Ana is part of Our Climate's Fellowship Program. She is a senior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA.
In my twenty-two years living in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve witnessed the impacts of climate change firsthand. Seeing and learning about the direct impacts of climate change allows me to understand that the “catastrophic effects” predicted by climate scientists are not happening some day in the future, but are happening now, and will only get worse until we do something about the warming atmosphere.
I’ve grown up surrounded by the ocean, forests, and mountains my whole life, and I treasure and value all of the things they have provided me over the years. As we continue to burn fossil fuels, our oceans continue to absorb much of the atmospheric carbon, and our oceans become more and more acidic. Ocean acidification continues to prove problematic for Washington’s shellfish and seafood dependent economy and its tribal nations. It also threatens our biodiverse food webs and all my childhood memories of tidepooling along the state’s beautiful coastlines. The changes to our oceans, and the changes that continue to occur, have unforeseeable consequences, and it breaks my heart to see us slowly lose such a valuable and important ecosystem. Snorkeling might be one of my activities, and I hope to become scuba certified in the nearby future. Silently observing the vast deep blue sea, and the complex and mysterious life forms from above, is incomparable. But everyday, the ocean's corals reefs become less colorful and more empty, and thriving ocean environments become less productive. Ocean acidification has already proved detrimental to the world’s oceans, which makes sense in thinking about how much society relies on our oceans.
This summer, I experienced air pollution comparable to China’s smog levels in my own backyard. Record breaking wildfires throughout Washington, but also the entire country threatened people’s health, safety, and livelihoods. The number of days I was advised to not go outside due to the smoke, or the number of families who’s homes and farms got destroyed, are real, tangible impacts that climate change brings to our society. It’s easy to assume the direct effects from climate change will be far off in the future, and therefore irrelevant for us to worry about, but that is naïve, and the risks of not doing anything will produce great harm.
The mountains that make up the lovely state of Washington have experienced declining glaciers and snowpack, and increased snowmelt, impacting the entire alpine ecosystem and all the avid recreationalists who travel to the mountains for outdoor adventures. A couple years ago, a segment from “Ski to Sea,” a local relay race in my college town that goes from Mt Baker to Bellingham Bay, had to be removed because there wasn’t enough snow to compete the skiing relay events. Declining snowpack and increased snowmelt have also impacted drinking water in the state and the water supply. Issues of water availability have even become part of Washington’s legislative agenda.
I love where I live because of the beautiful, diverse and complex natural environment I am constantly surrounded by. But everyday, I can see the effects of climate change impacting my surroundings and threatening to destroy the things I love. The far-reaching effects of climate change know no boundary or border, and everyone has a lot to lose; at least I know I do.