global warming

Little People, Big Dreams

By Tom Murray

I recently attended the pre-kindergarten graduation ceremony for my five-year old granddaughter. It was something to behold as she and a dozen or so of her friends assembled together in blue caps and gowns to receive their diplomas and the well wishes of their teachers as they move on to kindergarten. Too cute! As Moms and Dads smiled and recorded every moment of the event on their I-phones, I found myself pondering. (It is okay for grandfathers to ponder at these events. The kids think we are asleep or day dreaming and that is okay. For parents it is called inattentiveness and the little ones frown on that.) Anyway, as I looked at these little people swimming in their gowns with their mortar boards sliding down the sides of their heads, I found myself reflecting back on what we have done to make this planet a better place for these young people. Working as long as I have at EPA, I am allowed to ponder things like that.

As I watched each youngster walk over to receive a diploma, I wondered what their little minds must be thinking when they hear their parents talking about global warming, habitat loss or the global threat of disease. As they grow older and with information traveling faster than ever before, will they become so overloaded with unfiltered environmental information that they will become apathetic, seeking solace instead in video games and simple pleasures. How will they react?

I am a representative of a generation that grew up in the fifties and sixties when we were struggling with egg shell thinning, Love Canal, Times Beach and rivers catching fire due to heavy industrial pollution. We faced those problems head-on and never looked back as we continue today to wrestle with some very stubborn environmental problems. Will these children have the same drive, the same perseverance?

After the last child was announced, I glanced through the memory book that each child was given. You remember them. They have a picture of each student with a sentence describing his or her prominent personality trait. At the end of each, we find an oft asked question of young people, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Among the responses were the usual suspects: teachers, firefighters, rock stars (that from my granddaughter). But there was one that caught my eye. “I want to take care of Mother Earth”, the note said. I smiled at this one and thought, “We’ll keep the porch light on for you, little one.”

About the author: Tom Murray joined EPA way back in 1971 and has never lost the passion for pollution prevention and helping manufacturers become more sustainable.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Attention On line Young Environmentalists

By Wendy Dew

Climate change is a problem that is affecting people and the environment. In the U.S., our energy-related activities account for over 85 percent of our human-generated greenhouse gas emissions, mostly in the form of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels. If greenhouse gases continue to increase, climate models predict that the average temperature at the Earth’s surface could increase from 3.2 to 7.2ºF above 1990 levels by the end of this century.

While adults tend to debate everything to the extreme, younger generations are taking the lead. Chloe Maxmin, now 18, formed the Climate Action Club at her high school to help residents of her rural town fight global warming. In two years, Chloe and club members established a “No Idling” policy on campus, installed smart strips and vending misers in school computer labs and on vending machines, and recycled 4,000 batteries and 20 pounds of cartridges in her hometown. The club recently won a $5,000 community impact award, which they are using to purchase solar panels for the school.

Most notably, Chloe’s club launched Maine’s largest student-led reusable bag campaign, which has kept 700,000 bags out of local landfills. The group raised $4,300 from fourteen businesses, purchased 1,900 reusable bags featuring sponsors’ names and logos, and then sold out of the bags soon after they began selling them. The project is ongoing and self-sustaining, with each year’s profits used to fund the next year’s batch of bags. The state’s largest supermarket chain recently came onboard to sell the bags. Additionally, Maine has launched a state-wide reusable bag campaign, using the Climate Action Club’s project as a model.

Chloe also started and maintains an online network of young environmentalists called First Here, Then Everywhere, which has spread to eight countries. Her mission: “ My personal mission it to make global warming the defining mission of my generation. My generation enters adulthood at a crucial point in the history of humanity. We are the first to see the devastating effects of climate change. The responsibility to mitigate global warming, change human behavior, and save our world will fall to us. “

About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 14 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Let’s Air Condition the Outside, Why Don’t We?

grundahlIt’s that time of the year again when the weather gets hot and I get very frustrated as I walk the streets here in center city Philadelphia. Many stores have their doors wide open, air conditioning the outside, wasting energy. Last summer I thought to myself, maybe they just don’t understand how what they are doing wastes resources, produces air pollution and exacerbates global warming. So, I tried one-on-one education, first talking to the greeters, then talking to managers. They were nice but they blew me off.

I didn’t “get it” until one of the managers said, “When we open our doors we get more foot traffic and our sales go up.  We know because we track daily sales and experimented.“ It was an “Ah-hah!” moment. Keeping the doors open means more money. Even if the managers understood the environmental impact of what they were doing, their sales revenue was more important. The managers weren’t getting evaluated on how much energy they used, but by how many sales they made. Particularly in this recession when every sale counts, what right do any of us have to ask a business to keep its doors closed and sell less?

But now there’s the oil catastrophe in the Gulf. With scenes of the destruction constantly before us, I expect everyone to understand now, even if they didn’t before, about the many connections there are between how we live our lives and the health of the environment. So will other people now also be bothered by the open doors? Or, am I being too idealistic? And, what should retailers do?

Retailers who want to learn more about “going green” can visit EPA’s Retail Industry Portal.

About the Author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently manages the web for the Environmental Assessment and Innovation Division. Before getting involved with the web, she worked as an environmental scientist. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Science To Support Decision Making In A Changing Climate

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

During my 22 year career at EPA, it’s been exciting to work on the environmental issue which has been called the “capstone issue for our generation”: climate change. Climate change affects every individual in every community around the world. The team I am a part of at EPA is working closely with communities around the country to shed light on how climate change affects the things they care about, and to find ways to respond and adapt to its impacts.

There’s nothing more rewarding than meeting the people who are benefitting from the science we’re doing. It’s one thing to work in a laboratory or office and explore strategies and develop tools to help local communities respond to climate change. It’s another thing to actually meet the people whose lives you are touching.

image of a house falling onto a beach near the water's edgeI first had that chance in 2007 when I traveled to Alaska and met people from several Native Alaskan villages such as Shishmaref, Newtok, and Kivalina. I listened to heart-wrenching stories about how they must soon evacuate their coastal villages because homes and infrastructure are being destroyed by rising sea levels, storm surges, and the melting of the permafrost upon which they sit. I was faced with the stark realities of a changing climate, not with some “plausible projection” from one of our climate impacts models.

When I first started working on climate change, people imagined it to be something that wouldn’t happen for another 50 to 100 years. We quickly came to understand that the climate is already changing. It’s changing more and more rapidly as a result of human activities. When we burn fossil fuels to power our automobiles and run our factories and heat our homes, we emit greenhouse gas pollution which contributes to global warming. And we’re already seeing the impacts of global warming on peoples’ lives.

My own appreciation for the critical importance of the work we’re doing in our Global Change Research Program at EPA rose dramatically during that visit to Alaska. We’re empowering people to protect their communities and the things they value by providing the scientific information that enables them to anticipate the effects of a changing climate, developing alternative strategies for them to adapt to change, and providing tools that can help them incorporate considerations of climate change into their day-to-day decisions. We are making a difference in people’s lives.

About the author: Dr. Joel Scheraga is the National Program Director for EPA’s Global Change Research Program in the Office of Research and Development. He has been with EPA since 1987. He is also the EPA Principal Representative to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, which coordinates and integrates scientific research on climate and global change supported by the U.S. Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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