By Shelley Broxton
In light of ice sheets on the Antarctic peninsula melting at a worrying rate, the never ending cycle that is the topic of global warming once again makes its way to the forefront.
According to a new report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the British Antarctic survey, the ice shelves in the southern part of the Antarctic peninsula appear to be disappearing as a result of climate change. According to the report, the resulting rise in sea level could severely impact the densely populated coastal regions on Earth.
“Large chunks of the ice shelves in Antarctica are breaking off and the number of icebergs are decreasing. Sub-polar areas that used to only sustain small plants are now supporting trees. This is all more evidence of global warming,” said Peter Minorsky, a Biology professor at Mercy College.
If the entire Antarctic ice sheet melts, the potential sea level rise is estimated to be 213-240 feet. The changes that have occurred are considered as among the clearest examples of global warming ever seen on the planet, he says.
“These changes haven’t really changed much. In the long term, Earth may reach a tipping point when the icecaps melt, less light will be reflected back into space, and the Earth will
become even hotter,” said Minorsky. “We might then start to become a parched and
eventually dead planet.”
Since 1998, the ice that was lost from just one of the ice shelves totals more than 1,500 miles. To put that in perspective, that area would be larger than the state of Rhode Island. These discoveries along with the entire principle off global warming have potential long term ramifications.
“In the short term, there will be winners and losers. Countries like Canada and Russia will profit mightily from ship traffic through the Arctic Circle. Yet some island nations will probably disappear. Similarly, some plant and animal species will do better and some worse,” said Minorsky.
Ultimately the patterns taking place probably will also have an adverse effect on the weather nationwide
“With the way things are going, weather patterns are expected to change and become more violent, probably leading to more “tropical” weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes among other things,” said Minorsky.
In the long term, these changes can affect the well being of the Earth. This has been speculated for years, by many scientists and others with a science background.
“Some scientists estimate that this could happen in a hundred years if things don’t change. Of course, one can always ignore the expert advice given by Nobel laureates and the various National Academy of Sciences throughout the world,” said Minorsky. “Instead they can listen to Steve Doocy and the other experts on Fox and Friends (who deny global warming.) Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh will be long dead in a hundred years.”
Under the Influence
While attending Morris, Cleckley struggled to find the inspiration he needed to reach his full potential.
“The students in class were disruptive and the teachers could care less,” said Cleckley.
Both disgusted and discouraged with his new environment, one day, while in the middle of an exam, Cleckley got up and walked out of class.
“I just didn’t want to be there anymore,” said Cleckley “I walked out and never looked back.”
Immediately after storming out of class, Cleckley went to a friend’s house, who was a college student attending Mercy College.
When he told her about his lack of enthusiasm he felt for traditional high schools, she encouraged him to see it through to completion. Sharing motivating stories regarding her Mercy College experiences, she assured him that if he finished high school he would find college to be much more exciting.
“When she told me that I could earn my high school diploma through Mercy I didn’t hesitate,” said Cleckley. ” All I had to do was pay $15 to take the placement exam and complete 24 pre-college credits.”
Upon completing the required courses and obtaining his high school diploma, he was informed by a student advisor at Mercy that he was eligible to continue his education.
In 1985, Cleckley enrolled at the Mercy campus, located in the Bronx, as a college student majoring in Business Administration.
Soon after enrolling in school, Cleckley began to work at the Bronx Developmental Center nearby. However, neither work nor college could satisfy his inveterate curiosity and he continued, to seek opportunities for the stimulating experiences he craved.
Cleckley began to take an interest in one of his co-workers. He was intrigued by her experiments with drugs.
“One day I asked her what free basing was like,” said Cleckley. “She told me to stick around and she would show me.”
After work, Cleckley joined his new friend at her home, where she taught him how to smoke crack from a pipe.
He was soon under the influence
Before long, Cleckley felt the need to be high all the time.
“I laced my cigarettes.” says Cleckley. “I would smoke during the breaks at school and work.” Soon, he became addicted and the drugs began to take over his life. Eventually, work and school got in the way, and he quit showing up for either one.
“I needed to devote my time to getting high,” said Cleckley. “When you’re on drugs you don’t care about school or anything else.” And to Cleckley, home was not an exception.
Still living with his mother, Cleckley often stole from his family for a fix. No longer able to tolerate his behavior, Cleckley’s mom asked him to leave, insisting that until he was clean, he could not return.
Accepting the consequences for his actions, Cleckley left the house and went straight to Grand Central Station.
“I didn’t even bother to pack a bag,” said Cleckley. “It was just so easy to fall back on nothing.”
