Christmas and New Year’s will be celebrated in the coming days with all the fanfare of holidays past, albeit without the flash and boom of aerial fireworks. That’s because the Uvalde County Commissioners Court voted on Dec. 9, and rightly so, to enact a burn ban and a prohibition on select fireworks due to the ongoing drought.
Just how dry is it? For the year to date, which is rapidly coming to an end, we have received 17.77 inches of rain or about 30 percent less than the 114-year average of 24.05 inches. That is significant, especially considering that since late summer Mother Nature has turned off the spigot almost entirely. In the four months since Sept. 1, rainfall in the city has totaled less than 5 inches.
Of course drought and Southwest Texas go together like ticks on a dog. The dogs aren’t particularly happy about the relationship but short of dying there is little they can do. We, on the other hand, have options. If climate change science is correct – and the vast majority of scientists attest to the awful repercussions of an ever hotter planet – how can we not act?
If we choose to do nothings, sea levels will continue to rise (the recent video footage of historic St. Mark’s Square in Venice under five feet of water is more than disturbing), extreme weather events will become even more devastating (killer wild fires and unprecedented hurricanes) and the disappearance of animal species will accelerate.
The last event may be the most telling because animals can’t evolve fast enough to counter a rapidly changing climate. Already 90 percent of the ocean’s large predator fish like tuna, swordfish, marlin and sharks are gone, as well as half of the coral reefs, which are home to countless species of aquatic life. Birds are also disappearing at a terrifying rate. Over the last half century, the numbers in the U.S. and Canada have declined by 3 billion or 29 percent. In our hyper-industrialized cocoons, we lose sight of the fact that without nature, this beautiful blue marble we call Earth cannot be sustained.
Naturally we need for our government to take immediate and corrective action. Foremost we must reduce emissions from the burning of carbon fuels, eliminate the pollutants, including plastic, that are clogging our rivers and oceans and take legal action against those who violate environmental protections.
At home, we should use our vehicles judiciously (every gallon of fuel burned equates to 20 pounds of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere) and save energy in our houses and offices by adjusting the thermostat; reduce, reuse and recycle; eat a low carbon diet; preserve our forests and plant trees; and insist that our government follow a similar path.
Apollo astronaut James B. Irwin captured the fragility and uniqueness of our planet from space: “As we got further and further away, it [the Earth] diminished in size. Finally it shrank to the size of a marble, the most beautiful you can imagine. That beautiful, warm, living object looked so fragile, so delicate, that if you touched it with with a finger it would crumble and fall apart. Seeing this has to change a man.”
How can we not act?