Each year for Earth Day I bike to work to raise awareness for environmental issues amongst my high school students. By riding my bike I am eliminating my vehicle’s emissions for the day. The idea is not really to encourage my students to bike to school everyday but to prompt students to ask me why I rode and create a teachable moment. It opens the door to discussing the impacts of fossil fuel usage. This year on April 21st I will continue with my tradition and the teachable moment, but I have also given myself a goal of encouraging people to donate to the Sierra Club or consider transitioning their homes’ energy to renewable resources.
It is tough to imagine living in a world without our current biodiversity and natural places. I want to ensure that my children have a future with access to clean water, air and sufficient natural resources. This is only possible if we consider environmental impacts in all aspects of our daily lives but especially our energy usage. Our current use of fossil fuels is contributing to rapid changes to our climate. These changes pose significant problems for our future quality of life. We do have solutions to these issues but we can only implement solutions when people acknowledge that there is a problem. One of the biggest obstacles is a lack of science education. Most people do not understand the science of climate change.
There are many factors that influence climate such as ocean and wind currents, cloud cover, solar activity and the greenhouse gas effect. The greenhouse gas effect is the one variable that is out of balance and being greatly increased by the use of fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases such as methane, water vapor, and carbon dioxide trap heat from the sun and keep Earth at a temperature that can sustain life however, too much of these gases cause the Earth's temperature to increase.
Fossil fuels are dead animals like dinosaurs that have been compacted over millions of years. All organisms are made of carbon. When carbon is combusted and combined with oxygen it releases carbon dioxide. Burning of fossil fuels is putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, increasing at rates that have not been seen in millions of years. (see the diagram below)
The idea of warmer temperatures might not sound bad to everyone but a rise in temperature is not the only concern. Earth's systems are very sensitive to small changes in temperature and this in turn causes changes in sea level, weather patterns and food chains. Everyone is vulnerable to these impacts no matter where you live. As a biologist and mother I find this terrifying.
These are some of the most basic facts of human induced climate change but there is much more to it. We are talking about system interactions on an entire planet. This is why we have to rely on climate scientists and science educators to keep us informed. Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.
Highlighting problems without providing solutions doesn’t seem very helpful so I’m offering some basic ways for you to get involved. Contribute to research, activism and education or consider transitioning your home energy usage to renewable sources.
1. Donate to the Sierra Club and support them in their advocacy for a renewable energy future. My goal is $600.
2. Buy a REC (Renewable Energy Certificate). RECs are made for every megawatt-hour of renewable power (wind, solar...) fed into the grid. By buying a REC, you are certifying that your home is sourced with renewable energy and helping to transition grid power to clean energy. The REC company I use is: arcadiapower.com.
Solutions to climate change will only be successful if we all accept the reality of the problem and do something about it. Please support my Earth Day efforts and join me in promoting positive change.
Thank you very much!