By, Avery G. ’21
Many of you may have seen startling headlines lately about climate change. I used to subscribe to the New York Times Climate Change newsletter, but I had to take a break after seeing headline after headline of depressing statistics. To give you an idea, carbon emissions in the United States rose 3.4% in 2018, the biggest increase we’ve seen in eight years. Emissions from industry such as steel, cement, and chemicals rose by 5.7% this year (New York Times). This is partly due to the Trump administration’s lax policies around climate change. So far, Trump has passed legislation so that oil and gas companies are not required to report their methane emissions and has loosened laws passed by Clinton that prevent industrial companies from polluting the air with toxic chemicals. He has cut the size of nationally protected land in Utah and gotten rid of a law that protects the coasts and water of the Great Lakes. If you care about animals, then Trump’s environmental policies would be upsetting. Now, in federal land, people are allowed to use lead ammunition and fishing tackles. People can hunt in Alaska wildlife refuges. Most infuriating is that Trump has “restricted most Interior Department environmental studies to one year in length and a maximum of 150 pages, citing the need to reduce paperwork” (New York Times). This is disastrous because it undermines the scientific investigations that need to be done. “The need to reduce paperwork” is a shallow excuse for an administration whose environmental policy benefits corporations. Anna Rose ‘19 said, “I hate how climate change is a scientifically proven thing and Trump still insists that it isn’t real.” Half a degree of warming may not seem important, but according to the New York Times, a half degree “may mean the difference between a world with coral reefs and Arctic summer sea ice and a world without them.”
I often feel overwhelmed by the scope of this problem of climate change and the response of our current administration (and other countries). Why will turning off the lights matter if I drive a gas car? Who cares if one person starts a compost? I asked this to Ms. Uhre, a Winsor biology and science teacher, who shared her wise thoughts. She said, “What I decided is that anything that is easy to do (turn off lights, compost when the city provides it, etc.) is an automatic win, maybe not major points for the planet, … but acting in line with my values (trying to at least not make the situation worse for the planet, if I can’t help) is important to me…. Taking time to be outside and be in awe of all the details of life from plants to bugs is really important to me too,” she reported, “and the fact that all their ancestors have survived for millions of years gives me some hope.”
And there is hope. 75% of Americans aged 18 to 24 believe that global warming is caused by humans, while only 55% aged 55 or older do (Climate Advocacy Lab). Action on climate change will come from the younger generation. For years, climate change has been disregarded; a member of the European Parliament, Stuart Agnew, claimed that the effect of CO2 levels on our climate is “negligible” and that it is “one of agriculture’s greatest friends.” But climate change is serious—it causes weather patterns to be irregular and disasters to be more devastating. Hurricanes Maria, Harvey, and Irma cost the United States some $265 billion in damages. Heat waves stole 153 billion hours of labor globally last year (New York Times). Crop yields are down in more than two dozen countries, and by 2050, the Midwestern United States could see agricultural productivity drop to its lowest level in decades (New York Times). John Kerry, former secretary of state, said, “Ever since Mr. Trump announced that he would pull America out of the Paris accord [an international climate change agreement], those of us in the fight have worked to demonstrate that the American people are still in. The test is whether the nations of the world will pull out of the mutual suicide pact that we’ve all passively joined through an inadequate response to this crisis.” So what can you do?
- Be active politically! Vote for candidates who will support environmental causes. You can look at http://scorecard.lcv.org/members-of-congress to see which congress members are most environmentally friendly. Change often comes from policies. So vote, vote, vote! If you can’t vote, urge your governors to be Climate Change leaders and pressure companies to be ethical. Chevron, an oil company, for example, “has contributed 3.52 percent to global warming emissions… Chevron dumped millions of gallons of toxic waste in Ecuador (One Green Planet). Boycott those companies!
- Burn less gas! Ride the T or take the bus to school. Carpool when possible. Opt for energy efficient cars—in 2019, new models are coming out that will make cleaner cars more affordable.
- Reduce daily electricity by turning off the lights when you are not using them. Also, run washing machine or dishwashers with full loads only.
- Try to eat less meat. Winsor Conserve Our World, COW, head Annie K. ’19 commented: “The meat industry is one of the biggest contributors to methane and greenhouse gases globally.” The production and transportation of these meats are tremendous!
- Annie also recommended to “buy less clothing [and quality ones] that last longer, [it is] more eco-friendly.” The fast fashion industry uses “a lot of water and energy” in order to produce many clothes. That being said, there are some socioeconomic barriers to buying sustainable fashion. If that is so, do not worry and there are plenty of free ways to contribute.
- Elly P. ‘21, Outdoors Club head, shares that she “make[s] an effort to carry a water bottle so that [she] doesn’t have to buy un-reusable plastic products.”
I hope this list of tips helped, and feel free to reach out to me for any more resources.