Quick question: when you saw the word “southeast” what came to your mind? Was it southeast Asia or was it the southeast United States? If you guessed the second one you’re right. I am talking about the southeastern US, although I couldn’t really blame you if you thought I was referring to south or southeast Asia because they have those infamous monsoons. Or at least they are infamous to those who hear the news stories of disasters that occur in southeast Asia and attribute those environmental disasters to that region. Then they become infamous to people in parts of the world like our own who don’t really know much else about the aspects of life in different parts of southeast Asia. Bummer; I know. So let’s just stick to what we kind of know and talk about the good ol’ US of A’s environmental disasters.
I was given an idea of just how bad this situation is by my supervisor at the Academy of Natural Sciences:
The flooding in Louisiana is the eighth event since May of last year in which the amount of rainfall in an area in a specified window of time matches or exceeds the NOAA predictions for an amount of precipitation that will occur once every five hundred years, or has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in any given year.
The disaster that is currently subsiding in various states throughout The South, and some other non-southern states Oklahoma and West Virginia, is some of the worst to happen in centuries. CENTURIES people. According to some of the light research that was done prior to the presentation of this topic to the museum-going public this is what we have discovered, “The third National Climate Assessment, released in 2014 by the United States Global Change Research Program, showed that ‘the amount of rain falling in very heavy precipitation events’ had been significantly above average since 1991″. This, of course, can be attributed to a little something called climate change. Some of the effects of this horrible flooding which has been exacerbated by the worlds changing climates include billions of dollars in property damage, loss of human life, and the devastation of natural habitats. It is something not to be taken very lightly and it is something I hope people will come to recognize and make more efforts to fix. We humans have to start doing everything in our power and taking responsibility for our planet and the her health, or else we will join those many many other extinct organisms in the fossil record.
As the death and property toll continues to climb in these water logged states many are left frustrated, environmentally insecure, and overwhelmed. Not immediately recognizing that they have also, in a small way, contributed to the problems they are currently facing. Homes are being flooded and people are having to relocate with nothing but whatever they can carry. That’s if they’re lucky enough to survive the storm. And please, don’t get me wrong, man-made climate change factors are not all to blame for this devastation. Also, not all places in Louisiana were partially submerged in water. It’s not all black and white, but the fact that this is one of the worst floods to hit these states (Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia) in 500-1,000 years is certainly something to perk your ears up at.
At Science Now, the section of The Academy of Natural Sciences where I volunteer teaching scientific current events to museum visitors, we talk about a multitude of environmental topics. Almost every time I go in we present animal furs, skulls, and other kinds of animalian objects to get people to engage more with the topic of the day. On Friday we brought out fox and skunk furs and a female black bear skull to get people to understand what kinds of animals are affected by the flooding in a much more engaging way; the kids get to actually feel and see the physical remains of some of the animals that are effected. Of course, this is, above all, the most satisfying part of being a volunteer at this museum, but the news can be a bit discouraging to deliver when it involves things like death and turmoil. In the future I hope to talk much more about species revival from the brink of extinction (like a recent activity that was done about a certain species of fox) and less about the environmental destruction we all must cope with.