For my last civic issues blog post concerning the environment, I want to close with something more relatable to all of you: what ways Penn State and other universities are discussing climate change.
Many large institutions like Penn State offer students with the option to choose climate change-related majors. This enables students, who have the desire, to learn specifics about this topic at an in-depth level rather than the ‘on the surface’ facts from google, scholarly articles, etc. Although other smaller, liberal arts schools might not offer this much specificity on this topic, most schools do offer clubs and programs that are dedicated to discussing environmental topics.
Many of these groups are engaged in proposing sustainability initiatives and informing the rest of the university about their programs. Programs at schools like this range from clubs like ‘Eco-Action’ at Penn State to the Public Interest Research Group at UC Berkeley. Other schools have action plans for the future regarding the environment, such as Colgate University planning to be carbon neutral by 2020 – their campus planning and building design will incorporate sustainable practices.
Penn State has implemented a ‘green-2-go’ service – instead of using the polystyrene containers for every take out meal, the dining hall allows students to keep the Green2Go Box after eating, returning it at the next meal for a clean one – a simple way to reuse. It was estimated that Students, faculty, and other guests use about 495,000 of these polystyrene containers at UP annually – almost half a million containers sent to the landfills every year.
Seeing that this is the last blog, I also wanted to end with what I thought were the most important takeaways from my semester’s worth of environmental themed facts and policies, so you can either form an opinion on climate change (given that you didn’t have set opinions before) or consider your position on climate change and whether or not you feel differently after reading these blogs (ie: believing climate change should be handled by the government Vs. the public, whether the change in temperature is significant enough to act Vs. not act, etc.).
- Looking at global temperature: The majority of the warming of earth’s atmosphere has occurred from about 1980 to present day – faster than any previous period of time. It is your decision to decide whether this seems statistically significant enough to become a concern to the public society.
- Who is responsible for global climate change? A never ending argument that doesn’t have one justified answer – it depends on your point of view. Humans can be largely responsible for recent climate change because of daily activities – amount of energy used when doing household chores or tasks, amount of hours spent driving a car, etc. Industrial or agricultural companies who produce greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide can be primarily responsible. Or, the earth itself can be primarily responsible – it is just inevitable that the temperature will vary from year to year, century to century, but humans have not been part of the primary cause.
- Who is responsible for taking action on climate change? The government is in charge of enforcing policies and laws. While other citizens cannot do this, they can become active in their local government initiatives and programs, or contribute individually – taking steps at home or on the road.
- Understanding that regardless of your opinion on climate change, some effects of climate change are unavoidable. In example, carbon dioxide will not just disappear – it will remain in the atmosphere for about a century.
- Having an awareness of future effects, and deciding the action you want to take, depending on your position.
- Listening to the statistics. We cannot argue with what science says – especially not statistics given by researchers like those at NASA. You cannot change statistics but you can interpret them in the way you want. Like I mentioned before, there are statistics about the average temperature of the globe that prove it is gradually warming, but it is up to you to decide whether these temperatures mean anything significant.
I hope these blogs have led you to discover what you truly believe in regarding climate change, the environment, sustainability, and other related topics, and helped you gain new insight on this topic!