COLUMN: Lack of environmental awareness startling, disappointing
Published: Friday, October 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 5, 2012 04:10
During the first couple of weeks of school, students try to get a read on who their professors are and what they believe in. It quickly became apparent to me that my biology professor, Rick Adams, was quite interested not only in biology, but also in how humans have affected it.
Adams made some claims about our consumptive rate and its effects on the planet — most of which were far more dramatic than I had ever imagined. So I scheduled a visit to his office to learn about the science behind the statements, and his answers remained constant.
Most of us — myself included — have thought primarily about vehicles and emissions when discussing climate change. But that is at least partially driven by our concerns about gas prices, which are significantly lower here than in almost all other developed countries. Adams says there is much more going on with our effect on the planet than the single-occupancy SUVs we drive and that we are at roughly double Earth’s human carrying capacity.
“The current model that we’re operating under — economically, industrially, ecologically — is completely unsustainable, and it’s so far past sustainability that, at this point, it’s going to require major shifts in what we are doing,” Adams said.
Some of the suggestions Adams made about helping sustain the earth were simple ones — using recyclable materials, not buying so many clothes and keeping heat and air conditioning to a minimum. One of the bigger challenges he posed, though, was to become vegetarian. So for a week, I put my car keys up, picked up all the litter I could and yes, even avoided all meat.
For those who know me, it may be hard to imagine, but I felt I should get used to the diet if, as Adams and the science suggest, we will all need to be vegetarian in twenty years. The results were surprising.
Yes, I had the urge to grab a burger once or twice, but physically, I felt better, even after workouts. I was glad to be doing something I knew was good for the welfare of our planet and its inhabitants. That being said, I am not planning on cutting meat from my diet entirely, but I will be restricting myself to eating animal flesh only two, maybe three, times each week.
I challenge our university to find more ways to “go green.” Colorado State boasts that it is the greenest college in the nation. Why doesn’t UNC take that as a challenge, or at least inspiration?
I am in the kitchen at the University Center three times a week, and I see all the compostable food wasted. I’ve carried recyclables from class to class, unable to find an appropriate receptacle.
Finally, I challenge all of us, as individuals, to be cognizant of the way we consume in our society and our own lives. There are scientific predictions that around 2030, we will reach the tipping point in our population and have an industrial collapse, dropping eventually back down to one billion people, extinguishing 50 percent of Earth’s biodiversity along the way.
If you don’t choose to make the changes necessary, however small they may be, to take care of our planet, it’s quite literally your funeral, along with the rest of ours. So choose wisely, my friends.
— Michael Nowels is a junior elementary education major and a weekly columnist for The Mirror.