Many explorers, travel writers, photographers, and artists have been inspired by the glacial beauty of the Arctic over the years. Whether it is the vast ice sheets that cover much of the region’s landscape, the amazing array of wildlife to be found there or the stunning Northern Lights that illuminate its skies, the mysterious sights of this area have never failed to enthrall all those who witness them. Sadly, however, many parts of the region are under serious threat of disappearing forever, thanks to the human-created phenomenon of climate change.
Over the past few decades, industrial activities have led to a massive increase in global greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and carbon dioxide (so named because they exert a “warming” effect on the planet’s atmosphere). According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, average yearly temperatures across the U.S. have risen by 2 degrees in the last fifty years. Worldwide, scientists estimate that annual temperatures rose by approximately 0.6 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) between 1950 and 2013. It was recently reported that human-generated greenhouse gas emissions have even managed to cancel the next ice age, scheduled to take place in 50,000 years’ time!
Extensive clearance of the planet’s ancient rainforests is a major factor behind our increased emissions of these gases. For example, forest destruction in the Amazon (where cattle ranching accounts for an estimated 70 percent of the clearance that has taken place) has been linked to the disappearance of polar bears’ natural habitat in the Arctic. As the ice begins to melt, polar bears have been faced with progressively more severe food shortages, and this, in turn, has driven them to start consuming dolphins for the first time in recorded history. The melting of Arctic ice is also disrupting the migration patterns of whales and walruses, among others.
Another animal species whose way of life is being severely disrupted is the Arctic fox. This animal’s natural territory and food sources are rapidly diminishing, as red foxes move into their habitats and compete with them for food … or even hunt them down as prey. A stunning photograph by Don Gutoski, called a “Tale of Two Foxes,” which portrayed this very situation, recently won an award for the best wildlife photograph of the year, in a competition sponsored by London’s Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife.
And now, a picture posted by photographer Paul Nicklen on Instagram reveals what we stand to lose if Arctic foxes are allowed to die out forever.
Sadly, the Arctic fox’s decline is indicative of the many ways we humans have failed the species with whom we share this planet. Earth has lost an estimated 52 percent of its wildlife in the past forty years alone and is currently experiencing its sixth mass extinction event – this time, driven by human activities, as opposed to the previous five which were caused by natural disasters. This staggering loss of the planet’s biodiversity has severe implications for our own survival, as we are more dependent on other species than we may realize. The progressive disappearance of bees, for example – who pollinate around one-third of the crops we humans consume – has serious implications for our food system. The fact is, we are the cause of this ripple effect which puts us in an interesting place where we can either continue down this path of destruction or take action to stop it before its too late.
We all have the chance to lower our personal carbon footprints every time we sit down for a meal. By opting to eat fewer meat and dairy products in favor of plant-based alternatives, you can literally halve your own carbon footprint – yes, halve!
Why is this? Well, one of the largest drivers of greenhouse gas emissions is animal agriculture. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent.
Not only is animal agriculture responsible for exorbitant greenhouse gas emissions, this destructive industry currently occupies over half of the world’s arable land resources, uses the majority of our freshwater stores. One Green Planet believes that our global food system dominated by industrial animal agriculture is at the heart of our environmental crisis as this system also causes rampant air and water pollution, land degradation, deforestation – and is pushing countless species to the brink of extinction. And yet, one in eight people still suffer from food scarcity.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, it is One Green Planet’s view that our food choices have the power to heal our broken food system, give species a fighting chance for survival, and pave the way for a truly sustainable future.
By choosing to eat more plant-based foods you can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock.
For the future of struggling species, like these foxes, we all need to start eating with the planet in mind. To learn more about how you can save species with your next meal, join One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet campaign.
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Image Source: Paul Nicklen/Instagram