#2 Climate Change, Educate!

Climate change is the biggest issue that this generation facing in my opinion. This is an incredibly relevant issue and immediate action needs to happen. Here are some things I know about climate change.

Energy sources that the majority of the world is using to heat/cool and power homes, car, etc. are not clean energy sources. These sources are coal, oil, and natural gas. Coal is being extracted from mountaintops, polluting and destroying those landscapes and the air and water and ecosystems around these coal mines. Many energy providers, including the energy providers for Vermont, come from coal mines in West Virginia and the Appalachian mountains. Oil, comes from deep in the ground. Natural gas is a mixture of many chemicals, however it is deemed to be cleaner than oil and coal. The problem with all these forms of energy are that they will run out eventually. The mountains of coal will be destroyed, and the ancient organisms underground will run out. However, they are also polluting and warming the atmosphere. Releasing greenhouse gases, they make the temperatures rise.

Along with warming temperatures, climate change is bringing scary weather, and more devastating storms. The number of hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding that have happened in the past few years, let alone the last decade, have been due to climate change. Sea levels are rising, and will continue to rise, affecting coastal cities the most. If Antarctica and/or the North Pole melt, this will not effect the sea level rise because they are just pieces of ice, however if Greenland melts, sea levels will rise a significant amount because Greenland is land with snow on it. This may be confusing but think about a glass with ice cubes and water in it. If there are ice cubes and water in a glass and its not overflowing, it will never overflow, even when the ice cubes melt, because their volume is already accounted for. However, if you add another ice cube in the glass it is possible that it overflow. Antarctica and the North Pole are already existing ice cubes in the glass while Greenland is an ice cube added that will melt and overflow the glass.

Anyway, there are ways to use energy that are clean. Solar power, wind power, geothermal, hydroelectric are some of the ways we can use the earth’s abundant resources for humans’ benefit. However, there are some problems with these forms of clean energy. For example, hydroelectric power disrupts water life in rivers. It blocks the river for fish, and other wildlife. Some of these sustainable energy sources are very expense, which is a reason that people don’t have them. Hopefully in the (near!) future, they will be more affordable.

There are some smaller, but still effective ways to lower your carbon footprint, such as walking or biking instead of driving your car, planting a garden, having chickens, taking advantage of passive solar, teaching others! I think the most important thing people can do is educate as many people as possible as well as taking action with renewable energy.

There are still things I wonder about climate change. A few of them are: When is the point of no return? How can we eliminate greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere? Do the greenhouse gases allow more sun to come in to the earth? Are teachers teaching this?

Mary Nagy-Benson

5 Responses to “#2 Climate Change, Educate!

  • Wow, Mary. I completely agree with you that climate change is the most urgent problem facing your generation – and the planet as a whole. Sometimes I wonder how a single species like humans can justify imposing such a terrifying alteration on every other living creature on Earth. We clearly think we’re the only ones that count. That idea will not play out well for us, I fear.

    I don’t want to scare you more, but about that sheet of ice covering the south pole – Antarctica is not, as you claim, just an ice cube. It is, in fact, a huge land mass. Its ice comprises about 70% of the world’s fresh water. Your excellent explanation of what would happen if Greenland melted is also true for Antarctica: scientists predict that sea levels would rise about 200 feet! Yikes! Vermont would practically be beach front property.

    You have some great ideas about the need to end our dependency on fossil fuels. Did you know that Green Mountain Power has a webpage devoted to renewable energy: https://greenmountainpower.com/learn/understanding-power/ . Though they certainly have a bias, it might give you some insight into how the state’s biggest utility is addressing (or not addressing) the issue. Also VPIRG – which is a consumer and environmental rights organization based in Montpelier – has some good resources on what people are doing in Vermont: https://www.vpirg.org/issues/global-warming-solutions/ . Finally, right in Middlebury, Bill McKibben has been advocating action for decades. He has many ideas about what we can and should be doing to combat climate change. You can check him out at http://billmckibben.com/ .

    As I sit here typing this response on my energy eating laptop gazing at the beautiful fall colors in the Green Mountains, I can hear my washing machine whirring round and the refrigerator humming. I drive 35 minutes to work every day – 50 miles back and forth. My chickens have an electric fence around them to keep them safe from the local bear. Soon it’ll be dark, and I’ll brighten up the night by switching on a light. I am deeply entrenched in my use of technology, all of it requiring power. You are right to notice that every individual can do something to lessen their footprint, but persuading people to actually adjust their lives now to stave off a future event has always been difficult. That alone would be an amazing topic.

  • Elijah Hawkes
    4 years ago

    Dear Mary,

    Reading your post about this topic – which often leaves me, personally, disheartened and confused and even complacent – I am heartened that you conclude your post with questions. For questions are a beginning and not an end. Questions are not complacent. Questions agitate and – when asked aloud – like your blogging does – generate response, learning, dialogue and the meaning making with others that inspires hope. The reader who responded above me to this your post #2 heard your questions and shared resources and knowledge in reply. What will you do with that? I am tempted to share resources as well, books by authors that seem important to your journey with this topic – authors like Naomi Klein, Jim Hanson, Roy Scranton. But instead I’d like to return to a question I was wondering after reading your first post: how are your experiences with migrant labor, organic farming and climate change connected? Why are there migrant laborers here in Vermont, and where are their homelands, and what is going on there? Why is it difficult for organic farmers to make ends meet? How are the corn and cheese and children and corporations of Central America and Vermont connected – connected to each other and connected to you and me? I’m wondering about that.

