Western States is known for its sizzling heat. This weekend should be no exception.
Pertinent timing to talk about IT, especially considering hot temperatures across the globe have received increased attention recently.
Surprise! Repeated days of over 95F heat cause devastating and deadly impacts. I’m not talking about ultrarunning.
IT is climate change. IT is the most important reason I run. Talking about the impacts of climate change, about what’s it’s doing to our Earth, to our home, needs more traction. I don’t care if people think they know it all already. IT is constantly growing in magnitude. Thus our conversations about it, about what we can do should follow suit.
For many of us who don’t live in coastal communities or at high elevations, we won’t see extreme climate change impacts for a few more decades. This isn’t the case for people who live in tropical coastal communities or in desert environments, like Sub-Sahara Africa.
“As the coastal cities of Africa and Asia expand, many of their poorest residents are being pushed to the edges of livable land and into the most dangerous zones for climate change. Their informal settlements cling to riverbanks and cluster in low-lying areas with poor drainage, few public services, and no protection from storm surges, sea-level rise, and flooding.”
After studying coral ecology in places like Bermuda and Palau and living in coastal southern Thailand for over year, these communities immediately come to mind when I think climate change.
I envision homes slowly creeping underwater. Stilts and sand bags can only do so much. I envision potable water becoming more and more difficult to access. I think of the increasing severity of tropical storms, which is one of the most frightening and deadly impacts of climate change.
Remember Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit the Philippines, Vietnam, Micronesia and Southern China in 2013?
The death toll was between 6,300 to over 10,000, in the Philippines alone. Almost $3 billion in damages resulted. If this doesn’t seem like a lot, remember that the GDP per capita of the Philippines is under $3,000. In the U.S. it’s $55,800.
From a humanitarian perspective, it is horrifically unfair that poor, coastal, developing countries will be disproportionately affected by climate change. They will consistently have to deal with storms like Haiyan. Thousands of people will die. Community repair is devastatingly expensive without developed infrastructure.
Concerning Sub-Sahara Africa, food scarcity is the number one problem. If a 1.2-2 degree C increase in temperature happens, farmers will lose 40-80% of cropland for maize, millet and sorghum. This means hungry people.
These reasons, among others, are why I find it morally wrong for a country like the U.S. to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement. As one of the largest emitters of total carbon dioxide and per capital, the U.S. plays a critical role in the future of climate change mitigation.
WHAT CAN WE DO
Now I could go on and on. But I won’t. I wholly admit that I am not doing anything other than trying, on a daily basis, to lower my carbon impacts and to heighten the impact of conversations about global climate change.
Even such small actions have an impact.
Whether it’s choosing to eat less or no meat, biking and using public transportation as often as possible, saying no to anything new I don’t need, committing to never buying a new car, voting for government officials that have track records of caring about our climate. Telling current public officials how much climate change mitigation means to me. All of this makes a difference.
Since November of last year, I’ve never felt so woke to the power of an individual. I’m not just talking about the frightening type of power. I’m also referring to the power of people like you and me.
We have to believe that we can, in fact, impact a family living in Micronesia that’s preparing to move their house inland due to storms and sea level rise, by taking an extra hour to research which of our Senators care about climate change.
Look up if your state has Senators up for reelection in 2018. What are the incumbents’ take on climate change mitigation; look up their take on the protection of public lands, while you’re at it. Colorado doesn’t have Senators up for reelection until 2020. That’s when Republican Cory Gardner comes up for re-election. Now a simple google search tells me that Gardner doesn’t know if he believes humans are causing climate change. He is also pro-Keystone Pipeline and pro-fracking.
What does this mean for global climate change? Nothing good. I will not be voting for Senator Gardner’s re-election in 2020. I strongly urge you all to look up the same issues, or any issues you care about for your state’s Senators. Here’s a list of contested Democratic seats you should be aware of.
The same goes for governors, i.e. gubernatorial elections, and representatives, i.e. house elections. Next round of those is also 2018. Look up your state. Get excited to exercise your vote!
To come full circle, I was recently interviewed by a graduate student performing research on the mindset of endurance athletes. He asked one particularly interesting question: “Do you fall into a state of depression or darkness after a big event like a 100-mile race?” Now in theory, I would like to think I’m as mentally committed as the Olympic athletes who can’t think of anything but that their one event, or in my case, of Western States. That there is nothing afterwards.
But, that is far from the case. I’m already thinking about the importance of the 2018 elections! Sure next week, I likely will have trouble walking and won’t be able to stop eating. But that’s just a tiny piece in this big puzzle of running and of being concerned, active humans. I look forward to my races to push myself, but also to shed light on the importance of our power as individuals. Running is very powerful, as is voting.