When I visit national parks today, I see places of divinity in peril where catastrophic changes are happening at rapid-fire speed on a grand scale, where millions of years of evolution are being trifled with casually rather like an accidental splitting of atoms. I find myself wondering a lot lately when we will hear the irreversible boom, the moment we recognize our own death, the flash we see when we realize what we’ve done can’t be taken back.
In short, America’s national parks are facing cataclysmic change. Much of that change, which is occurring on an ecosystem level, is perpetrated by our rapidly changing climate.
What’s unique about our changing climate today is that the speed of change has accelerated to a startling degree. During the retreating ice age of twenty thousand to ten thousand years ago, temperatures soared about 9 degrees Fahrenheit in a ten-thousand-year stretch, exhibiting a seemingly rapid yet natural shift in climate. By comparison, the climatic changes unfurling on earth now are happening about thirty times faster—leaving wildlife, plants, butterflies, krill, and migrating birds scrambling to adjust. It is this very speed and ferocity of change that has scientists gravely concerned, for it is anything but natural.
Though I am concerned about the changes happening in our natural world, the biggest losers in the climate change travesty that is unfolding all around us will likely be ourselves. Species that cannot adjust or evolve will be shaken off this planet like a cloud of irritating fleas so energy systems can rebalance, restoring harmony to God’s creation.
Saving ourselves, along with our most sacred landscapes, will require action. We are the generation that can become the hope and light of the world but to save these unique ecosystems, we must lower our carbon dioxide emissions now.