Earth Week 2013: Living in a changing climate

Emily Hsu/The Watchdog
Emily Hsu/The Watchdog

“What have we done to the world. Look what we’ve done. Did you ever stop to notice the crying Earth the weeping shores?” these are the iconic lines from Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song.” Earth Week is held at Bellevue College to make students stop and evaluate their daily choices and consider it’s environmental impact. Through a series of lectures, demonstrations, information booths, prizes and videos faculty members, guest students and fellow students, students were encouraged to stop for a moment and recognize the impact of their decisions.

Coinciding with the Associated Student Government’s barbecue and election, the Sustainability department was hard at work hosting the 14th annual Earth Week, from April 22-26. The banquet itself was organized as a “Zero Waste” event, bringing both of these functions together.

Many students have made precautions at home to prevent global climate change, including reducing emissions through changing light bulbs, reserving power on electronics, using less water and practicing proper recycling. Some may have even watched some “Planet Earth” series on BBC to get in the Earth Day spirit.

Across different academic departments, instructors incorporated lectures from Earth Week in their curriculums. The large variety of lectures provided engaging learning experiences for students. “I’m going to a philosophy lecture for my Environmental Science class,” said Stephanie Schock, a running start student. The philosophy lecture in question was Mark Story’s presentation “Thinking fallaciously about climate change.”

Several films were rolled for students who prefer a visual integration into Earth Week. “Chasing Ice” was the first film shown on April 22. It’s website quotes Caroline Libresco, the Sundance Senior Programmer, who says in regards to the film, “This is the climate change film we’ve been waiting for.” Students also had opportunities to join an audience for the screenings of “Bag It: Is your life too plastic?” and “Waste Land: Un Documentaire sur l’art.”

The courtyard was home to an Electric Vehicle and Bike show on Monday, followed by a visit from  a farmer’s market on Tuesday and in both co ordinance with the photography club’s environmental exhibition in the cafeteria.

Cliff Mass, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington, kicked off the Earth Week discussions with his lecture “Global Warming over the Pacific.” Mass started off his presentation by emphasizing that climate change is not uniform. He lead the discussion by questioning “how can scientists predict climate change when they can’t get next week’s weather right? Through his experiences as a weather researcher and forecaster, he supplied the information that the same technology that is used to detect greenhouse gases is used to evaluate climate change.

Mass clarified his wish that his audience act as well educated consumers of information. The media has linked major catastrophic events to global warming, but Mass says to focus on differentiating facts from hype.

Hurricane Sandy, which lasted from Oct. 22-31, 2012, was widely publicized and often classified as a direct result of climate change. USA Today reported “UN climate scientist: Sandy no coincidence,” and the Huffington Post jumped to “How Arctic Ice may have influenced Superstorm Sandy.” Mass elaborated on this debacle by clarifying that Sandy was only a category 1 hurricane, with hybrid characteristics of more powerful storms due to an unusually proportionate eye wall of 25 miles. Mass reminded students to be wary of hasty reports that jump to climate change before all of the facts are in.

Institutions like Bellevue College search for ways to practice resilience in the face of climate change. Options such as population control due to a rapidly rising middle class and taxes on carbon emissions are not always favorable to all concerned. Earth Week brings together students and professionals in their respective fields to discuss making a change that won’t crumble society. “In history, there has never been a case where humans have been taxed to protect themselves against an environmental threat in the future,” Mass offered in closing.