Thirty One and Extinct
When I get overwhelmed I like to escape the concrete jungle of the city. My favourite place on earth is home, a secluded part of Central Otago, that none of my Dunedin friends have ever heard of, called Cambrian. I grew up surrounded by the rolling St Bathans and Hawkdun mountain ranges, in the dry yellow tussock covered hills and under the willow trees along the river banks. It sounds a bit like the fantasy world created in Tolkien’s novels, minus the hobbit holes. And it is. In fact they filmed sections of the films there. That fantasy is my home.
So when it comes to climate change, it is a disaster for a kid like me. While it isn’t affecting my little bubble of the world yet, it will at the rate we are going. Without serious consideration from the human race and what we are doing to our precious planet, we will be inevitably doomed.
The problem is that humans are selfish. In fact I remember an influential moment in my life when I was around the age of ten. We were at a museum and I approached a box that said ‘Open to see the world’s worst predator’. Of course you probably see it coming, but I was a naive child from the country. Opening the box to be faced with a reflection of myself made my heart sink. I remember being devastated.
We tend to focus on smaller, easier tasks targeted towards change, such as the new movements to ban single use plastics. I jumped on that bandwagon. I always take reusable bags to the supermarket and try to limit items packaged in plastic. It’s easy to do these little things and of course they are important. However we tend to be ignorant of the larger issues, things normal members of society have little power to change alone. Biodiversity loss, Nitrogen flows and Climate Change are three areas that are becoming a threat, that come under ‘Planetary Boundaries’, a concept created in 2009. The planet can actually be shifted, through exceeding the limit of biodiversity loss and climate change, into states that would negatively impact life on earth, with many areas of the world becoming uninhabitable, no longer having the capacity for seven billion human beings to survive.
Plastic is an issue. I am not debating that. Currently the world has 9.2 billion tons of dumped plastic waste to try get rid of. We are engulfed in the horrific stuff. And this doesn’t even include the plastic polluting our waters. University of Georgia engineering Professor Jenna Jambeck, estimated that coastal regions see a whopping 14 million tons of plastic wash up on the shores. Ocean pollution is a catastrophe. Sea life is being heavily affected by the fact that humans seem to believe it’s necessary to drink from a straw when ordering a drink out. All that straw is truly good for, is a device to fiddle with between your fingers. Later that straw is discarded yet people never ask where the straw will go. It’s one of the top ten plastics collected from the ocean. So it’s no surprise that one case recently found 1000 pieces of plastic in a sea turtles stomach. In total, 700 different marine species have been harmed.
However it isn’t ocean plastic that is going to send the world into a state we can’t come back from. Plastic pollution currently doesn’t require ‘remaking our entire energy system’ as Laura Parker, writer for National Geographic, states. I saw some extremely disheartening research recently that suggested that if we don’t stop emitting fossil fuels into the environment within the next eleven years, our planet will be irreversibly damaged, and beyond saving. According to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, by 2030 it is assumed that we will eventually become extinct. I don’t know about you but by 2030 I will be thirty one. At thirty one, I want to have a career or to be teaching my kids about the world. I don’t want to be extinct.
I was a typical farm kid who grew up outside. My favourite pastime was to build huts beside the creek in the backyard, or in the pine tree forest beside our old farmhouse. I would collect sticks and make Teepee structures. Summer was always my favourite season. Mum used to make us slushies out of the apricot preserve juice and my brother and I would walk down the dusty driveway, to the other side of the road, where we had an epic river hole (minus the water spiders which were slightly concerning for two kids with arachnophobia). Summer in Central Otago was a dream. The caramel coloured landscape, dry and burning in the 30 degree heat. Days spent eating plums and nectarines by the lake.
I live in one of the most beautiful corners of the world, and I don’t want to lose that. Think about the generations that will never get to see our beautiful world as you have, if we don’t take action. We have everything to lose. Isn’t that worth fighting for?
I feel a rising panic at the fear that my paradise will be stripped away from me. I feel a rising panic at the fear that my future children won’t have the childhood I had, that I won’t be able
to recreate that beauty because it will no longer be there. I fear that at the rate we are going my children will never exist because we will no longer exist.
By Janie Shaw