Tipping point of no return?

Global warming, species extinction and spiraling human population are conspiring to create alarming “state shift”

Where’s a poor polar bear supposed to go when the ice melts? Seriously.

Where’s a poor polar bear supposed to go when the ice melts? Seriously.

Head in the sand doesn’t get you out of the woods
Did I just mix metaphors? Forgive me. But it’s true that ignoring a problem won’t solve it, and it certainly won’t help things to deny that the problem even exists in the first place, as climate-change deniers are doing when it comes to global warming, for instance.

Fresh on the heels of the recent alarming news that heat-trapping atmospheric CO2 in the Arctic registered 400 parts per million (ppm)—higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years—comes the news that the Earth “is reaching a ‘tipping point’ in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its forces are controlled by concerted international action,” as San Francisco Chronicle Science Editor David Perlman reported recently.

Referring to a scientific analysis recently published in the journal Nature, Perlman cited “[u]nchecked population growth, the disappearance of critical plant and animal species, the over-exploitation of energy resources and the rapidly warming climate” as “combining to bring mounting pressure on the Earth’s environmental health.”

These combined forces are poised to have the impact of “previous major changes … in the planet’s history that triggered mass extinctions and expansions, and produced completely new worldwide environments.” The most recent example of such a change, said Perlman, was “the sporadic end of the last ice age that began 14,000 years ago and shifted rapidly from warm to cold and then back to warm again over a few thousand years.” During that period of time, half of the planet’s large animal life became extinct and the human population spread to all continents.

Among other things in the scientists’ report: The Earth’s human population is currently growing at such a rapid rate (projected to be 9 billion people or more by 2050, and as high as 27 billion by the end of the 21st century) that we are in increasing danger of running out of resources. A “state shift”—a radical transformation—in the Earth’s environment may indeed already be underway.

Headwaters hike
Big Chico Creek Watershed Alliance (BCCWA) coordinator Nani Teves told me about a cool, no-cost hike that BCCER is hosting on Saturday, June 23. This day-long Pilgrimage to the Headwaters of Big Chico Creek was originally planned for last November but had to be rescheduled due to snowy weather.

Big Chico Creek: Hike to the source.

photo by jason cassidy

The eight-mile, moderate hike will begin at the scenic lake at Camp Lassen in Butte Meadows and will continue upstream along a restored meadow. “From the meadow, we’ll be traveling along logging roads within Sierra Pacific Industries property and Forest Service lands to the main spring where Big Chico Creek originates,” wrote Teves in an email. “The hike is a great chance to see where it all begins, to observe the creek in a different landscape and to take a moment and appreciate all that creek provides us on a daily basis.”

Meet at the Highway 32 Park and Ride in Chico at 8 a.m. on June 23 to caravan and carpool to Butte Meadows (return at around 4 p.m.). Go to www.bigchicocreek.org for more info. Call 892-2196 or email coordinator@bigchicocreek.org to sign up for the hike—BCCWA is asking participants to sign up in advance.