Massachusetts Daily Collegian

U.S. needs to stop bad environmental habits

By Jeanette Schaible

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Flickr/ribarnica

We need a break. I don’t think this is working anymore. It’s time for a change. It’s not you, it’s me.

Sound like typical break-up lines, right? Unfortunately, people are not the only ones who can be involved in bad relationships. Americans especially are in an unproductive and dangerous relationship with the environment. It’s a one-way relationship where we take, consume, neglect and abuse the environment. And sadly, the environment doesn’t have an advocate that will help protect it.

As Americans contribute so heavily to the problem, we particularly need to take responsibility for our environmentally degrading habits. Not only does the environment not deserve this treatment, but the way we exploit it does not even benefit us. We are running out of resources and destroying everything we come in contact with. If we want to continue to live on this earth, we need to change.

One of our main degrading habits is the release of excess greenhouse gases, which trap solar heat, not allowing it to leave the earth’s atmosphere. Having some greenhouse gas emissions are necessary for climate and weather control, but too many emissions is detrimental. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and water vapor. These compounds all occur naturally in the environment, but human activities like driving cars and burning oil produce an unnecessary amount of these gases, and their accumulation leads to a warmer globe.

We produce carbon dioxide by breathing, but also from burning fossil fuels. The United States burns over 20 million barrels of oil every day, producing about 18 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. All that CO2 contributes to global warming. And to make matters worse, burning fossil fuels also releases other compounds that are linked with acid rain, black soot and human diseases, like asthma and heart disease, into the air. So our actions are also harming human health, water systems, plants and animals. This is, again, indicative of an unhealthy relationship between the environment and us. 

A few other aspects of this abusive relationship are deforestation and mining. Deforestation is the clearing or destruction of forests for the development of urban and agricultural areas. However, trees are vitally important to the environment because they provide food and shelter for animals and other organisms, prevent erosion, maintain air temperatures near the ground, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Without these CO2 absorbers, called “sinks,” there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which helps trap more heat on earth. Mining areas are similarly comprised of destroyed land and harm the local ecosystems.

Some people would argue that the environment is doing fine. It is continuing to supply us with food and water, there are animals in our backyards, the sky is blue and there are still trees in forests. Things may be OK right now, but they may not be for long. A lot of the changes in the environment are not noticeable until they become endangered or non-existent, like species or access to certain resources, respectively. 

We know the damaging effects of our actions, we have the ability to stop them and we have the tools to help us. Now we need to make a commitment to improve our relationship with the earth. Each person needs to take small steps towards living a more environment-friendly life. You can reduce your carbon dioxide output by carpooling, switching energy sources to ones that don’t require burning fossil fuels, planting trees, recycling, using energy efficient products and unplugging appliances that aren’t in use.

Recycling items helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions because it uses already-made products whose elements do not need to be mined or otherwise made. Unplugging appliances reduces the waste of energy that was most likely derived from fossil fuel sources. Switching energy sources would mean installing solar panels, buying wind energy or driving a hybrid car. Each little change is an improvement for the environment and for us.

After a break from our environmentally abusive habits, our new habits will become routine and effortless. We will do them without thinking, and we won’t miss the harmful behaviors of the past. We will improve our own lives, the well-being of the environment and our relationship with the environment. This is a relationship that we can’t give up on because, like it or not, we can’t live without it. In the end, we will thank ourselves and live better lives.

Jeanette Schaible is a Collegian contributor and a UMass Eco-Rep. She can be reached at [email protected].

7 Comments

7 Responses to “U.S. needs to stop bad environmental habits”

  1. David Hunt 1990 on March 29th, 2013 7:12 am

    A pity the so-called “Eco-Rep” doesn’t understand science and the currently developing state of Climatology.

    Contrary to popular misconception, the earth has NOT warmed in the last 16-17 years. This departs from the models significantly, and the accepted standard for the Earth’s temperature is about to drop out of the 95% confidence band of the climate models.

    To anyone who actually understands science, this is profound – it means that the models aren’t predicting reality. Actual data trumps theory.

