In celebration of Earth Day, several FC geography department professors and guest speakers discussed the state of the planet at the Climate Change Symposium on April 19 in the campus Theater.
FC geography professors Aline Gregorio and Ruben Lopez, FC sociology professor Mohammed Abdel Haq along with Dr. Glen MacDonald of UCLA were among the experts who presented their research and voiced their perspectives.
MacDonald, UCLA professor of geography, ecology, and evolutionary biology, first noticed the climate change in tree rings during a geological survey of the Northwest Territories in Canada while pursuing his graduate degree.
His team found tree rings that had been drastically changed over the course of millions of years, absorbing heat with the highest expressed in the present day.
The projections, according to a study revealed in MacDonald’s research, are that the number of extreme heat days in California specifically will rise to 13 between 2070-2099.
Rising sea-levels will eventually lead to the disappearance of Seal Beach, parts of Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach in the worst case scenario with one meter of raise water. This brings about potential loss of land, people’s homes, and parts of our state.
The risen waters will also affect the marshlands which are home to endangered species and there will be no more room for the marshes to grow, so they will disappear too.
“This all seems doom and gloom, but I do want to give you some responsibility and it doesn’t have to be like that, we’re still at a point where we can do something about it” said Macdonald citing 2070 as the tipping point.
In 2015, China, India, Russia, Japan and the U.S. signed the Paris Accords to decrease the amount of global greenhouse gas.
“Recently the U.S. has threatened to leave, but that would be a huge mistake” Macdonald said.
The Geography Department assembled a panel and discussed specifics connecting to climate change.
The attitudes and perceptions of climate change were covered by sociology professor Mohammad Abdul Haq.
Haq opened with a photo of a starving child and a vulture standing by waiting for a child to become a corpse.
It was horrific stories like this that led photographer Kevin Carter to take his own life, writing “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain… of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen”.
Haq continued with his explanation of the psychology behind people’s religious motivations or gender biases towards climate change.
The Pope called all Catholics to believe in climate change and so they did but, “those who think the world will end in forty years when Jesus returns, aren’t concerned with what will happen in 20,100” Haq said.
Haq, who grew up in Somalia in the 1990s understood the harsh realities of living in a war-torn place.
“Attitudes are shaped by experiences” explained Haq. “The U.S. and China produce the most carbon dioxide than any other country, yet we are the least concerned in fixing it.”
“The debate on global warming has been settled- it’s real, it has largely been shaped by political ideologies not science” continued Haq.
Professor Aline Gregorio went over dietary choices and its connection to climate change, citing agriculture as the most impactful human activity on Earth.
“When it comes to soils, chemicals, deforestation, oceanic destruction and climate change, it all traces back to the plate,” claimed Gregorio.
2.9 trillion pounds of food is reportedly wasted every year in developing countries that lack proper food storage. In contrast, developed countries report waste from consumers and retailers overserving, with 53 percent of food produce wasted every year in the United States alone.
Animal agriculture is another huge problem with 36 percent of the world’s crops feeding livestock. The meat is then exclusively for those patrons who can afford to buy meat.
“As a world rises to a middle class, people are able to eat meat now. This is a grim picture for global warming now that the world is choosing more meat” said Gregorio.
FC geography professor Ruben Lopez focused his lecture on the continuing climate refugee crisis.
“By 2050, 25 million to 1 billion people will be moving around because their countries will no longer exist,” said Lopez.
When Syria experienced a devastating drought, the wheat production suffered tremendously with farmers depending on their wheat as their sole crop.
When the land became unlivable due to extreme weather changes, the Syrian people were forced to migrate where they could sustain life.
“This is not a religious issue, it’s a humanitarian issue. Poor people don’t have the resources to move,” said Lopez.
“We haven’t done much as a nation to combat climate change, politically we have neglected our place as the powerful nation that we are” said Lopez.
The symposium concluded to encourage Fullerton College to join the fight against climate change with a screening of the award-winning documentary from National Geographic, Before the Flood.