In a weekend when we force our own change in climate upon ourselves, as Daylight Saving Time begins, putting the clocks forward one hour, we also celebrated another phenomenon around the globe, as the planet went dark for an hour in recognition of how the planet and our climate is changing around us, and the risks posed if we continue to ignore this growing problem.
At 20:30 local time on Saturday, the lights were switched off on numerous iconic buildings around the globe. The Sydney Opera House in Australia, where it all began in 2007, the Empire State building in New York, the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham palace in the UK, the City of Arts and Science in Valencia and the palace in Madrid, all dimming their lights for an hour, with more than 7,000 cities in 157 countries taking part, along with millions of individuals.
The idea of this event is the now annual occurrence of Earth Hour, “a worldwide grassroots movement uniting people to protect the planet, and is organised by WWF”, with the aim of “encouraging an interconnected global community to share the opportunities and challenges of creating a sustainable world”.
In Orihuela, the town hall had announced their intention to join in the concept of Earth Hour, by switching off the lights on municipal buildings for Earth Hour, with the Los Verdes of Torrevieja urging the government team there to take part. The Zenia Boulevard also joined in, switching off their lights, all joining in on a local level with a global concept that matters to us all.
The ideas of climate change and global warming are dismissed by many, some with a passion, but it is obvious that it is starting to affect us all. Overuse of industrial insecticides in food production is believed to be responsible for the death of bees around the planet, a matter of grave concern as bees are the number one pollinator of plants, and without the bees, many everyday food items that we take for granted would simply disappear from our shelves. A Whole Foods Market in Rhode Island, carried out a dramatic reconstruction of what their produce section would look like in a world without bees. Of the 453 products on offer, 237 were removed, including apples, avocados, carrots, mangoes, lemons, aubergine, and many others.
Butterflies are the second most important pollinator of plants, although more so for the non-food variety, they are still of vital importance, and yet many local authorities encourage the mass destruction of caterpillars, thus reducing the number of butterflies. Hay fever sufferers will be all too aware of the increase in wayward pollen in the air, and the subsequent allergic reactions suffered as a result of the destruction of nature's own controlling factors.
In a province of China, birds became a thing of fantasy, as hundreds of thousands died, and the remainder simply left the area, a situation which followed a mass termination of ant colonies, thus depleting their food supply. Much the same as mosquitoes, a nuisance though they might be, they serve a valuable purpose in the food chain, and the overactive control methods of the human race are set to have a devastating effect on the bird population.
Deforestation is a word normally associated with the Amazon rain forests, but it is equally a problem on our own doorstep, with the North West of spain and into Portugal being particularly problematic, as Global Forest Watch, an interactive and real time monitoring tool proves.
All of this destruction also aids the spread of non-native plants and creatures, such as the problem of the Asian Wasp, known to destroy other colonies of hives, as they fight the native bees, often splitting them in two with a brutal stab. Ornamental plants bought in garden centres which spread into the natural fauna, wiping out native species, as has been seen all along the coast line of Torrevieja and Orihuela, overfishing in the Mediterranean, resulting in an increase in jellyfish on the beaches.
Because we may chose to ignore the awareness campaigns such as Earth Hour as being nothing more than a whim, but when the effects of our actions start to be seen on a local level, that is when we ought to be more aware of what the experts in all of these cases are telling us.
“360 days of sunshine” may well have been an over exaggerated boast of a keen estate agent looking to secure a property deal during the height of the boom, but anybody who lives or frequently visits the area can no doubt see how the climate has changed over recent years. We still get the spring and autumn rainfalls, and we still get hot summers and cold winters, but the effects of global warming is set to be accelerated in this area, according to meteorological experts.
The University of Alicante is forefront in warning of how climate change might have a direct effect on this area, in particular in the loss of tourism and the money the sector brings, in view of the fact that “the Mediterranean basin is facing an increasing trend of extreme weather and a loss of comfort climate”.
According to Professor of Geography at Alicante, Jorge Olcina, “Tourism is a vulnerable activity that should be adapted”. Olcina is concerned that areas rich in tourism by attracting visitors to the sun and beaches and to snow and city destinations, are “particularly vulnerable to the consequences of the evolution of the weather”, which can lead to a “dramatic change” which will occur within decades, rather than centuries.
“spain is a particularly vulnerable country”, he states, and aside from the diversity of the seasonal destinations for both summer and winter holidays, there is an increase to groups at risk of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, as well as the climate-sensitive, and the aging population being at more risk to the natural trends already established in spain.
Despite the bleak outlook, the future is not yet completely doomed, as there are already numerous global models which are already reversing the trend. According to Olcina, in Australia, for example, the government has been “actively involved in the issue and is developing plans and measures to mitigate the effects of the change”. In Europe, businesses are adapting their activities to reduce emissions, through initiatives such as “Hotel Energy Solutions”, where the hotel sector is actively looking to reduce their carbon footprint, the sun drenched Canary Islands leading the way in this field.
An added factor that Olcina has pointed out is the over exploitation of touristic areas for the last two decades in Spain, largely with a complete ignorance of sustainability, and in areas which are of natural risk, with results in over urbanisation and building being an increase in the risk of flooding or droughts, maritime storms or landslides, all of which have seen increases in recent years and even recent months. In fact, according to Oclina, the winter of 2014 has been the windiest in 25 years, largely due to the Atlantic storms which have battered the country.
The situation is of “global economic and social importance”, Olcina concludes, but despite there being little political advantage in creating sustainable plans which may be contrary to the economic gains of business and developers, it is crucial for measure to be put in place, especially as climate modelling still has uncertainties in its physical component, such as the behaviour of rainfall.
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