    And speaking of actual data… what is one element of the models that is universal to them all? CO2 is a relatively mild greenhouse gas. Every model – EVERY ONE – has a fundamental element to its predictions of a warming climate that CO2 will drive more moisture into the air, resulting in a buildup of water vapor in the upper atmosphere.

    Let me repeat this for the scientifically challened (like Ms. Schaible): This is a testable prediction, a hallmark of SCIENCE.

    So is there this buildup? No. It’s not there. The models – every one – fail on a fundamental element of their predictions.

    SCIENCE depends on the ability to create theories, put forth predictions, and test them against observed data. When data and theory match, you have a theory that is upheld. But when data disproves a core element of the theory, the theory is bogus.

    “Global Warming” by CO2 is bogus.

  2. Eric Popp on March 31st, 2013 3:58 pm

    David:

    For a guy that’s so sure of himself, why don’t you back up your arguments with numbers and sources? I’d like to see a citation from some reputable source, not a right-wing nutjob blog that I fear you probably frequent. You are, in fact, dead wrong on everything you have said. UMass employs internationally renowned scientists at the forefront of research. While you proselytize from your lazy-boy, there are people, highly educated, who are actually doing work to research. They’ve been to the ice caps. They’ve seen the melting. You’ve done nothing but belittle people with whom you disagree, however irrational and foundationally deficient your argument may be.

    Everyone on this website is now dumber for having read your post. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

  3. Severi on April 1st, 2013 6:28 am

    First of all I would like to say that there are many people like David who distrust the greenhouse gas scientists as it is natural to question popular theories. The bigget problem that scientist faces is to “prove” a cause and effect between CO2 and world temperatures. I am sure there are feedback mechanisms that are not clearly understood.

    So let’s simplify things. Our consumption of non-renewable resources is incresing. Fossil fuel use causes increased levels of atmospheric CO2. Fossil fuels are a finite resource (even though the USA has discoverd shale oil and gas these will not last forever). We must at time become more energy efficient and use more renewable sources of energy. David can forget about the rise in temperature caused by CO2 emissions and just concentrate of using energy more efficiently. That also will require more knowledge about the food and goods we buy.

    Please talk less bout climate change and talk more about conserving resources for future generations.

  4. David Hunt 1990 on April 1st, 2013 10:06 am

    Eric:

    http://www.wattsupwiththat.com

    Try reading the articles for a couple of weeks. You might learn something.

    Or how about the Economist:

    A sensitive matter
    http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21574461-climate-may-be-heating-up-less-response-greenhouse-gas-emissions

    Quote: “OVER the past 15 years air temperatures at the Earth’s surface have been flat while greenhouse-gas emissions have continued to soar.” Which DISAGREES with the models’ predictions.

    Note, in particular, the graph near the top of the article. See how the acknowledged global temperature is BELOW the models’ predictions? If this curve continues that average will be OUTSIDE the 95% confidence band.

    For those who practice SCIENCE, not eco-cultism, that is signficant, because to differentiate between the null hypothesis and a counter-claim, the 95% confidence rating is standard for a T-test.

    A SCIENTIST would look at the null hypothesis vs. the claim, see that the claim and the null hypothesis are diverging beyond that 95% standard confidence measurement, and say “Gee, maybe we’ve been wrong.”

    A SCIENTIEST would look at a fundational prediction of EVERY MODEL vs. the data that says that prediction is not being met, and say “Gee, maybe we’ve been wrong.”

    Warmist cultists, on the other hand, dismiss skeptics, slander them, call them criminals on the order of the Nazis, attempt to silence the skeptics… in other words, act like a religious institution suppressing the heretics. SCIENTISTS share data and methods because they want the TRUTH, not conceal their data, delete inconvenient curves, “hide the decline”, and so on.

    “When facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” — Keynes

    I’ve argued with enough creationists who dismiss facts, logic, and testable evidence to know the type. Warmists are a cult.

  5. David Hunt 1990 on April 3rd, 2013 8:15 am

    Severi:

    I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE with the idea of energy efficiency. I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE with the idea of pursuing renewables… because oil (in particular) is such a rich source of chemical feedstocks it’s a shame we burn it rather than use it industrially to produce things.

