The Environment in 1988

When I watched Greta’s speech at the UN, it reminded me of how I felt as a child advocating for environmental protection. I wrote articles and sent letters to politicians expressing my concern about fossil fuels, styrofoam, plastic cups, oil drilling, and aerosol spray cans. I felt like adults didn’t care, and I didn’t understand why I needed to tell them to do what seemed so obvious.

When Greta says, “We’ll be watching you,” someone laughs in the crowd. She doesn’t laugh back because there’s nothing funny about what’s happening. It’s a poignant moment. The look on her face is heart-wrenching. She gets it. She understands the planet is in peril and we’re not doing enough to save it.

I had tears in my eyes as I listened to Greta’s speech because I identified with her sense of urgency and frustration, and I felt the pain, suffering, and death that inaction has caused. Like Greta–and millions of others, I understand what’s coming if we don’t take action and change the way we eat, consume, travel, and populate the earth.

I started advocating for environmental protection in 1985. It pains me to think about how long we’ve known about these catastrophic threats–and how we have failed trillions of animals and billions of people. Something Greta said in her speech was particularly profound. She said that “for more than 30 years the science has been crystal clear.” She’s right. Here’s an article I wrote about the threats to our planet more than 30 years ago. It was published in Kirschner’s Korner in 1988, which at the time was a local newspaper column.

“We Must Take Steps to Protect Environment Now”
Andy Kirschner

The state of the Earth’s atmosphere is increasingly becoming an issue of national concern, mainly due to scientific predictions that continued tampering with our environment will result in the end of mankind. The depleted ozone layer and the increase in carbon dioxide (C02) have led many scientists to believe that life on earth is rapidly deteriorating.

In the last few years, the scientific community has stated that the ozone layer is threatened by human activities. The ozone layer is critically important because it protects life on Earth from the sun’s cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation. Its depletion in part has been caused by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which have been used as refrigerants in aerosol spray cans.

The increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is also an environmental concern. Over the past 100 years, the CO2 on Earth has increased and carries with it the potential to raise the temperature of the earth. A warming of the atmosphere would have a severe environmental effect. It would speed the melting of ice caps, raise sea levels, change the climate regionally and globally, and affect crop production. The CO2 abundance has been caused by the excess burning of fossil fuels.

By the year 2000, if our use of CFCs and fossil fuels is unchanged, several environmental changes will occur. Air quality will deteriorate and threaten large areas with smog. Acid rain could impact fish life in lakes and streams and reduce crop production and forest growth. Land will be decimated and the need for water for power could be rationed. Because of energy problems, soil destruction could cause the loss of food reserves, resulting in food shortages and starvation throughout the world. We could face unprecedented flooding from rising oceans and stronger storms. Finally, the elimination of land and resources could result in the extinction of animal and plant life.

Instead of focusing on high priority issues, the media spends most of its time dwelling on the sensational stories of Baby M, Tawana Brawley, Willy Horton, Billy Boggs, and many others. We are handed “Is Elvis Alive?” headlines in the newspapers when we should be reading about whether we’ll be alive. The newspapers are filled with political soap operas that aren’t important. This wasted time and energy could be put to better use like saving our planet.

The environmental happenings of today are very discouraging. In our country, it’s up to our political leaders and the press to create an awakened public that will focus on the problem and develop the necessary solutions. To many, it’s just another problem that will be solved by those people who handle all of the other worldly tasks but unfortunately, a solution will require concentrated public participation. Without complete dedication to prevent illegal dumping, stop further fossil fuel burning and ban the use of CFCs, the earth will continue to be an unhealthy place to live. It is and will continue to be the biggest problem my generation will face. I beg you to listen and take action. This is a very serious problem that needs everyone’s attention right now.

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