Opinion: Our actions today can help save the planet tomorrow
Have you ever wondered why a father polar bear is so protective of his young? Or the reason why an orangutan might start grooming a relative's hair? How about the way a mother seabird spits out her own food to feed her babies while they grow in the nest?
All these animals have a few things in common. For one, they are families, and groups of them make up communities, just like groups of humans in a city do. They are beloved animals, and a key part of the glorious variety of life that makes our earth so beautiful and special.
Unfortunately, all three of these kinds of animals have another thing in common. They are all in danger of disappearing forever, of becoming extinct.
Imagine losing your home to a raging fire. You have lost everything — your shelter, your belongings and even some of your family. What do you do? Where do you go? Will your quality of life ever be the same?
We humans would be able to restart our lives after suffering such a loss.
Unfortunately for the animals mentioned above, the same is not true. The quality of their life would never be the same again if the places they lived in were destroyed. All have very particular needs, and require special living conditions that cannot easily be recreated.
Take polar bears, for example. To live suitably, they need the ice caps and frozen temperatures found in Antarctica. Sadly, it is difficult to recreate those conditions, which are fast vanishing from the planet. They are disappearing due to the steady rise in average temperatures known as global warming, or climate change.
What Causes Global Warming?
We humans are responsible for global warming. It is primarily caused by two things.
One is the buildup in the atmosphere of heat-trapping gases, which are released when fuels like coal and gas are burned to power our cars and run our factories. Such gases are known as greenhouse gases. The other main cause of global warming is the widespread cutting down of trees, known as deforestation.
As the most advanced species occupying the planet, we humans have a duty to both save and protect our fellow animal friends. We must stop climate change before it is too late.
When we burn gas in our cars and coal in our trains, carbon dioxide (CO2) is released. It ends up trapped by the earth’s atmosphere, where it stores heat from the sun. Today’s levels of CO2 are 40 percent higher than they have ever been over the past 800,000 years. As a result, temperatures around the world have been rapidly rising.
Deforestation Causes Greenhouse Gas Levels To Go Up
Furthermore, deforestation increases greenhouse gas levels as well, because trees naturally absorb CO2. When a tree is removed, there is less CO2 being absorbed and more heat ends up being trapped in the atmosphere.
How does all this apply to our animal friends?
Animals need the place they live in to be a certain average temperature. Regrettably, global warming involves extreme temperature change, so animals' surroundings are changing quickly.
Take the polar bear we were talking about earlier. Melting arctic ice removes their hunting grounds, so there is now less food to be found. Even their homes are disappearing as glaciers that have existed for hundreds of thousands of years melt away.
In addition to land animals, fish are also affected by global warming. Rising water temperatures are causing the death of fish like salmon and trout, which need freezing waters to live.
These are just two examples of the damage caused by global warming; there are countless others.
The Effects Of Climate Change
Climate change does not only affect the weather, it also affects water levels and the water supply. Melting ice caps are causing ocean levels to rise, which leads to flooding and disappearing shorelines. At the same time, hotter weather is drying out lakes and rivers in many parts of the world. Many places are starting to run out of water, making it more difficult to grow the crops we all need to live.
These are huge problems, and it can seem impossible for any one person to make a difference. Yet, there are many small things we can all do to help.
We can be careful not to waste water. We can share cars, use buses more often and ride our bikes or walk whenever possible. These are just a few of the many ways to help and to get involved.
If we all pull together, we can save our planet, for us and for our animal friends.
Kevin Quinn is an American actor known for his starring role in the Disney Channel original series, "Bunk'd."