THE ISSUE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Earth has given humanity all of our means of life. Through the use of earth’s resources humans were able to develop. Unfortunately this development has come with great cost to our habitat. Climate change is a critical issue that effects every member of the global population. Today there is more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere than in the past 800,000 years. Even though US citizens only make up 4% of the world population they emit 25% of all the world’s CO2 which is the largest amount emitted by any nation in the world. These high emissions create warming and cooling across the world that trigger instability and cause the destruction of ecosystems on both land and water.
The staple image for climate change is ice caps melting, and a few polar bears dying of hunger. However the future effects of climate change will be far more severe and widespread than this. The jungle and the ocean are both carbon sinks, and it is their duty to be responsible for controlling the earth’s balance by absorbing the excess of carbon in the atmosphere. Too much Co2 serves as a poison for these eco-systems. In the oceans, this causes temperatures to rise. And in jungles this causes the trapping of harmful gas. Here is a graph that shows how the oceans temperatures have risen from 1880 to now:
The ocean soaks up 93% of the world carbon. Coral reefs are not able to survive in warmer ocean temperatures. Even though they only make up .1% of the total ocean floor, they support 25% of all marine life in the ocean, which means the bleaching of this coral is going to cause the extinction of a quarter of all marine life. Second, the jungle eco-system also houses an array of species whose lives are threatened by global temperature rise. As trees are another one of the worlds carbon sinks, they trap carbon in the thick vegetation that grows in them; unfortunately an excess of this gas can suffocate wildlife who surround the area. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that 20-30 percent of plant and animal species will be at risk of extinction if temperatures climb more than 1.5° to 2.5°C.
Climate change not only effects the lives of humans, but also the other species who claim earth as their home. Despite the immense amount of research that supports action to fight climate change, there is a sizable amount of the population that still denies its existence. A study conducted by Yale surveyed the people around the United States, to find their thoughts about climate change. Even with all the scientific evidence and support by global influencers around the world, 34% of people in the United States still believe that human activities have no effect on the climate. Lucky for the world however, the majority of the United States believes that it is a pressing problem.
CLIMATE ACTIVISM AT KENT DENVER
In my efforts to combat the effects of climate change in my very own Kent Denver School, I targeted my own student community to catalyze change. My first project was to help guide my school to develop our solar profile, and hopefully convert the school to renewable energy permanently. Kent Denver is looking to renew many of their buildings, and implement LEED philosophies in their construction. LEED certification is given to buildings that prioritize innovation, energy conservation and choosing eco-friendly building materials. Currently Kent has 250 kwh of solar installed capacity, and is looking to add another 100 kwh by the summer, and an additional 100 kwh of energy by using off site solar panel farms. This solar is powering the Middle School buildings, and I hope to bring these eco-friendly strategies to the Upper School as well. My project calls an activist student body to engage and support the installation of solar panels throughout Kent Denver.
We should prioritize the use of solar, as it can serve as a permanent solution to Kent Denver’s carbon footprint. The instillation of solar, if implemented, will carry on through the generations it stays active as a school, which would save a lot of carbon from going into the atmosphere. Already, with the existing 450 kwh of solar on campus the carbon offset is 549 lbs. To make this easier to understand, think about how a typical American home, (2,500 sqft) would need about a 10 kWh solar system installed to offset their electrical use. So, Kent essentially will have about 350 homes worth of solar here on campus, which is amazing.
My work with Kent’s Upper School started off with an initial survey that was sent to all the high school students. I introduced this survey to them through an all grade assembly, to incentivize them to fill it out. Here are the overall results I got back, as well as a followup announcement that I made to introduce the idea for climate change club.
Over 60% of the survey respondents labelled climate change a 9 or 10 on the importance scale. With this information I was able to go to the Kent Denver board, and prove to them that the majority of the Kent population is eager to see Kent fully transition into the use of solar.
The associate head of school, Mr. Jerry Walker, informed students that because of our work, we will see solar implemented in each of the buildings on campus by 2019!
This news meant that the idea of zero emissions caused by energy usage was finally a reality.
But why stop there? The student survey and Kent’s response have inspired students and faculty at our school to join a Climate Change team and develop ideas for mini-projects around Kent that would help the environment. Here are some of the responses I got:
“Education somehow; I think a lot of people aren’t concerned enough about climate change, or not concerned enough to do things about it, so I think educating people on it somehow (whether in a school-wide assembly or otherwise) would be helpful!”
“I think Kent could enforce a limit on how many cars are allowed on campus, in essence strongly encouraging students, parents, and faculty to carpool and limit total emissions on a normal school day”
“Using solar chargers, to be lent out by the Duncan Center (school library). Goal Zero is a company that sells them, and Nokero is another good option”
While some of these are ambitious targets, there is nothing that isn’t attainable when you have the support of your community, backing a call to make a difference. Through this process of just trying to get solar panels on campus, we are gathering a group of students who are passionate about combatting climate change. And we have more new project ideas lined up, including:
- A week devoted to climate change: We would hang up posters, and write newspaper articles that would educate people about the immediate dangers of climate change. Since education about climate change seemed to be in high demand by my peers, it would be the best place to start.
- A water bottle renting system: Where students will be able to check out reusable bottles to use throughout day, which would discourage them from buying plastic water bottles at the school snack shack.
- A tree planting campaign: Kent Denver has 200 acres of a beautiful campus. But you know what this open land could use? Trees! Just a day of working the fields and planting trees in open spaces will create more carbon sinks that could absorb CO2, and have a lasting positive effect in the long term.
WHAT YOU CAN DO!
The fact is that the earth has done so much for humanity. It has provided food, resources, medicine, development, you name it! Literally anything that we have today, would not have been possible without our planet earth. But now, it’s our turn. Earth needs us. She is slowly crumbling, ecosystems are collapsing, marine life is suffering, there are irregularities in weather patterns which are affecting the stability of life on earth. But it’s not over. The battle against climate change is just beginning. And luckily for us, if everyone chips in, its going to be an easy one to win. Here are a few things you can do to make your own difference:
- Unplug power chords when they are not in use! Just keeping your Mac charger plugged into the wall can suck up 50 watts of energy daily. Added up in a year can actually add up to 438 kwh! So when you are not using the charger, just unplug it from the wall, simple.
- Discourage the use of single use plastics in your family. For Christmas buy everyone in your house water bottles, and make them use it the rest of the year! the elimination of single use plastics will prevent tons of plastic waste from floating into the ocean yearly.
- Never Stop Educating! be an advocate for the environment, because we are the only voice that the earth has. Make sure you are spreading your knowledge about environmentally friendly practices, which might inspire others to hop on the climate change wagon and do the same for their communities.
As my school continues its journey to become an ally to our planet earth, it would be really helpful to hear more ideas on climate change activism from all of you! I would love it if you left these responses on the survey below: