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When Prevention Is No Longer Better Than the Cure

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Suppose you live on Mars: Each night, you leave your concrete bubble to gaze at the night sky and catch a glimpse of what used to be your home. It looks dimmer than yesterday. This hypothetical scenario could very well be a reality in the near future. 

According to satellite measurements made as part of NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) project, the Earth is slowly dimming as a result of global warming. As clouds decrease in number due to higher ocean temperatures, the absorption of more sunlight means that the amount of light that the Earth can reflect is reducing, with this lack of reflectance leading to increased global warming. While scientists have implied that increased solar energy reaching Earth may mean a potential increase in our consumption of solar power, it also means that the ever-rising heat on the Earth will continue to reach astronomical numbers. 

This dilemma presented by the effects of global warming and climate change will persist unless the international community comes together to decide whether to adopt preventative measures against global warming, or to create adaptational lifestyle changes that allow us to live in the problem that we have created. The chance of being able to prevent the situation that we are in has long passed, as proven by the U.N.’s code red for humanity from two months ago

When looking for solutions to climate change, we often forget the fact that the problems individuals face are localized ones. Globalized solutions cannot possibly cover the devastating and sometimes life-threatening changes that climate change causes. 

Another issue that arises with the implementation of preventative measures at this stage of the climate crisis is that our political climate cannot allow for a generous distribution of resources towards it. Incentives instead of innovations have become preferred moves by policymakers. According to the BBC, those that are affected by climate change and are witnessing firsthand the intensity of climate migration are not even prominent voices in the climate research field. 

As demonstrated by the recent oil spill off of the California coast, individual lifestyle changes are not enough to combat climate change. Even if everyday individuals chose to adopt sustainable practices and use renewable energy, the responsibilities and resources for creating larger changes would lie in the hands of corporations and governments. No matter how many flood defenses, seawalls or heatwave measures we create, there may come a point in our timeline wherein we would have to focus on solving food and water insecurity after it has reached its extremities — the case in some impoverished regions. The idea is to build resilience, since the chance for resistance has already slipped from our hands. 

While this may sound like a pessimistic view for the future of the “Blue Marble,” it is quite true. We will have to learn to live with and adapt to these changes. For example, the fact that we have increased sunlight coming through the atmosphere has several negative effects that can be used to our advantage; while those in laboratories are doing their part, those outside can be doing theirs by using that excess energy for a sustainable future. That would only represent a fraction of the possibilities that could bring us toward a healthier planet. 

In the words of environmental activist Greta Thunberg, “We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.” 

Going vegan or buying an electric vehicle won’t solve the problems we face. Accepting that we need to change before the world stops giving us the chance to do so is the solution. 

Nandini Sharma is an Opinion Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at