The Last Time We Passed This Way / by Louisa Ulrich-Verderber


252 million years ago, 95% of the species on the planet went extinct. This was the largest of five massive extinctions in Earth's history, and man-made polution, natural habitat destruction, and population growth are creating the sixth. 

What has to happen to get us to change?

Sea levels are rising, weather patterns are becoming deadly, species are vanishing forever, climate change refugees are on the rise. 

Here's a video made by the very reputable Scientific American:

WOW. Just wow. To be honest it really saddens me that humanity has managed to mess up our planet so much, in such a small amount of time.  It’s true that all life changes and leaves its mark on its environment, but such drastic and negative change on the scale humans have created is frightening, maybe irreversible, and at the very least, shameful.


Let's first deal with this "defense" of trashing our environment by those who say, "Oh well, you know the earth has gone through many cycles of warming and cooling, and we're still here to tell about it!"

Every time I hear some "know it all" us that excuse, I find it hard to believe they have more than a 9th grade education. If you weren't sleeping through Earth Science class, you will remember that WE didn't even exist the last time the earth went through a major climate upheaval. 

Homo sapiens have only been around for a few million years and the last climate crisis was 65 million years ago.  To add insult to injury, that argument bypasses the fact that during major shifts in the earth's climate 50% to 92% of life disappeared entirely. Why would anyone think our fragile human existence would be spared and we would be among the survivors? After most mass extinctions, the only remaining life are tiny creatures with the survival capacity of cockroaches and rats. Humans are not that guy! 

To get specific, earth does go through cycles of warming and cooling, but anyone who’s actually done their homework can tell you that in the past hundred years CO2 levels have skyrocketed, sea levels have risen, deserts have expanded, supplies of fresh water have dried up and populations have grown at alarming rates. If you remember nothing from this article except that next fact, THAT is enough:

The last time CO2 levels rose above 400ppm, 97% of species on earth died. That rise took place over 25,000 years. The recent rise has taken only 100 years.

Here is a passage from a page on the NASA website that is so moving, I just HAD to paste here for you:

“NASA scientists react to 400 ppm carbon milestone”

“The global concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – the primary driver of recent climate change – has reached 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in recorded history, according to data from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

Since 1958, the Mauna Loa Observatory has been gathering data on how much carbon dioxide is in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide has increased by about 24 percent since the beginning of this record. (Source: NOAA)

We rounded up a few scientists here at NASA and asked them what passing 400 ppm means to them. 

Current [atmospheric] CO2 values are more than 100 ppm higher than at any time in the last one million years (and maybe higher than any time in the last 25 million years). This new record represents an increase of 85 ppm in the 55 years since David Keeling began making measurements at Mauna Loa. Even more disturbing than the magnitude of this change is the fact that the rate of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing over the last few decades, meaning that future increases will happen faster. When averaged over 55 years, the increase has been about 1.55 ppm CO2 per year. However, the most recent data suggest that the annual increase is more than 2.75 ppm CO2 per year.

These increases in atmospheric CO2 are causing real, significant changes in the Earth system now, not in some distant future climate, and will continue to be felt for centuries to come. We can study these impacts to better understand the way the Earth will respond to future changes, but unless serious actions are taken immediately, we risk the next threshold being a point of no return in mankind's unintended global-scale geoengineering experiment.

– Dr. Charles Miller

Researcher specializing in the remote sensing of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; Principal investigator, Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) mission

We are a society that has inadvertently chosen the double-black diamond run without having learned to ski first. It will be a bumpy ride.

– Dr. Gavin Schmidt

Climatologist and climate modeler at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies”

If we want humanity to survive the next hundred years we’ve got to change. And that means an effort from everyone. You, your mother, the guy who runs the local general store, the florist, world leaders and siblings – everybody. Out in the world there are many non-profits, foundations, and companies developing devices, systems, and running campaigns to try and change the way we treat the environment, and in small parts that has to be everybody’s goal too. Habits are hard to change, but sometimes we have no choice in the matter if we want to save something we value.