"Snowpocalypse" is now a well-known term for those of us living in Washington, D.C. Defined in the Urban Dictionary
as a snowstorm in which large amounts of snow fall occur within a short amount of time, a "Snowpocalypse" is currently happening across D.C. It's a fun term to use, and we laugh about it because it's a play on words — because it's not actually an apocalypse. It's not the end of the world. Or is it?
Just before Christmas this year, on Dec. 19, 2009, D.C. was hit with a snowstorm that drew a little more than 16 inches, one of the top 10 snow falls in D.C. history
. Not even three months later, a second snowstorm predicted to yield more than 20 inches is enveloping the nation's capital; this second storm will surely make it into the top 10 record, too. If this is the case, seven of the 10 biggest snowfalls in D.C. history will have occurred after 1955. The current storm — gaining inches as I type this — is expected to cause power outages across the area. I can't help but wonder if the increasing number of storms, and their severity, is a result of our changing climate.
Scientists say one of the consequences of global warming (or more appropriately termed "climate change," since the changes include freezing periods as well as warming periods) is increasing the number of natural disasters. Think of the recent California fires, or the Haitian earthquake, even the Indian Ocean tsunami back in 2004. These are all extreme examples of what may be in store for us if we don't work to curb our effect on the environment. But there are also smaller examples of how the Earth's finely balanced climate is in danger. Think: the severe drought that hit Georgia a few years ago and re-ignited a water war between Southern states; the slow rise in ocean acidity levels off our coasts that are quietly beginning to harm marine ecosystems; the two consecutive snow storms in Washington, D.C., in the winter of 2009-2010.
Sure, there is a natural cycle of changes in our climate; since its start, Earth's climate has never been completely constant and predictable. But with the increasing frequency and severity of changes in our climate, one has to wonder if the changes are due to a natural cycle. When you take into account that the human population is now larger than it has ever been, and that we are emitting more carbon and other pollutants into the atmosphere, it is hard to argue that we aren't at least in part causing these changes.
The "snowpocalypse" is a good excuse to have a snow day from work or school, and to play in the white fluff by sledding or building snowpeople, but it is also a reminder of the peril our planet is entering. It should be a reminder that the environment is not at our disposal to use as we wish without consequence. It should remind us that there is much work to do — by us as consumers and citizens, and by policy makers, to ensure our planet is sustained for generations to come.
It is our responsibility as humans to make our injurious impact on our planet as small as possible. And for those of you who aren't true believers in climate change, I ask you: why not act in kindness towards our planet anyway? What do we have to lose? What harm can come from making a car that gets better gas mileage, or one that doesn't have to use gas at all? Or from finding energy in renewable sources? What's so bad about reducing our waste? Reusing and recycling? These actions are good for all countries and their economies, and also happen to be environmentally friendly. From where I'm sitting, I can't see anything wrong with acting in our environment's best interest ... and it's not just because my window is glazed over with frozen snow.
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