I've heard the stories. Rivers withering away to nothing in different lands, polar ice caps melting in the Arctic ocean, the earth as we know it slowly dying under our destructive hand. I've seen the pictures of devastation because of natural disasters that popped up due to our lack of caring, and I've read the news stories over how the ocean life is perishing not only from pollution, but from rising temperatures in the water. Climate change has had such a huge impact on our society, and if we don't do anything about it, it's only going to get worse.
While I do passionately care about trying to fix the problems the world faces, there were times where it seemed so distant, as if it were happening in someone else's life. The ways global warming affected me and the place I lived were subtle for the most part. I live in the MIdwest, where we are subject to extreme temperatures, whether it be scorching heat in the summer or bitter cold in the winter. It was difficult to believe it was getting worse over the years, when I am used to rougher weather anyway. That is, until the powerful damages of climate change knocked on my back door.
When the snow fell on the ground this winter, I was ecstatic. In my eyes, a winter without snow is no winter at all. I mean, why suffer through the cold if you don't get to have snowball fights with your friends, or admire a small snowman you built while relaxing inside drinking hot cocoa? But as the months turned from February to March with still no sign of the cold winter letting up, everyone just wished for spring already. I was waiting for the weather to turn, hoping the snow would hurry up and melt, letting flowers bloom and trees grow bright green leaves on bare branches again. A time where I could trade my heavy winter coat and gloves for a light jacket and an umbrella.
Rain soon thundered down, bringing the slight taste of spring that I was hoping for, but the effect did much more harm than good. The ground had not thawed out from the bitter cold of winter. The falling rain couldn’t be absorbed into the soil, and with nowhere else to go, built up on land.
We had gotten some floods before, but those were never terrible. Our rivers rose more than they normally did, and sometimes small fields flooded. Water has found its way into our basement more times than I care to remember, leaving us with the long process of drying the carpet the rain left damp and foul-smelling.
The rain that poured down this time was different, however. The ground was heavily frozen, so any water that fell was trapped above ground, and it never stopped raining. It poured down like a waterfall, raising rivers so high some washes out bridges. So many roads were underwater many cities became islands, including the city my sister was in, visiting her best friend. She had to stay in the city for an extra day because it was impossible for her to leave. When she could come home, we had to take a different route that took two hours longer because the road we normally took had been wiped out by the flooded river. It was so badly damaged, it looked like it was caught in a severe earthquake.
Roads weren’t the only things that were damaged. Houses were swept away like they were made out of paper, displacing hundreds of poor families and causing billions of dollars in damages. Fields that would have normally been growing crops such as corn and soybeans were now lakes of muddy water. Planting seeds had to be postponed until farmers could see the ground again.
Even now, two months later, some places are still underwater. This is especially hard on farms who still can’t plant their crops. Harvest time, set for the fall, will fall back later than expected and many crops won’t be ready for harvest at all, meaning their won’t be much locally grown food in grocery stores this year.
Suddenly, climate change wasn't just something I heard about on the news. It was right in front of my eyes. It isn't just a problem that other people are forced to deal with. It is a mighty force we all have to open our eyes to, or the results will continuously become more catastrophic.
As I pass by water filled farms and displaced debris that used to make up houses now demolished from the rushing waters, I get angry. We've sat and done nothing for too long. Many people have gotten too absorbed into their own little worlds to pay attention to the big one we all live on. I was guilty of this, I admit, but not anymore.
It is not too late to start making a difference. Together, we can slow the treacherous climb of global warming, and start repairing our earth. In order to keep the casualties down, we need to rise up, and start preserving the only planet we have.