During the ten days I spent in Bethel, I heard numerous stories about the threats of climate change. I saw the tears of a young college student as he explained the reality of climate change. I heard the fears of Yup’ik elders, who could foresee an ominous future due to this reality. However, it was not until I headed to Seward, AK on our tourism portion of the trip, that I visibly saw the effects of climate change.
Saturday, our group had the amazing opportunity to explore the creatures and landscape of the sea on a six hour long boat tour.
The views were breathtaking and majestic. The earth stood untouched by humans and the sea was fresh and clear. Unlike most places I have visited in the lower 48, there was no smog or skyscrapers interrupting the nature as it played out before us.
I saw dolphins race beneath the boat and leap freely between the waves. I saw six sprightly whales traveling together as a family. Sea lions, tufted puffins, and bald eagles graced our presence as we witnessed the beauty and grace possible when humans are not misusing and abusing the land.
Then, our boat approached a glacier. The first thing I witnessed was its obvious beauty and massiveness, but not short after, I came to notice the chunks of ice floating in the surrounding sea. I then heard large rumbles followed by pounds and pounds of ice crashing to the sea and saw water trickling down the ice structure.
With each new drop of water or topple of ice, I thought back to the nature I had just witnessed in the open sea. I thought of how carefree and healthy they seemed living so far from an obnoxious human population. I then came to realize how wrong I was in thinking they were untouched by the human race.
Our pollution, waste, and energy needs are affecting creatures miles and miles away from us. With each new ice chunk that enters the sea, the habitat of the dolphins, whales, and sea lions is changing. In this moment, I finally understood why the Yup’ik elders fear what the future holds.
Without a drastic change in our current behavior, species, food sources, and the land may not survive, and their literally may be nothing for the future to hold.