Western Courier

We can stop climate change

Courtney Dalton

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Humans are ruining the environment. Climate change is a real phenomenon. These two statements are considered opinions; however, there are scientific studies and facts to support these claims. I don’t need to yell out the window while driving home and view the trash and debris that litters the highways. I also know that, generally speaking, we are all aware of how much trash we put on the curb every week. We see the extreme weather across the globe. There is less snow each winter and each summer becomes more unbearable. Since we can see and feel these obvious effects, I thought lesser-known facts would be useful information to readers.

According to studies done by NASA, Earth has experienced its 20 warmest years since 1981, and the 10 warmest have occurred in the past 12 years. Subsequently, the ocean has warmed and we are losing ice globally. Thirty-six cubic miles of ice were lost in Antarctica between 2002 and 2005. The Arctic Sea is also losing ice at a rapid speed. Sea levels are rising — 6.7 inches in the last century. All of these changes are due to a more vulnerable ozone layer that is deteriorating because of what humans are doing to this planet.

The majority of people have been living carelessly and conveniently, especially in the last century. We need to be taking action now, so that our children and grandchildren don’t have to see our great planet any worse than we are seeing. There are steps we can take as individuals that, together, will make a huge difference in our environment. Beginning with small changes is a great way to progress into making more drastic changes for the greater good of the planet. These changes will not only benefit the environment, but everyone’s quality of life.

Instead of buying bottled water, purchase a filtered pitcher and one reusable bottle. Use the refillable stations on campus. Skip the pre-rinse before the dishwasher. Dishwashers are actually much more environmentally friendly, using four to six gallons of water to run, as opposed to hand washing that, on average, uses 20 gallons of water. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth or washing your face. Take shorter showers. Make sure your laundry washer is set for the correct load size so the machine doesn’t use an unnecessary amount of water. In a short amount of time, making these easy lifestyle changes is saving hundreds of gallons of water.

Sooner, rather than later, we must focus on using less fossil fuels and energy. Here in Macomb, we are blessed with great public transportation and a small campus for walking. Take advantage of this! Save money and ride the bus instead of relying on a car. Biking and walking are also excellent alternatives. In your home, leave fewer things plugged in. Buy light bulbs — like compact fluorescent (CFL) — that last longer and are more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. Buy locally grown produce or products that are made closer to home. Aldi, for example, sells many products that are produced in Illinois. All of these energy-saving choices also save money and, as college students, we cannot afford to be living so carelessly.

Every change that I have suggested so far is fairly easy to make. Don’t let me lose you here. The biggest change we can make, especially as Americans, is in regards to what we eat. Yes, cars contribute a great deal of the pollution that affects the ozone; however, cars produce much less pollution than animal agriculture. I’m not suggesting that we cut meat and meat products from our diets, even though that would be ideal. First, I want more people to know exactly how much destruction animal agriculture is actually causing.

According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is the biggest cause of deforestation, water pollution and overall global warming. Methane from cows is a huge contributor of greenhouse gases. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas than all transportation combined. And a big portion of this animal agriculture is producing meat for Americans. The average American’s diet consists of nearly 1,000 gallons of water from production each day. Compare that to the average person across the globe, who uses 900 gallons a day for diet, household, transportation, energy and material goods combined.

To say that Americans have contributed to global warming is the understatement of the century. Seventy percent of the grain grown here in the United States is fed to livestock, when we could be using that to feed our less fortunate citizens. We do not need to eat meat with every single meal. In fact, it’s quite unhealthy. Changes that we could make in our diets for the sake of the environment would also have a fantastic effect on our health as a whole.

We can start with not only eating less meat, but also making sure the beef we eat is grass- fed. Also, look for locally raised and slaughtered meat. Any meat that is local and grass-fed will have used less water and energy to raise, slaughter and transport. A pound of grain-fed beef used 100 to 200 times more water than a pound of plant-based protein. It also takes eight times more fossil fuel to produce. Opt out of meat for a meal, and get your protein from plants.

A vegan’s diet uses 600 gallons less than the average American’s diet. Giving up meat and animal products is very difficult and expensive, especially in this country because meat is pushed so heavily. Even though it is a challenge, giving up meat for at least some meals is a very worthwhile choice to make. One thing we can do is stop eating McDonalds so much. A quarter-pound burger from McDonalds uses the same amount of water as 30 average American showers to produce. We can at least stop eating from places that treat our environment like it is so disposable.

Our environment is at risk, and now is the time that we need to start making changes to fix it. We can start making small changes every day as individuals, and that will make huge differences in our planet’s future. By becoming more conscious of our water and energy use, we will save water and the environment. By making small changes in our diets and lifestyles, the impact will be huge. Change starts from the bottom and moves up. We can change how the future generations will experience this Earth by thinking more before using water, energy and stuffing our mouths with meat.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
We can stop climate change