    We can discuss energy efficiency, reducing oil dependency, etc., without the hysteria over what is proving to be a vastly-overestimated effect of CO2 on climate. Let alone the myriad feedback loops upon feedback loops that someone without the hubris of the White Coat Priesthood clearly has.

    As to Eric Popp… when someone thunders “May G-d have mercy on your soul!” I see people about to be immolated at the stake, with the Inquisitor thundering their sentence of death having given the heretic one last chance to recant.

  6. Sam King on April 7th, 2013 6:59 pm

    Hi David,

    I appreciate your skepticism, it’s important to keeping people who publish things honest. However I don’t appreciate being called a cultist. I’d have to say that you are taking your anger out on the wrong people. In much the same way that the tobacco industry tried to sow doubt upon the cancerous effects of smoke, the fossil fuel is trying to do the same about climate change. The science is clear. news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/01/130109-warmest-year-record-2012-global-warming-science-environment-united-states/ Why do you think we’ve had 3 storms of the century in the course of about 6 years? Record drought, flooding, record Arctic ice melt?

    The article you cite from the economist isn’t a scientific review and it doesn’t even have an author. It also says that there are correlations between C02 emissions and global climate change. Just because a 5 year mean doesn’t meet predictions doesn’t mean that the science is incorrect.

    Take a step back and look at the bigger timeline and picture. Realize that the planet is not a model and doesn’t always respond the way we think it will. We know that the ocean is a carbon sink where most of the Co2 is deposited. When that reaches saturation, we’ll see some serious issues.

  7. David Hunt 1990 on April 8th, 2013 8:04 am

    Sam:

    The record is NOT clear. Try reading http://www.wattsupwiththat.com for a few weeks. It’s chock full of articles, graphs, and – yes – references to scientific papers.

    As I said before, a SCIENCE looks at objective data. I repeat, again, CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas. Moisture is much stronger. EVERY ONE of the models predicts moisture buildup in the upper atmosphere. This is a TESTABLE PREDICTION. So is it there?

    No. It is not.

    So when a fundamental, key-to-the-whole-works prediction isn’t fulfilled, a SCIENTIST says “Gee, maybe we were wrong.” A CULTIST refers back to the Holy Writ and says “This is true – don’t believe your lying eyes.”

    2000-odd years ago the planet was warmer than it is now. It’s called the “Roman Warming Period”. Was that all the SUVs “roman” around?

    1500-2000 years before that, the Minoan Warming Period was even warmer than the Roman. What caused that? Maybe it was the Atlantean coal power plants.

    Looking at the ice core data, not from 100 years but from thousands – tens of thousands – of years, one sees the planet has a temperature pulse. Up. Down. Sometimes with dramatic swings in a relatively short time.

    And when someone “hides the decline”, when someone attempts to silence skeptics – as the Warmist Cult has attempted to do – I, as an engineer used to dealing with FACTS looking for TRUTH, get VERY distrustful.

    Ultimately, a scientific theory MUST contain the ability to falsify itself. E.g., we predict X; if X happens, our theory is true. If Y happens, it isn’t. Every event, calm, storm, more ice or less – EVERYTHING is interpreted as being supportive of the theory.

    Lastly, a SCIENTIST does not throw their theory out there and challenge others to disprove it. They gather evidence to support their theory and challenge others to help shoot it down. Because they want the TRUTH, not their theory, to win.

    When someone conceals data, when someone “adjusts” data, when someone relies on temperature data from stations on roofs, near airports, in parking lots… that’s not measuring CLIMATE, that’s measuring local heat island effects.

    Did you know that entire data sets (e.g., from Russia) have been ignored and omitted from the collective data? Did you know that the Midieval (sp, don’t care) Warming Period was intentionally left out of the “Hockey Stick”?

    You are correct. The planet is not a model. So why are the models correct in predicting the curve when the DATA shows a divergence between DATA and MODEL beyond the normal standard (95% confidence) for saying they are the same data set?

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.