This October, the lodge on Fox Island in the Chesapeake Bay saw its last group of middle school students come and learn about the fragile ecosystem of the Bay. Fox Island is in Virginia but 6 miles from Crisfield, Md. The island is sinking, as the water is slowly rising and lapping at the foundation of the lodge. One reason for this rising water is that the ice cap in the Arctic is melting and so is the ice around Greenland and its glaciers.
In 2016 and 2017, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the wonders of the world, underwent a mass bleaching due to warmer ocean temperatures. Dead coral does not recover. The warming Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico are blamed for the superstorms that the Eastern and Southern coastal areas of the U.S. and Caribbean islands suffered in the past couple years.
In 2017, smoke from forest fires flowed across the North American continent west to east, at first mainly across the Canadian provinces and the northernmost U.S. states. At the end of that summer, large parts of the western states in the U.S. were also on fire and contributing to the giant plume of smoke. The fire season in the U.S. has lengthened by 105 days since 1970s. The area burned yearly has doubled in Canada during the same time frame. Hotter, drier weather creates ideal conditions for wildfires. Thousands of homes go up in flames every year. The health effects for those living for months under such a plume of smoke are substantial.
These are some of the effects of climate change. Ninety-eight percent of scientists believe that the burning of fossil fuel is the cause. In addition, about 9 million people die every year worldwide from pollution related to the burning of fossil fuel.
In Oklahoma, fossil energy in the form of oil has been extracted out of the earth for a long time. Then fracking was initiated on a large scale around 2010. The Oklahoma part of the Barnett field produced more than 10% of the shale gas in the U.S. Oklahoma became the epicenter for extracting gas through vertical drilling as well as sideways drilling. Fluids with hazardous chemicals were being forced into the earth to facilitate the drilling. The resulting poisoned water and air were affecting the surrounding population, and farm animals died. Health regulations related to fracking were defeated by politicians.
In November 2011, the state’s largest earthquake, a 5.7 magnitude earthquake, occurred after a somewhat smaller one had just happened. They were both near large injection wells of fracking fluids. On average today, Oklahoma has two earthquakes per day of above 3.5 magnitudes, many more than what is occurring in California. The voters in Oklahoma are waking up to that they have been the sacrificial lambs of the fossil fuel industry. This could happen in Maryland, if we give fracking a green light.
Why are we putting up with the fossil fuel economy that is so destructive to our earth and to people living near these disasters (what the fossil fuel companies call “human collateral”)? Why are we so heavily subsidizing these industrie,s as well as letting them get tax advantages? The International Monetary Fund estimates that in 2017 $649 billion was spent on cash subsidies and tax incentives in the US. Subsidizing an industry is what you do in socialist countries to prop up, e.g. a needed railroad that loses money. In the last 10 years, the top five oil companies made $900 billion in profits.
Many scientists believe that we may have a window of about 10 years to save the world, as we know it, and to allow all members of society to profit from it. We have to change from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy, as well as cut in half our glorified consumption of things. How this can be done while producing many more well paying jobs will be discussed in the next installment of a “Green New Deal is no laughing matter.”
Lena Gill is a board member of the Talbot County Democratic Forum. She writes from Easton.