Why Developed Countries Need to Start Taking Responsibility for Climate Change
Catastrophic floods have recently devastated Pakistan, leaving over one-third of the country underwater and displacing 33 million people. Over 1,000 people have already died, but these numbers continue to rise. Typically during this time of year, Pakistan’s monsoon season causes heavy rainfall; however, this year, the rain has been ten times heavier than usual, and with the monsoon season lasting from July through September, there is no clear end in sight.
This is just one of the ways in which climate change will impact our planet. As greenhouse gasses are emitted into the atmosphere, temperature and precipitation frequency increase. Warm air is more effective at holding moisture than cold air. Because Pakistan has been experiencing some of the worst heat waves on the planet, this has allowed the atmosphere to trap moisture, leading to these unprecedented downpours.
Heatwaves have also caused glacial melting in Pakistan. Pakistan has the second greatest number of glaciers, following the polar regions. This has directly contributed to flooding as water from glacial melt enters the Indus River via tributaries, causing it to overflow.
Because of the flooding, Pakistan is also at risk of a food crisis. The floods have destroyed Pakistan’s cropland and killed countless livestock. Pakistan already struggled with food scarcity and hunger, and now these issues are projected to worsen. Two million acres of cropland have been affected and hundreds of thousands of livestock have been killed.
Of the 33 million people displaced by the floods, 16 million of them are children. It has been proven that children are more vulnerable to climate change than adults. Around 500 of the over 1,000 deaths are children, due to drowning and water-borne diseases.
Pakistan accounts for only 0.4% of our global emissions yet is experiencing the most devastating effects of climate change. For comparison, the United States is responsible for 21.5% of emissions, but does not experience its impact to this extent. Instead, developing countries are left to deal with consequences that they don’t bear responsibility for. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated this week that countries “more responsible for climate change…should have faced this.”
It is estimated that 10 billion dollars will be required to help Pakistan recover from this catastrophe, and it could be years before Pakistan fully recovers. It is our responsibility as a wealthy, developed country to provide aid to countries impacted by climate change, especially those who have contributed the least to this problem. As one of the main drivers of climate change, it only makes sense that we fix what we have started. The floods in Pakistan are only a preview of the destruction to come in the next decade if we do not act. We need to start taking climate change more seriously and treating it as the grave threat that it is. We need to start taking accountability and make significant change at a global scale before we are too late.
Why the To-Go Boxes Shouldn’t Be Seen as an Inconvenience
In spring 2022, PC Dining announced its plans for Eco To-Go, a program that allows students to use reusable to-go boxes in Ray instead of wasteful single-use containers. While the initiative is supported by many students, others complained that it is inconvenient. Considering the significant environmental impact of paper and plastic, which these containers are made of, this is an ignorant complaint given our current ecological state.
While some may argue that these boxes aren’t environmentally harmful because they can be recycled, this is not the case. It is important to reduce our consumption before recycling, which is why the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” is in this order. First, we’re supposed to reduce, then reuse, and finally recycle, meaning that recycling is not the solution.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2018 only 8.7 of plastic was recycled, leaving plastic in landfills and oceans. There is a significant impact of plastic pollution on our marine ecosystems. It’s estimated that every year, eight to 10 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans. The effects of this are devastating, as plastic breaks down to form microplastics, which many small organisms mistake for food. This is also an issue in terms of biomagnification, as organisms who consume these organisms indirectly ingest this plastic. This is one of the reasons why scientists have recently discovered microplastics in human blood for the first time.
Paper to-go containers are not as harmful as plastic, however, they usually cannot be recycled because they’re too dirty and saturated. Here at PC there is an even bigger underlying problem. Even if we were to recycle these to-go boxes on-campus, there is no guarantee that they would actually be recycled. At PC, a lot of our recycling is contaminated, which means it’s brought to landfills instead of recycling plants. Many students are unaware of this problem and continue to recycle incorrectly by putting trash and unrinsed recycling into the bin, resulting in contamination.
Plastic production is also directly related to the fossil fuel industry. It is estimated that eight to 10 percent of our oil consumption is used to produce plastic. This means that plastic is not only a pollution issue but a fossil fuel issue. By continuing to use plastic products, we support the fossil fuel industry, which continues to destroy our planet and contribute to climate change.
