EDGAR MCGREGOR, 18
Edgar McGregor, from Pasadena, California, has closely studied weather and the mechanisms of the atmosphere since he was very young. After a massive heatwave in October 2015, he started wondering how climate change impacted him and his city. He spends much time pouring through climatological data to create charts, forecasts, and records depicting how the weather and climate is changing in his hometown.
McGregor’s scientific findings have inspired his writing, which have been published on CityAtlas.org, Grist.org, GuyOnClimate.com, Yale Climate Connections, and The Los Angeles Times, and his own personal blog, WhereWeStand.info. Writing pushes him to not only deepen his understanding of climate change but to inspire understanding in other people. Writing allows him to see the different perspectives on climate change, including those which view climate change as controversial or false. It has opened his mind to understanding why certain communities reject information that disproves their opinions. McGregor’s writing also explores the idea that his generation needs to be the storybook hero to save the earth, in the same way that Carl Sagan told the 1980s generation that they must be stewards of the planet.
McGregor dreams of a stronger future for humanity, one where we are resilient against greed, ignorance, and denial. He hopes for a future where people make the right choices and are united to work intelligently. Climate change has offered society a distinctly unique challenge in our journey into the future: Will we choose to ignore it, or prove to future generations that we have the ability to set aside our differences and come together to solve this issue? Humans cannot exist without an environment for long, and McGregor says we must understand that flexibility is key in order to continue to survive and prosper in this rather unforgiving universe.
by Edgar McGregor
The United States of America, in late January 2019, seemed like a desolate moonscape as a major lobe of the infamous Polar Vortex swept through the Midwest. Wind chills in some locations plunged to an unbearable 60 below zero, setting all-time records in some spots. Thematically, it seems as if the United States resembled outer space, seemingly devoid of life. However, it could only resemble such a desolate place if there was one isolated location, like Earth, where life blossomed. The United States had such a place on those days, and it was Los Angeles. Hiding in the corner, like Earth, with beautiful, balmy weather perfect for life, temperatures soared to nearly 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It was perfect weather to go to the beach.
I sat on a busy beach in Los Angeles on that warm January day collecting sea glass, one of my favorite hobbies. I have been collecting these little transparent stones for years and have picked up nearly every color there is. That day, however, I was racing against the tide, as it was coming in and my chance to get my sea glass was dwindling. With each wave that receded, I ran out next to the water to pick up as many pieces as I could before the next wave hit. Usually, I would get nothing, only to find the very waves I was avoiding washed a brilliant, colorful piece ashore. The best times to collect were during full and new moons, as well as during low tides, as the low tides expose the piles of pebbles and shells that usually house sea glass. That day, however, I arrived at the beach as the tide was already rising. I felt like it was a missed opportunity, and it was there that I realized that the similarities between that day on the beach and Earth showed itself once more.
By the time I was born in May of 2000, CO2 levels had already risen to 371 parts per million. Temperatures were already rising phenomenally fast. Like the sea glass on that day being swept away by waves, the beauty of nature was being swept away by pollution, logging, overfishing, mining, oil drilling, and dumping. Just two years before my birth, the last daily record low temperature was set in my hometown. Now, that didn’t mean we didn’t get any cold days whatsoever. It just meant that, at the time, the waves were out. On that trip to the beach in January, I realized that the waves are to the tides as the weather is to climate. The weather, like the waves, is chaotic, bouncing from one end to another. However, the location of the tide, like climate, had a leash on how far those waves, or weather, could travel from the mean. As the tide rose, more waves were able to reach areas that hadn’t seen water in hours because the range shifted. This did not mean the waves were always above the mean, it just meant that they trended that way. Areas that once would be temporarily dry between waves became indefinitely underwater. You can’t see the tide or the climate at a glance. All you can see are the waves and weather. This, however, is where the similarities between the tides on that warm January day in southern California and the climate of our home world finally come to an end.
Within a few hours, the tides on that beach would recede again, revealing more sea glass to any passerby. These gradual shifts in tides, like climate, are usual for the beach. All the animals in the tide pools, the birds digging through the washed ashore seaweed, and the crabs that roam the sand know this. However, today's climate change is not a tide that is a slow, gradual shift. It is not a tide that will reverse in a few hours, and it is by no means ordinary. Today, a tide is not hitting this beach, a tsunami is.
Our climate is changing dangerously quick, and, like a tsunami, it is tearing through everything, causing mass destruction and death in its wake. Thousands of animal species are going extinct, forests are burning across the world, massive coral reefs are falling victim, oceans are acidifying, the Arctic is melting, rain is getting heavier, heatwaves are getting worse, diseases are spreading, hurricanes are stalling, seas are rising, waves are getting bigger, and people are dying. From the sand to the cliffs, this entire beach is now underwater and filled with debris of all sorts. Any animal that was living on this beach is now dead, killed by the rushing water it had not grown accustomed to. The waves are coming far inland, reaching places where animals didn’t even know such a thing as an ocean existed. Polar bears are finding themselves miles from the nearest snow, monarch butterflies are falling from the sky due to a lack of milkweed, and humans continue to separate themselves from mother nature– the only thing that has given them life. However, it is here where the similarities between a beach and the climate ends. Unlike a tsunami, climate change will not eventually back off.
We are all safe in big cities because we do not depend on our immediate environment to feed us, shelter us, or give us water. No Californian died of dehydration during our historic drought, but plenty of animals and trees did. People in New Orleans were still able to feed themselves after Katrina because they got their food from hundreds or thousands of miles away, not areas that were flooded. When disasters hit farmlands, all we see are our food prices go up slightly. We don't experience climate change like other animals do because our technology protects us.
Humankind has initiated a sixth mass extinction. By definition, it is an event of epic proportions when life on Earth is at risk of being expelled. Climate change will continue to impact us in more ways than we know, and yet when we see a small island poking up from the tsunami's destruction, we say that the tsunami is not real because that hill is okay, despite it now being an island. Such a claim is both foolish and a crime against future generations. We must protect this small haven, for there is nowhere else in the universe that we can call home. We are venturing beyond the tidal zone, and out here, our future is uncertain. Out here, there are many among us who are unknowingly leading us down a terrible path.