Cleckley became homeless.
He discovered how to get ten levels down under the station where he could sleep. After midnight, once Grand Central Station closed, he would sneak out of the station in search of food.
Rummaging through the trash of near by fast food chains, Cleckley often ate the food that was discarded after the restaurants were closed for the night.
“McDonalds threw away good food,” said Cleckley. “It was wrapped and bagged so the food was clean.”
After finding what Cleckley considered “a happy meal,” he would sneak back into Grand Central Station where he slept until the next morning.
Once awakened, he would walk a half-mile up the track to a port where he would then use the hot and cold water to freshen up before going to look for work.
Still homeless, Cleckley managed to get a job working at Trinity High school, a private school located in Manhattan, as a salad prep. Instead of saving the money he was paid weekly to find suitable living arrangements, he used it to get high.
“I didn’t mind being out there,” said Cleckley in regard to the jungle known as the steets. “My only concern was being able to feed that beast.”
However, the monkey on his back wasn’t the only beast that became his concern.
One night while sleeping under Grand Central Station, Cleckley had an unexpected wake up call.
“That thing was the size of a kitten,” exclaimed Cleckley. “It was on its hind legs sniffing another homeless guy’s hands.”
It was then he realized he had hit rock bottom.
12 Step Program
Cleckley went through a couple of homeless shelters before he settled in at the Sumner House Shelter in the Bronx.
Because the shelter was often busy helping homeless people who refused to help themselves, once again Cleckley saw an opportunity.
“I wasn’t like them,” said Cleckley. “Deep down, I really wanted to do well.”
He spoke with one of the employees at the Sumner House Shelter and asked if he could work there. The employee then provided him with information regarding a training program where Cleckley could intern to become a direct care counselor.
Cleckley completed the internship and became a direct care counselor for United Cerebral Palsy in Manhattan.
The first two years of working at United Cerebral Palsy, Cleckley was still in the Sumner House Shelter. Then, with the help of a former Sumner House resident, Cleckley applied for an apartment with the New York Housing Department.
Cleckley now had his own place and was holding a steady job.
He maintained his position at United Cerebral Palsy as a direct care counselor, working with the physically challenged, until an ironic change.
His substance abuse started to take a hold on him physically.
First his legs began to drag, and then every few steps he fell to the ground. About an hour later, Cleckley was crawling out of his apartment and down the hallway to his neighbor’s house where he called an ambulance.
He told them he couldn’t take another step.
Even though the ambulance picked Cleckley up from his neighbor’s home and drove him to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, once he arrived they thought he was a homeless guy just looking for a meal and a place to stay for a few days.
“They thought I was faking to get three hots and a cot,” said Cleckley.
“They gave me a sandwich, a juice box, and some crutches and told me I could go home,” he said. But Cleckley wouldn’t leave.
“I couldn’t go,” he says. “I literally couldn’t walk.”
He would get up from the chair and fall to the ground to prove he couldn’t walk; he sat in his own urine and feces to prove he couldn’t make it to the bathroom on his own.
After they still refused to admit him, he crawled to a wheel chair, rolled himself out of the hospital, and hailed a cab to the house of the only person who would care enough to listen, his mother.
On Nov. 27, 1995, on Cleckley’s 34th birthday, he was admitted into Bronx Lebanon Hospital where they had discovered he’d had a stroke.
After three weeks of being under the hospital’s care, he was released.
Cleckley walked out rehabilitated.
Over time, he accepted responsibility for allowing his dreams to turn to ashes; still, he found the strength to move forward in his ability to create new ones.
In 2006, Cleckley returned to Mercy College to plead his case as to why they should allow him to be reinstated. He had to explain what he had been doing with himself over the past 21 years.
Cleckley was required to go through Mercy’s disciplinary process where he was required to give a written statement and have his case heard by a panel, and to clear up any outstanding debt before he could be reinstated.
“I had to work so hard just to get right back where I started,” said Cleckley.
In September of 2009, Cleckley was back at Mercy College.
Now Cleckley, 48, is a junior working to obtain his bachelor’s degree in social work. He is currently attending classes full-time at the Manhattan Campus while working part time as a student worker position at the Manhattan Campus Library.
His current aspiration is to work with people struggling with substance abuse recovery.
“I have first-hand experience,” said Cleckley. “I know the nightmares. I know the sorrows, and I know I can help them.”
Cleckley is grateful for the opportunities he’s been given through Mercy College and believes everyone deserves to be given another chance.
“I’m willing to help anyone I can, because I was shown mercy.”