Wikimedia Commons

Do you believe in global warming? Well, environmentalists from centuries ago did…and now we’re dealing with their mess.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the atmosphere

Many people today try to avoid the news at all costs (or get theirs from scrolling through Twitter), and there’s a pretty obvious reason why: it’s depressing. Politics are frustrating, every food causes cancer, and scientists are all sure that the sun is going to explode at any second. But despite a changing world, one theme has persisted for far longer than we realize.

For the last decade or so, climate change has been a hot-button issue. Everyone from Katie Couric to Bill Nye the Science Guy has chimed in on the human behaviors contributing to it, including the burning of fossil fuels. Oftentimes, we like to justify that our world needs non-renewable resources to power our precious, fragile, technologically-inclined society. However, nearly 100 years ago, we were warned to knock it off!

Yes, they knew what was coming

Without knowing too much about the impacts of burning coal, it probably seemed like a miracle. You’re telling me that lighting up a black rock in the ground can power a whole bunch of machinery? Sign us up! Before long, however, the dream of a simplified energy source seemed to halt in its tracks.

From child labor to ailing coal miners to a painful amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere, burning coal and other fossil fuels suddenly seemed like a pretty shotty idea. Of course, we didn’t stop doing it. Free energy, am I right? Even though many turned a blind eye to the issues, one newspaper decided to print an article about it — one that has haunted us to this day.

Thanks for leaving us in the soot, guys

On August 14th, 1912, a print newspaper (if you don’t know what that is, feel free to Google it) from New Zealand released a short article about the potential long-term consequences of burning fossil fuels. “The furnaces of the world are now burning about 2,000,000,000 tons of coal a year…it adds about 7,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere yearly.”

They went on to state that after “a few centuries,” such impacts on the environment would lead to global warming and climate change across the globe. Sound familiar? Yes, we’re having to deal with the issues our predecessors left behind for us. But after so many years of ignoring the signs, it seems we’re unlikely to stop until the earth is uninhabitable.