A Growing Concern for the Environment

Lily Bertles

“Save the turtles,” say “VSCO girls” as they pull out their reusable straws. Though the VSCO girl meme was very popular in 2019, it reflects a serious concern for the environment. Throughout the past decade more and more people have been made aware of our changing climate. Many people have been taking actions to better the environment, whether that be boycotting plastic straws or going to climate strikes. 

In a recent survey that The Voice sent out, students were asked a series of climate based questions. One question was “Have you taken any actions to better the environment?” A third of survey takers said they had not. A follow-up question asked the remaining two-thirds of survey takers what types of things they have done to better the environment. The two most popular answers were recycling and using metal straws. Mr. Kane, the director of

environmental stewardship, also responded to the survey answers. In response to the use of metal straws, he stated that he is not a big believer in them because he doesn’t think that people should have to purchase anything to make a difference. “Hate to break the news,” says Mr. Kane in response to recycling, “but the global recycling system is broken.” He then goes on to say that glass and cardboard are really the only recycled items that are being used. 

Scientists attribute most climate trends to human activity. Human activities are altering the earth’s natural “greenhouse” which refers to the earth’s atmosphere. There is a natural greenhouse effect and a human enhanced greenhouse effect. The latter is a process that occurs when gases in Earth's atmosphere trap the sun's heat. Over the past century, burning fossil fuels has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which causes change in our atmospheric “greenhouse” which leads to  warmer temperatures. Warming temperatures can lead to melting glaciers and rising sea levels as well as shifting climates. 

“I wish as individuals we would consider the environment in our daily choices,” said Mrs. Ames, upper school librarian. Mrs. Ames is very passionate about environmental awareness and is one of the faculty heads of the Green Leadership Council. She believes that our school has taken significant actions to be sustainable. For example, the creation of Mr. Kane’s position shows a real commitment to sustainability. Mrs. Ames hopes that in ten years the school community could rely solely on renewable energy sources. 

Renewable energy is often referred to as the energy of the future because unlike fossil fuels, renewable resources are not finite and are very unlikely to ever run out. Renewable energy sources are also much less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels. Sun, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, ocean, hydrogen, and biomass are all examples of different renewable energies. The problem with many of these energy sources is that there are many limitations, because, while they all sound very promising there are downsides to all of them. The two most common resources are sun and wind. Solar panels are very pricey and only work in places with ample sunlight. Similarly, wind power is very expensive to transport from wind farms to urban areas. 

I interviewed junior Tripp Pratt about the changing climate. He stated that he believes the climate is changing but not due to human activity. He believes that the climate is changing due to natural occurrences “as it has many times in the past.” In a recent survey I sent out, many students had similar opinions. 11.7% of survey takers said that they don’t believe in climate change and 13.9% of survey takers said that they don’t believe climate change is due to human activity. 

On the contrary, Mr. Kane believes that climate change is a direct result of human activity. “Cutting down on meat consumption is the number one action an individual can do to help climate change,” says Mr. Kane. According to the Environmental Work Group (EWG), eating a lot of meat is both bad for your health and for the environment. The production and distribution of meat requires a large amount of pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, feed, and water and releases greenhouse gases and manure into our air and water. 

“Individual actions change our mindset and make us more aware of the larger challenges,” says Mr. Kane.  Similarly, one of the leaders of the Green Leadership Council, Ashyln Lee believes that “individual actions can definitely accumulate to help our environment and can inspire others to follow suit, leading to an even greater impact.”  She continues saying “One person minimizing their waste production over time will keep a lot of trash from ending in landfills, and will hopefully show others how they can practice more sustainable habits as well.”