Climate Change Isn’t Just About Sea Levels and the Arctic

For years the climate has been a part of the global conversation, however the public has gotten so used to hearing about climate change that for many it’s become an accepted issue. We know it’s happening and recognize that it’s too late to do anything to stop it, so the general population does nothing at all. That is a dangerous mindset.

  In 2018, around 55% of the world lives in an urban area and a UN study released in May estimates that will increase to around 68% by 2050. The effort surrounding climate change is almost always based off of its impact on the glaciers in Antarctica or fish having to find a new habitat due to rising heat levels in the ocean. Rarely do these efforts focus on the immense impact climate change has on cities. Since climate change efforts don’t focus on cities, many people living in urban areas are unaware of the impact global warming is having on their lives.

The signs of climate change are crystal clear in almost any city in the world. Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, Michael Mann recently stated, “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. We are seeing them play out in real time in the form of unprecedented heat waves, floods, droughts, and wildfires. And we’ve seen them all summer.” These heat waves have had a particularly strong impact on cities due to their already dangerous status as heat islands.

  Urban areas, like NYC and Boston, are examples of microclimates called heat islands. A microclimate is a climate within a small contained area that differs from the climate surrounding it. A heat island is a microclimate created by the abundance of concrete and metal within a city. Since New York City and Boston are heat islands, they are hotter than the rest of the state and often have lower air quality which can create even higher temperatures.

  Currently climate change is increasing the heat in cities and this can cause a multitude of health and financial problems for anyone living in a city. The EPA released a study in April 2017 detailing some health and financial risks climate change is creating for cities. For example, consistent high temperatures can cause a litany of heat related illnesses for the elderly due to low mobility and reduced incomes. Children are also susceptible to heat-related problems such as aggravated asthma and other lung diseases due to air pollution, which is typically worsened by heat waves.

  It’s not just health city dwellers should be worried about though, climate change is taking a toll on pocketbooks too. While the summers heat up air conditioners are getting more use than ever in cities. Although the A/C may be a great temporary cool down, it can have significant downsides. The EPA estimates that if the United State’s climate heats up by around 1.8°F, which it is set to, then the use of electricity solely for cooling will increase by around 5-20%. The predicted increase will cause stress to urban infrastructure and more frequent, long-lasting blackouts. It will also cause an increased demand for additional electric generating capacity by 2050, which will end up costing U.S. residents hundreds of billions of dollars according to the EPA.

    One resident of Portland, ME recognizes the impacts his city has on the climate and suggests that cities begin to, “impose new requirements on building, on development, on zoning.” Another suggested, “If we’re going to make any impact we have to accept the risks of nuclear energy.” He also said in reference to solar and wind power, “When the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing you don’t have energy unless you have the batteries to store it,” and “If we’re going to make any real impact nuclear has to be a part of the equation.”

     Cities across the world are making efforts, some including nuclear power and building regulations, to reduce their emission of greenhouse gasses, but what can individuals do? Well, if you have a roof garden or porch you can plant small shade plants or other greenery to reduce the amount of solar radiation absorbed and therefore decrease the overall surface temperature. And although it may sound cliche, it really does help to take public transportation such as the subway, bus, or UberPool. If you’re looking to save electricity you can make a routine out of turning all lights and electronics off before you leave the apartment, switch to energy efficient light bulbs, and try to air dry your clothes if you can or opt for wool dryer balls. Then, if you’re willing to add a couple larger lifestyles changes you can begin to cut the amount of groceries that you buy and try to buy food locally if possible. Cutting down on groceries and only buying the necessary foods, like one jug of juice for your apartment rather than three, you reduce the carbon footprint created by food waste. It’s also beneficial to dedicate some time to advocating for extended bike lanes or mass transit.

  These are all fairly small actions that can be taken by anybody but are especially easy for those living in urban areas. If you live in a rural or suburban area and are also ready to take bigger steps to help out there are plenty of options. For one, you can plant large shade trees in your yard, switch to a green roof or install cooling pavements to lower the surrounding temperatures.

