Listen up, VSCO girls, climate change is real and your metal straws aren’t helping nearly as much as your quirky aesthetic would like to believe. Climate change is a pressing issue, but apparently not everyone is on the same page.
In a recent poll of sixth period lunch, 26% of students polled said they didn’t believe in climate change and 33% of students polled said that they didn’t believe that humans were a factor. Another two had no idea if they believed in climate change and were a little perplexed by what I assumed was a simple question. One student who said she didn’t believe, somehow believed in man-made climate change. This leads me to wonder, “Is Hampton really this uneducated?” I mean, I hate to break it to you, Admin, but our blue ribbon school hasn’t educated us enough about the genuinely important issues in the real world.
Quite frankly, we don’t have a lot of time to argue about this: some scientists estimate that if we don’t start making significant lifestyle changes soon, the damage done to Earth will be irreversible by 2030. Some climate change is caused naturally by ocean and sun cycles, but the overwhelming conclusion among scientists is that humans are to blame.
After all, we are the ones releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Things you do everyday that you don’t even question have serious impacts on the environment. Livestock alone accounts for 14.5% of anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gases. The livestock industry is mostly known for producing the greenhouse gases methane and nitrous oxide by way of enteric fermentation and manure storage. Methane’s effect on global warming is 28 times higher than that of carbon dioxide and has a global warming potential 265 times higher. The industry also releases soil carbon dioxide emissions due to soil carbon dynamics, like those from decomposing plant residues, mineralization of soil organic matter, land use change, and others. The manufacturing of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and from fossil fuel use in on-farm agricultural operations is also a source of soil carbon dioxide emissions. With an increase in world population there will be a higher demand for meat and in turn a larger environmental impact from the meat industry. *
I love to shop, lots of people love to shop, including consumers in developed countries like the United States who buy so. much. stuff. In fact, the combined population of developed countries only makes up 17% of the world’s population, but they use 70% of the world’s natural resources. Plus we would have to factor in the environmental cost of production and shipment of those goods. If everyone were to live like an average United States citizen, we would need five Earths to support the resource consumption. China alone is expected to have a population of 1.5 billion by 2033 which would require 66%-100% of the world’s food and material resources.
Population growth is a contributing factor to our resource consumption but it causes a lot of other issues as well. Some of the main issues we should be concerned with are less biodiversity and increasing pollution. One of the populations being threatened is bees. If bee populations were to drop so low that we were to lose a sustainable level of pollination, it would cost $100 for each drone bee that would replace one real bee. And there are about 3.2 trillion bees in the world. That adds up rather high strikingly fast. If other natural services were to be compromised, like dams, nutrient cycling, and other things the Earth does for free that we need to survive, there would be no possible way to have the money and resources to recreate them. This is only a snapshot of the destruction humans are causing, just a simple Google search can make you feel awful about what is happening around the world because of humans. *
Now that I’ve laid some foundation, let’s talk about how you can help. The best place to start is by educating yourself, begin reading news articles or even take the AP Environmental Science class that Mrs. Ruffner teaches. The more you learn, the more able you will be to support your stance on climate change and take action to stop it. See what politicians are doing and what you can do to help, then start demanding and taking action. Even if you are a minor, you can be politically active. Only 5-10% of the population is needed to effect change.
At home you can get your family to start being more energy efficient, switch to lower energy light bulbs like LED, unplug appliances you aren’t using, eat less meat, and buy produce from local farmers (There’s a farmers market at the community center every Wednesday from 3:00-7:00). Not all the changes we have to make are life-altering but we have to at least start somewhere if we want future generations to have a healthy Earth.
If you’re looking for somewhere to start you can go to the Global Footprint Network to see how much the way you live impacts the health of our earth, then read up on lifestyle changes you can make.
Ready to get active? You can go to the Youth Town Hall on Climate, Gender and Sustainability that PITT is holding on September 19.
*Figures above provided by National Geographic, Newsweek, Oxford Academic, and other contributors.