By Braden Godley
Climate change is threatening the longevity of the North Pole’s permafrost. Although many scientists are worried about the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that will be caused by permafrost thawing, some are concerned about another threat: age-old bacteria and viruses that may be released from the ice.
Scientists are looking at Salekhard, Russia, a town in the northernmost reaches of the country that was recently hit by an outbreak of anthrax in 2016. According to The Guardian, the town had a heat wave that brought temperatures up to 95°F from its usual freezing temperatures, which many have attributed to climate change. The sudden heat wave thawed out permafrost that contained anthrax-infected reindeer corpses, and the infection spread quickly. Thousands of reindeer were infected and thousands were killed by the anthrax. Soon enough, anthrax spores spread to the people of Salekhard, killing one 12-year-old boy and hospitalizing 71 others.
This case of “zombie” anthrax may be just another reason why people should be worried about climate change as a whole. Ms. Sarah Chylek, a biology teacher at our school, commented “I am very concerned about climate change. Everyone needs to be. While climate change is not new to Earth, human activity is clearly amplifying the process. Melting of tundra permafrost is one of the many complex issues at hand. Already giant viruses held suspended in the ice and never before seen by humans are being discovered. Already greenhouse gases held frozen in the ice are being released into the atmosphere. These problems are happening today. This is not a problem for future generations to solve. It is our problem.”
If climate change is a problem of today, what can the average student at North do to help? To this question, Ms. Chylek replied, “Climate change can be slowed. It must start with the individual. All people need to assess their own role and take responsibility for their individual actions. There are things that all of us can do better even when we feel like we are doing all we can. Whether it be riding bicycles and or/carpooling to work/school, eating less meat, purchasing locally grown fresh foods, or educating our family and friends, we all have a role to play in this.”
Although the issue of climate change may seem to be distant and uncontrollable to most students, the key to change lies in our hands. If we do not face this dilemma soon, the consequences in the near future could devastate humanity and all life on Earth.