There is also a significant amount of water used in plastic production. It is estimated that 22 gallons of water are required to produce just one pound of plastic. This poses a water conservation issue as water is a finite resource. Recently, we have been experiencing droughts across the country. Natural disasters like these are only projected to increase in severity and frequency as climate change worsens.
Vulnerable countries will experience these consequences the worst because of our irresponsible water use, despite releasing significantly less emissions than wealthy countries and contributing the least to climate change. It is ignorant to complain about carrying around a reusable to-go box when there are people who are struggling with access to a basic human need because of our actions as a developed country.
The reusable to-go boxes help PC students minimize their environmental impact. While it may be seen as a burden to some students, it’s a simple way for us to decrease our ecological footprint. It is selfish to continue to contribute to environmental issues when we are not impacted as severely, and it is better for us to make these sacrifices and be inconvenienced now before we are too late.
Tangents and Tirades
Turn off the Lights
By Kaelin Ferland ’23
It seems like I am constantly reminding my roommates to turn off the lights. I probably get on their nerves, but it’s one of the easiest things that we can do to help the environment, as 19 percent of energy consumed globally is used for lighting. Many people know that turning off the lights is better for the planet; however, they do not know why this is the case. Around the world, fossil fuels are still the primary source used to generate electricity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2020, 4.01 trillion kilowatt-hours of energy were used in the U.S. alone, releasing 1.71 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Only 62 percent of this electricity was generated from fossil fuels including coal, petroleum, and natural gas. It is also estimated that 714 pounds of coal are used to power a standard 100-watt light bulb for one year. By unnecessarily leaving on the lights, we not only support the fossil fuel industry but encourage a cycle of environmental destruction, especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
For us PC students to say that we do not need to turn off the lights on campus because we do not pay for electricity is irresponsible and ignorant. We might not directly pay the electricity bills at PC; however, if we continue to have this careless mindset, the environmental costs will be much greater.
Obstructions Versus Solutions: Addressing the Unanswered Questions of Campus Parking
By Jezel Tracey ’24
It seems as though every new semester comes with a cycle of parking complications and frustrations. Limited parking on campus has always been an issue at Providence College, and it feels like the problem will never end.
Student frustrations are fueled not only by the lack of solutions to these problems, but also the creation of obstructions that only make these problems worse. The newest problem with parking is not a limitation on space, but rather that spaces are being removed. As the College has decided to replace the parking lot by Glay Field with a new dormitory building, students are left with even more questions concerning the campus’s severe lack of parking.
While there is a clear need for more parking spaces on campus, it does not seem that there have been any visible efforts to find solutions to help students who need parking. Whether it is having to park across campus in the only available lot or receiving an innumerable amount of tickets, it does not seem as though there are any solutions to solve these problems.
Even though it appears as though the College intends to solve problems in regard to the expansion of the campus, this solution only creates more problems. There is no way to satisfy everyone, but they could at least offer solutions.
While our campus expands, it is a red flag when the already limited space that we have is reduced.
@pcfriarlife Has No Real Grasp of a PC Friar’s Life
Olivia Bretzman ’22
Early last week, the Instagram account @pcfriarlife, an official Providence College social media account, posted multiple, poorly shot, pictures of meals from Raymond Dining Hall. Now, one may find this rather typical, especially considering Ray meals are not necessarily aesthetically appealing; however, these particular photos were coupled with a calorie count for each meal as well as other nutritional facts.
One may not think anything of this, but many students were appalled, and the post has since been deleted, suggesting pushback at its insensitivity towards students with disordered eating and poor mental health.
While PC has a very active student body and prides itself in athletic endeavors, as it should, this culture can be extremely toxic for many students. Frequent exercise becomes a way of life, rather than an avenue to promote healthy living and balance.
Clearly, the people paid to promote student activities and accomplishments have no real grasp on the pain points and issues within the student body.
Posting the calories of a meal that would hardly satisfy a busy and physically active student perpetuates the “ideal meal” that is honestly ideal for no one.
