter our actions, instead of simply waiting until it's a problem for the next generation.

Having written this article as a Freshman at the University of Richmond, I am now a rising Sophomore and looking to continue my studies in Spanish and Business next year. This article is very important to me in that the topic is one that I have cared about my entire life and have struggled with getting other people to understand my passion about the environment. I believe it is very important to voice your opinion about topics that concern us, and that is why I wrote and researched this article.

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