By Leanndra W. Padgett
Backpage Editor / Earth Lover
Delays are rare and cancellations unheard of, so everyone was in for a shock (or pleasant surprise) when GC classes were canceled Monday. I thought I’d experienced my last snow day back in high school, but Mother Nature and Dr. Allen decided otherwise.
As this Kentucky winter has been unusually cold and especially snowy, I can just hear some skeptics making statements like, “Global warming’s a scam! This is one of the coldest winters I can remember.” Their mistake comes from the fact that we are talking about global warming — not local warming.
While parts of the U.S. endure an exceptionally cold winter, other parts of the world are experiencing record high temperatures. From France, Spain, Austria and Switzerland to China and southern Africa, January 2014 ranked as one of the top five warmest Januaries on record (climatecentral.org).
Think that this winter is a fluke? Worldwide, January 2014 was “the 347th consecutive month with above-average temperatures compared to the 20th century average… one month shy of 29 straight years” (climatecentral.org). Things seem to be getting warmer.
While strict temperature difference is part of the problem, changing weather patterns also result. The west coast is experiencing drought right now, as Kentucky has a very wet winter (climatecentral.org).
While it is impossible to pinpoint exactly how much of this change is due to human interference, it is common sense that some of the blame can be attributed to the changes that began with the Industrial Revolution. Today we’re starting to see the results.
Now, I consider myself a fairly conscientious person in regards to the environment. I try to “go green” as much as I can. Still, when I took a carbon footprint assessment earlier this semester for an environmental science class, it estimated that my lifestyle yields 14 tons of CO2 emissions a year. This is below the U.S. national average of 27 tons a year (largely due to the fact that I live in a dorm and not in a building by myself or with just a roommate). But before you congratulate me on my exemplary performance, note that the world average is 5.5 tons per year.
For my contribution of almost three times the global average to be considered good is problematic. We (as global citizens/Americans/Kentuckians/Georgetonians) need to be more environmentally conscientious and recognize the impacts our individual lifestyles yield.
GC has some green initiatives — Georgetown Sustainability Initiative being the most organized effort. One of the college’s 8 Guiding Principles states that “Stewardship is our responsibility.” GC makes recycling easy with bins all over campus. There are select bathrooms with motion sensor lights to save electricity, and the Caf offers Meatless Mondays.
But we have our share of failures, as well. To name just a few examples, the lights in the Writing Center do not turn off at all; something is wrong with the wiring and they blaze 24-7. At the end of the year, the huge dumpsters positioned outside of the dorms are filled with waste. Our energy consumption is disproportionate.
We could look to Berea College for inspiration. Their eco-village and new Deep Green Dorm offer unique and environmentally friendly housing opportunities for students. The college produces much of its dining service’s food through the work study program and has a unique aquaponics system (a fish-and-plant-greenhouse-combo) and a sustainability and environmental studies program.
Both as a college and as individuals, we need to implement more environmentally friendly measures. This cold winter is a reminder that we are greatly affected by nature and weather. Much of it is out of our control, but we can make a difference at least in our carbon emissions. If we don’t, as the Lorax warns, “nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”