Sustainable Living & Sustainable Lifestyle

Ebola is scary! But climate change is catastrophic!

As Bad As It Is, There Are Scarier Things Than Ebola

News earlier this fall about a patient in Dallas dying from Ebola – the first person to die of Ebola in the United States – had a big impact on the country in many ways. One of those ways was this:

Many, many people really, really freaked out.

What is scarier than Ebola?Then came the news that nurses who treated the patient had also contracted the virus. Then a New York City doctor who had traveled to West Africa also had Ebola. Anxiety and tension seemed to increase with each passing news report. People started looking suspiciously at fellow passengers sneezing at an airport terminal. To date, however, there is still just one death. This is less than the number of people who will die of car crashes in the United States in the hour after you read this sentence, and less than the thousands expected to die from influenza this winter.

Also, as serious as Ebola is, it’s affecting far less people than climate change and other environmental issues.

Run! It’s a Virus!

For whatever reason, people became extremely anxious about Ebola, even though scientists and doctors repeatedly said the likelihood of catching the virus is minimal.

Yet the direct opposite is true of “green issues.” Plenty of scientists say that global warming is a very real issues that already affecting thousands of people and is causing events such as rising sea levels in places such as Miami.

And yet, no panic.

Maybe it’s just something about viruses. This isn’t the first time this has happened. In 2005, according to the Washington Post, about 30% of the population were “very concerned” about catching bird flu. A March 2006 poll from ABC News found that those concerned about bird flu was at about 66%.

The numbers are far less for Ebola, but still the level of attention to the virus seems unwarranted given the chance of actually catching it. Perhaps this is more a media thing than a real issue, as television news programs quickly learn that an anxious audience is an audience that keeps tuning in.

In an attempt to direct your anxieties toward things that might actually prove catastrophic to you but everyone you know, here are some scary reports on environmental issues.

  • Increased greenhouse gases will raise the temperature of the planet, melt polar ice caps, disrupt weather patterns and impact our food supply chain. That’s from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  • The EPA also estimates that by 2100, melting ice could lead to sea levels that are 2.3 feet higher in New York City and almost 4 feet higher along the Gulf of Mexico coast in places like Galveston, Texas.
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science predicts there will be 50 million environmental refugees – those fleeing areas with food shortages and flooding, for example – as soon as 2020.
  • In a report issued this year from the United Nations, 772 scientists issued a warning that we face dire consequences if greenhouse gases are not reduced. What do they mean by dire? The report warns that agriculture production will be severely affected, leading to widespread famine in parts of the world, and that regions of the globe will be uninhabitable. The report also warns that extreme weather – floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires – will increase in number and affect potentially millions.

Now those are issues worth freaking out about.

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