Who wants to go to Alaska? Not me, I’m not a fan of cold, dark, and dreary. Everyone else I know though is: my daughter, my in-laws, my friends. Keith worked as a nurse on various cruise ships and of the many places he’d traveled to in in the world, Alaska, he said, was the most beautiful. Good thing because that is where my husband and I are headed to this week, obviously his idea more than mine. The weather is supposed to be good in September—except for the fires. And smoke. Forget I ever said anything about cold, dark, and dreary.
Alaska has been hit by global warming.
Still, there’s a question as to whether Alaskans think that’s the problem. My daughter commented that on her family’s visit to the Great Alone, they stopped at various natural and scenic areas along the way, listening to park rangers and guides address questions about melting glaciers. She asked one guide what was behind the glacial melt but couldn’t get a straight answer. The guide didn’t want to discuss the human causes behind climate change: our fossil fuel and carbon consumption.
I was surprised to hear this. Public employees, with presumably some kind of science and naturalist understanding, were shying away from a full-bodied explanation of the topic.
Maybe Alaskans aren’t really in denial. Maybe the tourist industry asks their guides and interpreters to limit commentary on melting glaciers.
It’s not only too political (whoever turned climate change into a political issue should be forced to fight fire on the Kenai Peninsula), but also, consider their audience: gas-guzzling tourists flying, boating, and driving to the remote northern reaches of our continent for entertainment and pleasure.
My hand is up, of course. We’re guilty, my husband and I—or going to be this week. But wait. It’s not simply that I’m a carbon hypocrite and wedded to the leisure lifestyle of the retired. It’s that I’ve read the science and know that though I nobly recycle, support green energy, and fly sparingly—our climate is still expected to heat up regardless.
Richard Rood, professor of climate and space science at University of Michigan says we’re feeling the effects of a warming climate already, with an average temperature just one centigrade higher than normal (online at The Conversation, July 2017). Rood says we can expect it to get a lot hotter, at least 4-5 degrees hotter., According to Rood it will take hundreds of years to rid us of all of the atmospheric carbon accumulated since the Industrial Revolution. He also says though, whatever efforts we make to go green will help slow down global warming.
The important thing is to limit the threat to plant, animal, and even human life. To limit extinction. As I write this last sentence I’m reminded of a young woman I taught years ago at Boise State University. We were talking about ways teachers can get junior high students to read their science textbook, when this young lady raised her hand.
“I don’t get what the big deal is with all this global warming stuff,” she said.
I didn’t want to mention the “extinction” word then. At the time, it seemed like overkill. So I talked about rising seas and coastal flooding instead. I never dreamed of suggesting fires in frigid, wet Alaska.
Climate change is a complex subject, no doubt, and even more importantly, we don’t really have a solution to the problem. But we can vote. We can vote in support of candidates who are at least willing to confront the issue. Having said that, a gentle reminder folks: there’s an election next year!
mage Credit: Map of Alaskan fires Image Credit: Glaciers melting