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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Killing our oceans with carbon: Why are people celebrating?

Then God said: Let the water teem with an abundance of living creatures, and on the earth let birds fly beneath the dome of the sky. God created the great sea monsters and all kinds of crawling living creatures with which the water teems, and all kinds of winged birds. God saw that it was good, and God blessed them, saying: Be fertile, multiply, and fill the water of the seas; and let the birds multiply on the earth. Evening came, and morning followed—the fifth day. (Genesis 1:20-23)

According to a new report, the world's oceans are apparently under greater strain from acidification than had been thought. This could affect the very existence of creatures such as shellfish, which rely on specific water chemistry for the growth of their shells.

From the report by researchers at Columbia University, we read this:
The world’s oceans may be turning acidic faster today from human carbon emissions than they did during four major extinctions in the last 300 million years, when natural pulses of carbon sent global temperatures soaring, says a new study in Science. The study is the first of its kind to survey the geologic record for evidence of ocean acidification over this vast time period.

“What we’re doing today really stands out,” said lead author Bärbel Hönisch, a paleoceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We know that life during past ocean acidification events was not wiped out—new species evolved to replace those that died off. But if industrial carbon emissions continue at the current pace, we may lose organisms we care about—coral reefs, oysters, salmon.”
You can read the whole piece for yourself, and I suggest you do. Once again, science is showing us that natural laws exist and we tweak them at our peril—much like the tweaking of moral laws comes at our peril, but that’s a discussion for another post.

For now, I want to hold this scientific bombshell before you and ask, why do some people find such news a cause for what seems to border on celebration?

Well, perhaps “celebration” isn’t the best word. Maybe it’s more pleasure at being proved correct, or relief at finding evidence that may change the minds of climate-change doubters. But whatever it is, it’s odd.

I seem to be hearing more and more of this whatever-it-is whenever otherwise intelligent people find out about such news. Indeed, finding solace in doomsday scenarios is an unfortunate, if subtle, undercurrent in the secular eco-world. It’s as if the Occupy movement’s desire to deconstruct and destroy capitalism has taken root in global ecological conversations. In an oddly similar way, this phenomenon also reminds me of those who find joy in waiting for the End Times, as if the Apocalypse is something we should wish upon ourselves.

This latest news about our oceans is certainly dire, and I pray that the secular world and people of faith will join forces through objective science and encourage changes for the good of all. Opinions must change and hearts must be converted—and this must all be done within a generation, if not sooner.

Of course, the debate will continue, no matter what the science says. But one thing is for sure: gloating over bad news is not helpful, and Catholic ecologists should have no part of it. Loving thy neighbor means loving them even if they don’t accept the science pointing to anthropomorphic climate change.

What we must remember is that when we entrust our efforts to God, we humans do great things. If we have the power to alter the chemistry of a planet’s oceans, we have the capacity, with God’s grace, to alter our habits and our hearts so that we may undo the damage—and that would be very good indeed.

1 comment:

  1. Nothing to worry about... our current western society is a self limiting disease on this planet. We may take a few millions species with us but the Earth will survive to thrive once again. So have another drink and burn another gallon of gas - remember - the road goes on forever and the party never ends.


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