  The drastic changing of Earth’s climate is an issue that will impact each person on Earth if it is not seriously dealt with in a matter of years. It affects far more than just the glaciers in Antarctica. The general population needs to realize that climate change is not just going to change the future for good but is already forcing negative changes in their day to day lives. We’ve already caused significant damage to the Earth and our future here, but we have a chance to prevent any more damage. As a citizen of Portland, ME pointedly stated, “It’s coming, it’s happening, and you just have to keep that in mind.” You don’t have to be a scientist or environmentalist to make a real change, you just have to care!

Music is the Best Way to Hear Emotions

   Everyone has a different connection to music. Some, like my grandmother, are indifferent–she knows it exists, but it’s just not for her. And then there’s me; music has always played some part in my life. Starting when I was little, my dad would put on one of his many classical CDs, and then he’d have me imagine the story the song was telling. Was it about a princess escaping the grasps of an evil dragon? Or an epic sea battle between two crews of enemy pirates?

    As I grew, music meant various things to me,  but it never lost that touch of magic that made it so easy to let my mind wander. Music became an especially important part of my life during a time when I was depressed, socially anxious, and generally feeling lost in my own little bubble of the world. One night a few years ago around 8 pm, I was trapped in my room in the middle of a particularly bad anxiety attack, (although I was pretty used to them, this one was the worst). My lungs felt covered in Saran Wrap, and my mind buzzed with the same anxious thoughts over and over. Then before I knew it, I was in my mom’s arms. She asked if I wanted to go for a drive. She took me, still shaking and a bit disoriented, downstairs to the car, and we left the house with no destination in mind.

As we pulled out of the driveway, my mom asked if I wanted to put some music on while we drove. We made our way across the rolling hills cloaked by the starry sky, and as we drifted past the grassy fields, “Try Everything” by Shakira came on. With the windows open, the crisp breeze brushed the tears off my face, and the growing beat of the song encouraged me not to be afraid of failure or to doubt myself. As the lyric “Look how far you’ve come, you filled your heart with love, baby you’ve done enough take a deep breath,” combined with the cool breeze rushing through the windows, I felt free. Not everything was miraculously all better, but in that moment, I knew that it could be if I fought for it.

    Music has a way of feeding directly into human emotions. Most people can recall a song that immediately causes them to relax a little more with the easygoing ukulele, maybe to tense up at a heart-wrenching ballad, or to start dancing and smiling to a catchy electronic beat. The song “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles is almost universally recognized as a happy, upbeat song. But if you were to remove the lyrics, it would still sound cheerful. That’s because the emotions of a song are rooted in far more than just the lyrics. The beat and vibrations of a song have the power to impact the neurochemical mechanism that manages, “mood, stress, immunity, and as an aid to social bonding,” according to a 2013 McGill University study. So listening to a song like “Here Comes the Sun” can actually alter your mood and make you a bit more cheerful.

This direct connection between music and mood is one of the reasons playlists, or in the past,  mix tapes, are so popular. A playlist created to help yourself through a breakup might be full of Adele and Air Supply. Or another to hype yourself up for a big speech might include songs by Beyoncé and Pat Benatar on repeat. This is because these songs or artists have a specific style that plugs directly into the mechanisms controlling our emotions, the ones that decide whether we feel a bit more confident, or down, or any other emotion.

    In this way, music can console or bolster confidence far more effectively than language alone ever can. In the past, I’ve found certain songs that communicated what I was feeling and helped me understand my emotions in a therapeutic way. If used in a healing way, music not only lets you communicate your emotions effectively to others but also spurs you to explore and better understand them yourself.  

    The majority of songs I used to listen to were melancholy, and at times I found they re-enforced my insecurities. Eventually I found music that I could connect with in a way that helped me cope rather than give in. Since then, and in the past two years, I’ve made an effort to listen to music that supports me. Yes, sometimes that means listening to cheesy music like “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson or “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. But it also means allowing myself to take comfort in music that validates my emotions without leading me too deeply into a negative mindset.

Music is one of the most genuine ways to connect ourselves to what’s tangible and authentic. One song has the power to connect with and pull together diverse communities of people from across the globe, while another can make us leap from our seats in the middle of horror movie scene. There’s something about listening to music that takes us away to those mystical lands where we can simply be raw, brutally honest, and most of all, ourselves.

 Click here to listen to all of the songs mentioned in the article plus a few that simply fit with them.


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