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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

2020 Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium

Image: ClickOrlando.com

Greg Whitchurch

This year’s Super Bowl will be held at Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida. But due to rising sea levels over the next 50 to 75 years, that stadium might eventually only be available for water sports (bit.do/stadiums-sea-level).

Ironically, part of the reason for this is due to the nature of the events held therein — namely, the attendees’ widespread use of single-use plastics (bottles, straws, bags, plates, flatware, containers, etc.). That particular stream of waste is still growing throughout the world and is on track to contribute as much as 13% of the world’s atmospheric carbon by 2050.

Hard Rock Stadium alone has been going through about 2,800,000 plastic items annually. Our own personal thirst for throw-away plastic cups, cutlery, bags and such has now led to the new Shell ethane cracker being built in Pennsylvania, as well as the new ExxonMobil refinery now being built in Texas. Each of these facilities will emit millions of tons of additional CO2 into our atmosphere — almost the equivalent of adding 800,000 more gas cars to our roads. The fracking (which we accept though it poisons our groundwater and contributes to earthquakes); the wasteful transportation of crude oil (the emissions from which cause additional early cancers and contribute to the millions of extra cases of childhood asthma caused by our gas-burning vehicles each year (bit.do/ice-childhood-asthma)); the methane-releasing refining process (methane is 80 times more “warming” than CO2); the production of the single-use plastics themselves (noted above); and the subsequent dumping of the waste somewhere or other (don’t ask, don’t tell) taken together are only one part of our lethal legacy to our children.

As “just one” of the more than 4,700 sports stadiums in the world, Hard Rock Stadium could claim that they can’t make a real difference, even within that small cohort of sister institutions, let alone within the far broader scope of polluters. Just as we might say that our individual contributions can’t make a difference, so too do large corporations point to even larger entities to excuse their inaction. It makes just as much sense for us to claim impotence as for ExxonMobil to point out (correctly) that their own pollution is insignificant compared to that of all the people who won’t give up their gas mobiles, gas stoves, single-use plastics, air travel and industrial beef. (All of which, by the way, ExxonMobil helps to make possible.)

However, Hard Rock Stadium has made a U-turn that serves as an example to others (from restaurants, to event parks, to stores, to our own homes). Tom Garfinkel, executive at Hard Rock Stadium and the Miami Dolphins, had an epiphany while watching a program on plastic pollution (bit.do/hrs-sup) and has taken action that has resulted in a reduction of their use of single-use plastics by 99.4%! (This writer’s mind boggles at the idea of reducing single-use plastics at a sports stadium by even 50%.) The stadium had already switched to LED lighting, no plastic straws, and waterless urinals, among other measures (bit.do/hrs-ecology).

Be that as it may, sea level rise is already exceeding most of the more pessimistic scientific predictions of the past. While it has long been thought that South Florida might avoid catastrophic flooding for another 100 years or so, that is no longer the case — and Hard Rock Stadium is less than 10 feet above current sea level. Although we’ve all known about the threats and consequences of climate change for the past decade, we’ve done scarcely anything about it. The turn-back deadlines are now piling in upon us quickly, and the window of opportunity to avoid real catastrophic changes is now measured in months (bit.do/cc-18mos).

This all might not sound like such a big deal to us in and of itself (although it certainly is for those who must live in it), and it does seem a long way off (to those of us who won’t likely be around to experience much of it). But try to imagine your great-grandparents deciding to continue a way of life that they knew guaranteed us failed crops, frequent devastating storms and floods, potable water scarcity, new diseases and infestations, many more cancers, breathing problems starting in childhood, the need to migrate to less-extreme climates, and the lot.

Mr. Garfinkel has made a significant statement here. At some personal and professional risk, he’s leveraged his position to put a halt to something that he knows is already harming others — and will continue to worsen far into the future. Doing something to fight climate change is often simply not doing something that we know makes it worse. Do what you can, as soon as you can.

Greg will be watching SB LIV at his dad’s Passive House: bit.do/vgbnphc.

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