Two days ago, I feared for my life in a way that reverberated back to the genes of my Neanderthal ancestors. Opening up my back door to a wind that had lost its senses and a flash of lightning followed by a commanding boom of thunder, I paused as a fear gripped me in a primal, “find a rock to hide under immediately” kind of way.
From Thursday evening into the early hours of Saturday, the outskirts of Houston, TX were ravaged by a storm that tore through centuries-old oaks and homes in a scatterbrained frenzy that left the bodies of 6 citizens in its wake, according to Ada Carr of The Weather Channel.
Discussing this with my coworkers, it seemed like just another day living in the great state of Texas. It barely broke the news.
But for me, a native Pennsylvanian, and, apparently, a novice to the tropical storms that affect this region, these numbers terrified me. I had never experienced such an intense display of nature’s power – from the creeks-turned riptides, to the once imposing and majestic, now carelessly broken trees strewn throughout the grasslands.
As a child, I loved thunderstorms: the wind rushing through the leaves and the soft thunder murmuring from over the hill made me excited to watch the clouds replenish the soil, plants, and creatures in my backyard. Afterwards, everything looked vibrant and refreshed. Nothing in my previous experience with storms prepared me for this onslaught of sheer force.
In the middle of the rainy season in Southeast Texas, storms are expected this time of year. However, the power of this storm is an abnormality that is starting to become the norm.
A study has shown that the intensity and length of these events is increasing as a direct result of global warming. Storms of this size and strength will be the new “thunderstorm.”
What does this say for our future as a planet?
For some survivors of these events, the effect will be tragic, but isolated. The buildings destroyed by the tornado that ripped through this small Texas town will be rebuilt, fresh saplings will replace the live oaks, the rivers will subside, and life will go on almost as it did before.
For children, storms like these are the beginning of a series of natural events that will continuously affect their lives.
In November, 2015, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) published a report on the effects of climate change on the most important resource we possess: our children.
In the report, UNICEF put forth five main problems caused by climate change: droughts and water stress, floods and severe storms, heat stress, air pollution, and disease.
Each of these subjects has its own set of adverse effects, but they all have one thing in common. The repeated occurrence of natural disasters, and therefore the increased probability of exposure to these problems will have negative impacts on the growth of children not only physically, but mentally as well. The effect of global warming is that our children may grow up living on the brink of disaster.
Now, before anyone gets into the Neanderthal “find a rock and hide under it immediately” mindset, UNICEF has provided series of actions to prevent the worst of climate change, and hopefully save millions of lives.
The agenda is comprised of ten items that address the outlined issues, and call for the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions, reduction of economic inequality between children, and provision of climate change education to children, ending their report with a call to action:
“Protecting the planet and protecting our children go hand-in-hand – and both can be achieved if we all act now.”
Now that we know what the problems are, where do we start to repair our future?
One way is to support clean energy. With renewable energy like wind and solar, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protecting endangered species, and providing our descendants with a better way to run the world.
If you are interested in joining the fight for the future, sign this petition to tell Congress that renewable energy is the best way to move forward.
As I sit in a rocking chair in Southeast Texas, I feel a breeze rolling up from the valley on this impeccably beautiful day. It’s difficult to believe that 48 hours ago, humans and animals were taking refuge from the onslaught of mother nature’s terrifying gales, tornadoes, and deafening thunder.
The images of mangled trees and abandoned vehicles seem almost more horrifiying in the sunny aftermath of the Texas “thunderstorm,” and are a harsh reminder as well as a foreshadowing of the consequences of our actions.
As Anthony Lake, UNICEF Director said in the Foreword: “For current and future generations of children, and for us all, the stakes could not be higher.”