We hear a lot of doom and gloom regarding the health of our planet, but Bill Pekny says the news is not all bad. Just in time for Earth Day on April 22, he shares some encouraging bright spots.
There are lots of metrics to measure the health of our planet, but we only seem to hear about and focus on the ones that are getting worse.
“While we certainly must pay attention to the existing problems threatening the Earth, there are some compelling bright spots that we should remember to celebrate, especially as Earth Day approaches,” says Bill Pekny, author of A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary (Two Climates LLC, 2020, ISBN: 978-1-73493-960-6, $34.59). “There are in fact many ways in which our natural world is actually healthier now than it has been in the past.”
Pekny, who holds M.S. and B.S. degrees from Georgia Tech and DePaul, spent more than 50 years as a scientist in the U.S. Armed Forces and Aerospace industry. In A Tale of Two Climates, Pekny presents an honest, unbiased, evidence-based review of the state of our planet. Pekny says we should move the conversation away from abstract threats of doomsday scenarios, and focus on meaningful ways we can make things better instead of getting lost in debate that often just produces gridlock.
There’s a lot of good that we can do when we stop arguing, start listening, and become willing to change our minds if we learn something new. It’s through productive conversations that we can begin making a positive impact. And besides, we can all agree that we want clean land, air, and water. Further, people today are becoming more interested in preserving our natural resources. Because of COVID-19 we are spending increased time outdoors and seeing firsthand the importance of protecting the Earth. And we have entire generations of smart, resourceful young people dedicated to protecting the environment so it can be enjoyed for years to come. These are all things to be excited and optimistic about, says Pekny.
With all that in mind, here is some more good news about our natural world:
The number of wildfires, as well as acreage burned, has trended down over the last century. Although any wildfire metrics are staggering and tragic in terms of death, injury, and damage, the fact is, wildfires are down by a factor of five, from a peak of about 50 million acres burned in 1930 to about 10 million acres burned now. In the last 33 years, the number of U.S. wildfires has trended downward by about 25,000.
On a regional level, there are localized places, like California, Oregon, and Washington, where both dryness and wildfire frequency commonly increase in the fall. “While these periods can make us hyper-aware of wildfires, the good news is these events are tending to be less frequent and less severe,” says Pekny.
Long-term severe weather trends are down, not up. Prior to 1945, the only way we could keep track of severe storms was through visual observation by sailors and observers on land. Since then, airborne observation by Navy, Air Force, and NOAA Hurricane Hunters has dramatically improved position tracking and warning of these storms and hinted at their severity.
Even more significantly, we developed satellites and long range Doppler RADAR systems to monitor severe weather. These technology advancements have significantly improved worldwide monitoring of all types of severe weather activity.
What we have learned from improved global scale monitoring and data collection over the last 48 years, is that these extreme weather events are not only not getting more frequent, they’re actually getting less severe.
While many people point to increased property damage as evidence that these storms are getting worse, this is not actually the case. “We attribute these increased property damages mostly to human yearning to live near the water, regardless of its associated risks—and not to either storm frequency or intensity,” says Pekny.
While this doesn’t mean that we’ve got these threats handled, it is useful to remember that not everything is getting worse.
“Good stewardship of our planet is paramount, and everyone’s continuous responsibility,” says Pekny. “In order to do that effectively, we have to be in reality about where the real problems are and where they aren’t.”
About the Author:
Bill Pekny is the author of A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary. He holds physics M.S. and B.S. degrees from Georgia Tech and DePaul University, plus graduate study in physical meteorology and numerical analysis at Florida State University and the University of Utah, and a visiting scholar appointment at the Ginzton Laboratory of Applied Physics at Stanford University.
Bill’s career in science spans over 50 years in the U.S. Armed Forces and the aerospace industry.
His career highlights include: Project Stormfury with the U.S. Navy Hurricane Hunters; applied atmospheric physics and meteorology research; LASER RADAR development; new product testing in various atmospheric environments; aviation optics and electronics; global climate research; and more.
About the Book:
A Tale of Two Climates: One Real, One Imaginary (Two Climates LLC, 2020, ISBN: 978-1-73493-960-6, $34.59) is available from major online booksellers.