We live in an era of unprecedented statistics. These numbers—population densities, sociological data, and ecological observations—bind our lives. But how many of us comprehend the true correlations between these numbers that describe our world? As species die out due to pressure from expanding human population with our demands for increased territory and the impacts of human action on the environment, it is within our power to slow or stop the process. However, we need data and individuals who can interpret that data in order to accomplish this.
While it is true that our planet has experienced many climate change events throughout its lifespan and that such change is inevitable, we cannot continue to act as if we are outside the system. We are not passive observers, but integral components in the equation of our ecology. Our actions, though small when viewed in isolation, have a decided impact upon the rest of the planet. For those with the necessary analytical skills, this general understanding takes on a dire specificity.
Small shifts in the environment have a cumulative effect, often leading to decreased stability for a number of species. While a great deal of attention has been given to certain large or identifiable species, such as the polar bear or the humpback whale, these shifts in climate impact the entire community of plants and animals that inhabit a given system.
The need for individuals with a deep knowledge of these animals and the ecosystems in which they live is more crucial than ever. Veterinarians and marine biologists are two such professions that have contributed to our understanding of the plight these animals experience.
It is estimated that a single degree rise in the average temperature of the world’s oceans could have cataclysmic impacts on species inhabiting marine environments. When a single week of data from 2012 shows that more than 38 billion tons of carbon dioxide entered the atmosphere, in the absence of volcanic events or any other occurrence of significance, we cannot deny that we have an impact on our planet.
That impact can be seen in the fact that coral reefs around the world are suffering considerable depredations, due to increased carbon dioxide levels in the water, lower pH levels, and higher water temperatures linked to industrial pollutants.
Sea turtles—many species of which have endured for a hundred million years—are facing challenges due to hunting, decreased nesting areas, and increased changes in their environment. These changes can be as seemingly small as a reduction in a prey species or plankton levels.
Without individuals who have dedicated their lives to land animals or the beasts of the sea the study of marine life or work as a veterinarian, these events might still seem mysterious and random. But thanks to the dedication of these individuals, we have both data and the means to interpret it accurately—to see the direct impact we have on our only home.