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Earth Day: UMass students surveyed on their attitudes and approaches to climate change and sustainability

A handful of students were surveyed on topics surrounding climate change and sustainability

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Earth Day: UMass students surveyed on their attitudes and approaches to climate change and sustainability

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By Chris McLaughlin, Assistant News Editor

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With Earth Day approaching on Monday, April 22, a handful of students from the University of Massachusetts were surveyed on their thoughts and opinions concerning climate change and sustainability.

Sofia Tempestoso is a communication and Italian studies double major, Alicia Ramones is a marketing and Italian studies double major, Rachel Jansen is a biochemistry and molecular biology major, Laura Townsend is a mechanical engineering major and Carlie Mannai is a communication disorders major. All of them are sophomores.

Each took the time to express their thoughts on climate change as well as sustainability initiatives they personally would like to see enacted. While all five students appeared conscientious on issues concerning climate change and sustainability, their level of engagement and experience with the topic varied from person to person.

For Tempestoso, she explained she is quite environmentally conscious, even writing articles on these topics for the HerCampus publication. Tempestoso added that she is pursuing a minor in natural resource conservation and is working to enact an ordinance over the summer that would seek to ban or impose a 10 cent fee on plastic bags in her hometown of Easton, Massachusetts.

According the Mass. Chapter of The Sierra Club, an environmental organization,  as of April 2019 over 90 towns in Massachusetts have put regulations in place over single-use plastic bags, representing 45 percent of the state’s population.

For Ramones, she thinks about climate change often. She described herself as a pescatarian, avoiding white and red meat in favor of fish as a source of protein.

Ramones added that her home is solar-paneled and began thinking more about the topics associated with climate change after taking AP Environmental Science in high school.

For Jansen, she indicated that while she doesn’t think about climate change on a daily basis, she explained she has implemented small sustainability measures in her daily life. These measures include recycling, using a reusable water bottle over single-use bottles and bringing reusable bags when shopping.

Though when she goes shopping, Jansen admitted that “sometimes it’s hard to remember,” inadvertently leaving her bags in her car.

The other students surveyed echoed similar initiatives, such as taking reusable straws and tumblers with them when they get breakfast. For Jansen and Ramones, both said that they use a hand towel to remove makeup at the end of the day over disposable one time use makeup wipes to reduce waste.

As a mechanical engineering major, Townsend says she is encouraged to think about renewable energy and efficiency in her classes. She explained she is a fan of the electric car company Tesla, and said she once had the opportunity to travel to Ghana to work on a sustainable water initiative there as well.

For Mannai, she said she doesn’t think about the topic more than a few times a week, but usually does when “weird things happen with the weather,” such as abnormal seasonal temperatures or precipitation.

Mannai cited her greatest concern related to climate change as sea level rise. A native of the coastal community of Marshfield, Mass., Mannai described the idea of rising seas potentially putting portions of her hometown underwater as “absolutely terrifying.”

According to Mass.gov, “By mid-century, sea surface temperature could increase by 1.7 degrees Celsius and, by the end of the century, by up to 3.3 to 4.4 degrees Celsius . Predictions of sea level rise are variable. By 2100, sea level rise in Massachusetts could range from 29 centimeters (if the current rate of sea level rise persists) to 201 centimeters (depending on the extent of global warming).”

Among the other students surveyed, their greatest concerns related to climate change involved heat waves and wildfires, carbon emissions and species endangerment and extinction.

Tempestoso was particularly concerned for wildlife that she described as “helpless” in the face of climate change with Townsend speaking of similar concerns for the polar bear, one of her favorite animals.

When asked about the importance climate change in upcoming elections, Ramones said that it should be a “national priority” and was one of her top voting factors.

“We shouldn’t elect a president who doesn’t think [climate change] is not a thing,” said Townsend.

Townsend added she believes government subsidized payments into renewables such as solar panels and electric vehicles would be a good idea.

For Jansen, she explained that the effects of climate change are “more immediate than people think.”

Chris McLaughlin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @ChrisMcLJournal.

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