Studying climate change is an odd experience. It means that we have to change our frame of mind with respect to the actions we take and how we look at the planet. The manner we look at the planet in climate change studies compared to our daily lives has always amazed me. It is strange to go from my day to day schedule, worried about getting to classes on time, to investigating a planet that is billions of years old with natural climate cycles that range from seasons to periods of glaciation lasting 100,000 years. Looking at the Earth like this always reminds me of both how insignificant we are in the scheme of things and how powerful a collective human effort is. Even with all the technological improvements we have, we cannot do anything to stop a hurricane or earthquake. Yet at the same time, we have a profound impact on other parts of the Earth system, as seen in global warming. It is because of this feeling that the Earth does not change that we do not always notice how powerful our actions are. It is difficult to fight the idea that the Earth does not change when it is much easier to throw things away than to recycle and reuse them. Living on Earth is much like living with the freedoms we as Americans enjoy. Our government is set up to react to ideas and to change if necessary. Balances keep all of these ideas in check to sustain the system by making sure no one person is given too much power. Likewise, we cannot simply approach the Earth and the climate change we are experiencing with a single-minded approach. Adapting a “business as usual” approach is unacceptable because it does too little; attempting to fix every problem at once is unfeasible because of the cost. The answer lies somewhere in the middle. By approaching the problem in a way that is sensible to each of us we can protect our personal interests while using our planet’s resources responsibly.
-Tyler Huth, Cornell University Student