  • Courtney Krahn
    4 years ago

    Hi, Mary —

    I remember very few arguments/point made/news cycle-worthy tidbits from the 2016 presidential election, mostly because it all just blurs together in my mind as one big politics-as-usual show; however, the one moment that stands out clearly in my memory from that fall came during the democratic primary debate, when the candidates were asked what they considered to be America’s greatest national security threat. All candidates answered by naming one or more foreign countries, except for Vermont’s own Bernie Sanders. His response? Climate change.

    What strikes me about your post is how it is well-informed, nuanced and grounded in reality. For example, you address the problem and then list in detail specific factors contributing to climate change. You then shift into listing possible sources of cleaner or more sustainable renewable energy. You could have just stopped there, but instead you concede that “there are some problems with these forms of clean energy. For example, hydroelectric power disrupts water life in rivers. It blocks the river for fish, and other wildlife. Some of these sustainable energy sources are very expense, which is a reason that people don’t have them.” By acknowledging this, you add depth to your thinking and honor the complexity of the issue.

    Another point that stands out in your thinking is the idea that teaching others about climate change is an action that anyone can take. It’s easy to excuse oneself from taking responsibility for our collective problem, but your list of small steps — and especially your suggestion that teachers play an important role here — is powerful. The Next Generation Science Standards (which many states in our country have adopted as the required curriculum for science teachers) do call for teachers and students to investigate human impact on environmental systems. That feels like a step in the right direction.

    However, while small steps in the right direction are important, there will come a time when giant leaps toward drastic shifts in human consumption will be needed. And when is that time? Or, as you so forwardly ask, “when is the point of no return?”

  • I like how you talk about climate change, address some of its causes, talk about solutions, and then also acknowledge some of the shortcomings. I agree that most non-renewable energy sources are bad for the environment, but why do you think that they are used more? When you talk about the cons of some renewable energy sources like cost, I thought of this great story I read about a boy from Malawi named William Kamkwamba. William made windmills out of scraps and other items and was able to bring power to his home. (https://thekidshouldseethis.com/post/21436710681) When you talk about cutting down your carbon footprint, why do you think it is harder for some people, rather than others? Also, how can people make it easier to educate others about the effects of climate change?

  • Hi from Germany- Your post has provoked a lot of questions and you live in a state and region whose concern about the environment has been long standing. I lived in suburban Los Angeles as a teenager and I can remember the San Gabriel Mountains being within five miles of my home. There were too many days when we could not see them. There was little by way of public transportation and when I had to go the my youth orchestra rehearsals, my older brother would drive me on the San Gabriel Freeway and our eyes would water and sting because the air quality was so bad. The good news is that with environmental legislation that situation has improved significantly over the past many years and, now, when I fly into LA, I am usually quite taken with and even marvel at the unique and gorgeous landscape that surrounds the sprawling city. But the political winds have changed and we see all kinds of attempts at the national level to undo some of the amazing progress that has been made, which is infuriating. This is one of the many areas where there seems to be a movement to turn the clock backwards. So your commitment to addressing the challenges of climate change and its effects is really important and the more you know and the more you can find out and then exert influence, the better.

    So I have a bunch of questions. It’s been awhile since I have lived in Vermont, so I am not as up to speed about the current state. But what specific efforts is Vermont making to encourage use of renewables? Has the state or have energy providers offered incentives for communities, systems or homeowners to change from more conventional means of generating electricity to renewables? Are there incentives for homeowners to go solar? What inroads has wind made? I can remember a time when VT had the opportunity to participate in a wind project, a pilot project that would have been funded by the feds. But there was resistance from people whose homes were on Lake Champlain and they were afraid the aesthetics of their properties would be diminished if there were turbines in the lake. I also wonder about the presence of electric cars. Do you see more and more of them on the road? Are people who are interested in buying or leasing a new car provided with any incentives to go electric? Are there charging stations that would make it an easier decision? And what about the elctricity production that would power an increase in their use? As for bicycling…Here in Germany it is the norm for kids and teachers and administrators to ride their bicycles to school, often from great distances. In just about every community, there are marked bike paths that make it possible to pedal safely to and from school, even in the winter. And there is a general respect for bicyclists. If you wanted to ride your bike to school, could you, safely, and without having to share the road with cars or buses or trucks? Does your school and neighboring schools offer classes in Environmental Science, participate in the Envirothon, classes whose emphasis might be on the very issues you have identified?

    Finally, have you considered the forum(s) where you could ask questions, gather information, make suggestions, exert some influence…student council, school board, town council, lectures, book readings, gatherings that bring people from diverse interests as well as the like-minded together, to inform, advance the conversation and maybe bring about changes of heart and mind?

    I’m glad to see someone has suggested you tap into the work of Bill McKibben, at Middlebury. He is an expert, a spokesperson, and he is right there.

    I know I have asked more than I have informed, and many of my questions are fraught with complexity, but it seems really important for you to get a firm handle on exactly what the picture looks like in your home community/state. I look forward to reading and responding to your next entry.

    Sally Zitzmann

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