2008 – National 4th Place Award Winner:
Kayla Bruun, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Is global warming the greatest challenge facing humankind?
Studies predict that if humans do not significantly alter our lifestyles within the next ten years, changes will occur on our planet that might in fact be irreversible. At the point, the melting of the arctic and the increase in global temperature will have become inevitable. The sea level will rise fifty feet; reshaping coastlines worldwide. Weather patterns will become increasingly unpredictable. For humans to avoid this fate for our planet would undoubtedly require huge amounts of united effort. To pursue this could be humankind's most difficult task, but I don't think it is our greatest challenge, because I don't believe that stopping it is our mission at all.
The process of climate change may be an anomaly in the history of the world, and humans are unique as a species in having achieved a level of evolution from which we can so greatly impact the very planet we live on. However, when compared on a biological level to the cycles of other species within smaller, more distinct habitats, it doesn't seem quite so unnatural at all. In any ecosystem, when any one species' population becomes inflated the equilibrium in its surrounding environment is inevitably disrupted. Humans rule the planet; the entire globe is our habitat. We evolved to the top of the food chain, conquering all but very the strongest diseases. Now, we are the species whose population has inflated so much that it shakes the balance of the world.
Returning to the example of a smaller-scale ecosystem, the natural process is that the dominant, overpopulated species grows and grows until it has no more resources and can no longer sustain itself, and it crashes. As with global warming, the population's harmful effect on its surroundings leads to its own destruction. But after this step is complete, equilibrium is restored and the species can once again operate successfully within a more balanced environment. The planet may be a few degrees warmer and have a little less land mass, but evolution has seen us this far without fail, and I see no reason why a culture so advanced as ours could not further adapt to the future changes.
I believe that our world after experiencing the process of global warming would be far more healthy and balanced than the overcrowded-albeit more fuel efficient- place it would be if we attempted to interfere with the imminent results of climate change. The prevention of global warming is not our biggest challenge because it is a process that will naturally play out to our advantage- and that of the entire world. Global warming is not the problem; it is the solution.
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