The Patterson Theorem: Clean house or find a new one

Christiaan Patterson

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When we hide under headphones and follow wherever technology takes us, it’s easy to get caught up in the façade our society has over the future of our planet and where we as a species are going.

The brutal truth is our atmosphere and oceans are in dire trouble and unless we put aside our selfish ways now, horrendous consequences soon will follow.

Since the start of the industrial revolution, our oceans have gradually been filling with poison we have dumped both from land and air.

At first, it was gradual with the acidity slowly increasing and marine life able to adapt. But now, levels are dangerous and sea life is literally being eaten away by the amounts of carbonic acid, a result of carbon dioxide mixing with seawater.

In the atmosphere, a measurement of 350 parts per million of CO2 is the safe upper limit for humans. But since 1988, we have been climbing past that threshold and as of March 2011, we have reached 392.4ppm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory. To put this into perspective, just two years ago we were at 388ppm.

It’s important to understand how much CO2 is being pumped into the air because it plays a huge role in the amount which sinks into the ocean. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been collecting data of the amount of CO2 being compressed and dispersed near the sea floor.

The IPCC’s website states about 25 percent of all CO2 and scientists projected we would be able to use the ocean as storage for another 40 years until other alternatives could be met.

Unfortunately, nature doesn’t obey rules set by humans.

CO2 is not the only pollutant endangering our oceans; human sewage in developing worlds and animal waste mixed with fertilizer in the U.S. and Europe are other culprits. Runoff of synthetic fertilizer in the U.S. has created a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico about the size of New Jersey where there is too little oxygen in the water to sustain life.

With all these problems plaguing our lives and future generations, we have to ask what we do about it.

Popular Science addressed possible answers in their latest issue and emphasized the urgency of the problem. We cannot wait any longer.

The government has been toying with the idea of initiating a carbon tax, mainly for businesses, which would charge $12.50 per ton of CO2 emitted. Hitting the pocket book is the best way to force corporations to cut down on emissions or invest in alternative energy sources.

Other fixes are curbing the amount of seafood we eat, using organic fertilizers on farmland, and increasing public knowledge. Ignorance is not bliss and being aware of what is taking place on our planet is vital to its survival and our own.

We live in a time when the debate on climate change and its effects are not whether it’s happening but rather, why. Regardless of petty political arguments, if we want a comfortable place to live, we have to take heed of that which is happening around us right now.