Editorial: Doing our part for Earth Day

Earth Day is celebrated on April 22 as an homage to our beautiful planet, but it now also serves as a sobering reminder of the damage that humanity has done. Human excess has driven our climate to change more rapidly than at any other point in modern human history. Population growth, energy use, improper land use systems, and pollution are degrading ecological systems and will have a detrimental impact on future societies. As a result, the world faces new risks in terms of rising sea level, disease, food insecurity, and climate extremes.


Despite the scientifically demonstrated urgency of the crisis, climate change is one of the most difficult problems for many people to accept. The consequences are seemingly far in the future, not one person is to blame, there is no tangible enemy, and the impacts are so immense that it is nearly impossible to wrap your head around. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pulling carbon out of the air, and restructuring our societies to be more eco-friendly is a long and arduous task that older generations are reluctant to take on.


Thus, climate change has become an issue of younger generations. Young people are central to raising awareness of the green movement, promoting sustainable lifestyles and adopting environmentally-friendly practices. In fact, 89 percent of youth are optimistic that their actions will have an impact on the halting climate change, according to the United Nations.


Universities realize that investing in future leaders of the world also entails protecting their environment. Thus, many academic institutions are at the forefront of the battle against climate change by reducing their energy waste, promoting recycling programs, and adding an environmental course to the required curriculum. The University has done this by establishing the Environmental Connections requirement and encouraging student involvement at the Lewisburg Community Garden and the Bucknell Farm. Additionally, the University has expanded the Center for Sustainability & the Environment (BSCE) to develop student understanding of natural systems and humans relationship to nature. BSCE has strengthened the University’s long-term commitment to mitigating climate change through their research to developing sustainable practices that enhance the efficiency of human and natural systems.


In particular, the University has furthered this commitment through the recently-drafted University Strategic Plan. The plan addresses environmental sustainability on our campus, claiming that the school’s “imperative is to be a responsible steward of the environment,” consistent with the goal of developing critical and creative thinking skills in its students while keeping in mind morals and ethics. By spring 2020, the University aims to begin implementation of an Environmental Sustainability Plan and continue its progress towards the goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.


We hope that the Environmental Sustainability Plan will not only include changes in University operations but also initiatives that are student-motivated. Many students are passionate about climate issues and have ideas for solutions, from which the University can build momentum.


To make our campus more eco-friendly, we should take some time to evaluate current practices that are wasteful and inefficient. One of the simplest efforts towards creating a greener campus is effective recycling. However, from a quick glance at any trash room, it is clear that students do not know how to properly recycle; trash fills all of the bins, regardless if they are gray or blue. Recycling codes should be more publicly stated and properly enforced. Additionally, the excessive use of plastic used in the University Dining Services is disappointing and harmful. The University should be actively seeking ways to allow for reusable cutlery instead of always utilizing plastic, even when individuals are eating their meals within dining facilities. Another useful step would be to make compost bins prevalent throughout campus, accompanied by educational materials to help students determined what can be composted.


We note that the University has taken positive steps in ensuring that new construction is LEED certified and energy efficient. Additionally, the campus could benefit long-term from dedicating resources to remodel environmentally outdated buildings, particularly older dorms like Vedder Hall and Larison Hall.


Climate change is an undeniable and imminent threat. While positive steps are being taken, both on our campus and beyond, we must take advantage of our generation’s passion and motivation to address this issue. As students of the University, we must use knowledge of the issue to work towards long-term and effective remedies.


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