By Lillian Linscott
A recent report released by the United Nations stated that by the year 2030, just 12 years from now, the world’s temperature will have risen by 1.5 degrees Celsius. Our reporters spoke with Grand Rapids Community College students and faculty on the matter to get their reactions on the disturbing report.
GRCC student, Fallon Powers, 20, learned of this report when she viewed a video that has been circulating on social media. The video includes the repercussions of the climate changes, not only how it will affect nature, but how it will affect us as well.
“My mom lives in California,” Powers said. “They just had that huge wildfire over the summer. One day, she woke up, and she could see the smoke from her porch. So it’s something that concerns me, just having family in different areas and also just the fact that it’s just so premature and can be prevented. It’s frustrating more than anything. I’m worried and kind of disappointed, we’ve known about this kind of stuff for a long time and there is so much more that could have been done.”
There seems to be a common chord with many that spoke with us on this topic. Concern and frustration was evident.
Tau Lee, 22, is a foreign exchange student from Vietnam. She explained that environmental conservation is different in Vietnam and offered a solution.
“In my country, they don’t keep the environment clean,” Lee said. “The air and water are both very dirty (in Vietnam).” She said that an “education in pollution” could bring about a change.
Fellow student Jenn Coles, 25, felt the same way. She studies and works at GRCC and does what she can to keep her carbon footprint small.
“I’m just worried that one day we’re not going to be able to breathe oxygen,” Coles said. “(I’m worried) that one day we won’t be able to have nature reserves. I’m worried that the longer this goes down, the more we’re going lose our nature reserves and having those guarantees that we can keep nature going.”
Is this epidemic truly out of our control? Is there anything we, as college students, can do? Jason M. Groth, senior consultant, founder and CEO of Jay Inc. thinks we have more influence than we might think.
“Millennials are generationally minded, more so than their predecessors,” Groth said. “While the millennials are rising out of youth and into adulthood, we are seeing increased social justice. Moreover, this social justice finds definition as millennials inherit powerful roles in society. This current millennial generation is equipped to elicit the necessary change to unify all people, old generations and future generations through a generational legacy mindset.”
Where some see millennials as individuals having a rising influence in the world, others disagree.
“Doing something at an individual basis at this point won’t do anything because it is such a big problem now, so it has to be more legislative at this point,” Powers said.
Large corporations are instrumental in determining what is done concerning environmental issues.
“I feel pretty insignificant when I think about that kind of stuff,” Coles said. “I don’t want it to happen, you know, I want to be able to live and thrive in a beautiful world that we once used to have, but when there’s people who care more about money than the world, it’s kinda hard to get anything done.”
There were some students who voiced their concern over the legitimacy of the topic. There seems to be no sure-fire way to determine the validity of research presented to us daily. We are constantly bombarded with messages of doom, but there is always more research refuting those claims.
“We should all be concerned, but you feel like something about climate always comes up,” Ryan Peawlowki, 18, of Lowell, Michigan said.
Tom Southwick, 34, from Wayland, Michigan had mixed feelings on the issue.
“It’s the end of an ice age anyway, the earth goes through cycles,” Southwick said.
Even among the community, there is a difference in opinion as to what exactly is taking place. Where some treat global warming as a real problem, others either disagree with the concept completely or believe it may be an environmental pattern. GRCC professor Hilary Haney provided a different perspective as she reminisced about her childhood and past weather habits.
“I remember when I was little, we’d get these amazing school closings,” Haney said. “Like when I was in elementary school, the snow would cover the whole street. It would just be drifted and you couldn’t even get through. It was just so great.”
We have grown up in a society where we are constantly bombarded with information on the environment, what we can do and what’s being done. Being environmentally conscience has a way of affecting our way of life. Some make small changes in their daily lives in hopes of impacting the world. Jenn Coles is one of those people making small changes in an attempt to help. She buys second-hand clothes rather than “feed the corporate monster,” others carry steel straws, are vegetarian, recycle, don’t drive cars, etc.
There are websites and organizations that list information and resources about environmental issues such as The Guardian which shares a list of the top ten green websites and ScienceDaily that reports new scientific conversations. At GRCC there are student organizations like the Biodiversity Club, where students can speak with fellow students about science and get involved in the community.
Collegiate staffers Audra Schildhouse, Yesenia Santos, Jordan Wilmot and Dan Frederick contributed to this story.