I realize my reflection of the past, current and future state of the environment paints a grim and pessimistic picture, but I feel optimistic in our ability to turn planet Earth’s fate around if we all work together and commit to making a change.

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Melissa Chavis
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To My Friends, Family and Future Grandchildren,

I write you this letter out of concern for the sustainability of planet Earth and the ability to sustain future populations for many generations to come. Over the past decades we have witnessed many undesirable environmental consequences to human activity. The population has increased by one billion since 2007. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and water, air and soil pollution are at an all-time high. I often ponder what unforeseen problems past and current generations are leaving behind that will emerge and burden our future ancestors. The time to act has been long past due but I hold optimism in our ability to.

Oceans have shown a steadfast rise in water levels over the last century. In recent years we have witnessed the loss of millions of acreage in forests and the destruction and fragmentation of biodiversity rich habitats. We have seen atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide exceeded 400 ppm and ten of the highest recorded average annual temperatures in recorded history. Weather patterns have become more erratic and climate conditions have changed for many ecosystems. Many hectares of land have been lost to desertification and erosion and degraded shorelines are being lost to the oceans. The management of waste has become increasingly complicated and belts containing tons of trash have presented in the Pacific Ocean. Coral reefs have suffered bleaching and disease resulting in substantial loss in populations.  Global biodiversity of land and marine species are declining at a rapid rate, animal populations have migrated in non-historical patterns, invasive species have overwhelmed lands and ecological integrity has been modified at the hands of humankind in our need for space, products and services.

The future outlook is vexing at the current rate of population growth and environmental degradation.   If rapid changes do not occur I imagine a different world in 50 years that my children and grandchildren will be living in. Without change the future will be greeted with a deficient and non-salvageable place to call home.  Planet Earth could be void of most of it forests, usable land, clean water and biodiversity. The air could be toxic, the soil barren and the oceans could become warm and acidic carbon sinks filled with more trash than marine life. Global warming will affect hydrological systems and fluvial geomorphology. The hotter temperatures will cause larger evapotranspiration losses changing the amount, intensity, duration and timing of precipitation, which will affect and change river flows and groundwater recharge. This will force vegetation cover to respond to the changes in temperature and precipitation changes, and change land use. Increased atmospheric carbon levels may lead to changes in plant growth and physiology, which can lead to changes in transpiration. Higher atmospheric CO2 levels will change plant growth patterns and plant water contributing to transpiration and runoff. The warming temperatures affect soil properties further altering runoff generation processes. The hydrological system will undergo greater change in an effort to adapt to warmer climate in drought conditions for irrigation inhibiting affecting nature’s controls for flooding and erosion. The continued rise in temperature will alter frost free and growing seasons, precipitation patterns will change, more droughts and heatwaves will occur and hurricanes will grow stronger and more intense and the Arctic may become ice free. The declining cryosphere is vulnerable to being shifted into a warmer climate creating more liquid water and oceans will continue rising and rivers and lakes will expand.   The already stressed dry-lands are at ample risk of undergoing desertification. Hydrological changes and land loss will make agriculture and ranching highly complex to expand at the historic rate of population growth and food safety and security will be compromised.

Each concern is a problem in its own and a contributor to next problem that is instigating and escalating the degradation of the environment as a whole. The end consequences of an over exploited and overwhelmed planet leads to worldwide famine, disease outbreak and increased pollution related deaths and climate conditions that may impose a sixth mass extinction. The obstacles created from past activities are the push for future advances into creating a sustainable planet and stable economy. A global understanding of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve and conserve forests and biodiversity, reduce waste and clean up and prevent pollution is materializing. I realize my reflection of the past, current and future state of the environment paints a grim and pessimistic picture, but I feel optimistic in our ability to turn planet Earth’s fate around if we all work together and commit to making a change.

Sincerely,

Melissa Chavis

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