Every individual student has a different lifestyle, goals, and body. Their metabolisms are all incredibly unique. Thus, suggesting these meals with calories attached is simply foolish. It is neither accurate within the whole population nor helpful when battling disordered eating or poor mental health.
@pcfriarlife’s post promotes the horribly sad expectation of what one’s body should be fueled by and should ultimately look like. No one should have to see this on their feed, especially not from an account they have come to love and trust. PC, we can do better.
The Environmental and Ethical Costs of Normalizing Fast Fashion
With fashion trends constantly changing and new styles introduced every season, many shoppers use fast fashion websites to get cheap pieces to wear for a few months while they’re trendy. We probably buy more clothes from stores like Zara and H&M than we’d like to admit, but it’s understandable that we order a cheap and trendy top from these sites instead of spending close to a hundred dollars for a similar item at a more sustainable store. Since 2000, the average clothing consumption has doubled, while the amount of time that we actually wear and keep clothes has significantly decreased. To keep up with this demand, the fashion industry has had to adapt at the expense of the environment.
Every year, 85 percent of textiles are thrown away. Not only is this wasteful, but it also has an environmental impact on a larger scale, especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and pollution. According to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, 10 percent of our global carbon emissions is from the fashion industry. Additionally, clothes production has a significant water footprint, serving as the second greatest water consumer. Ninety-five billion cubic meters of water are used to produce clothing annually, which the UN estimates is enough water for five million people. Furthermore, cotton production also requires a lot of water, needing up to 10,000 liters of water to grow one kilogram of cotton. It is estimated that 2,000 liters of water are used to produce one pair of jeans. This water use poses a significant issue today, as one in three people do not have access to clean drinking water.
Some synthetic materials are equally harmful to the environment. For example, polyester uses 70 million barrels of oil annually to produce enough of this material to meet the world’s clothing demand. Because polyester is a plastic based material, it can pollute our oceans in the form of microplastics. About eight percent of the microplastics in the ocean comes from clothing waste alone. Pollution from chemical waste is also an issue. Leftover dye is disposed of in bodies of water, threatening the health of those in surrounding communities, as well as factory workers.
Aside from its environmental impact, fast fashion raises a lot of ethical concerns. In factories, workers are exposed to unsafe working conditions and forced to work anywhere from 10 to 18 hours a day, depending on consumer demand at the time. These workers also are not paid a livable wage, with some companies only paying their workers less than 10 cents for each piece they make.
There are many ways to minimize our environmental impact through the clothes we buy. Thrifting, for example, is a sustainable and cheaper alternative. It’s also important to avoid buying clothes for trends that will go out of style within a few months. However, if you have to buy new clothes, you can visit websites like goodonyou.eco that allow you to search companies and brands to see how ethical and sustainable they are. To minimize clothing waste, you can donate clothes you no longer wear. If you notice that some have stains or rips, bring them to a textile recycling facility instead of throwing them out. It’s possible to make these changes and shop more sustainably without sacrificing fashion.
Extra Plates, Extra Waste: PC’s Food Waste Problem
Food waste is one of Providence College’s main environmental problems. Last semester, ECOPC filled two bins with food waste from Raymond Dining Hall in less than two hours. According to Feeding America, approximately 108 billion pounds of food are wasted every year in the United States alone, about 40 percent of the food in our country. Food waste also has a significant economic impact, costing $408 billion annually. However, while many people know that food waste is harmful to the environment, they are not aware of why this is the case.
Food waste is a leading contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, if food waste were a country, it would be the third greatest greenhouse gas emitter. Furthermore, they estimate that food waste is responsible for approximately 8 percent of our global greenhouse gas emissions. This is because as food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane, which traps heat 25 times more effectively than carbon dioxide. Thus, food waste has a significant relation to climate change and global warming.
Other environmental issues, such as deforestation, land use, and water waste, are interconnected with food waste. wasteful to use such resources when much of the food produced will be thrown away.
In order to increase land for agricultural production, forests around the world, including rainforests, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the world, are destroyed to make fields. Deforestation is not only an issue in terms of habitat destruction for native species, but the elimination of trees minimizes the amount of carbon dioxide that can be removed from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Additionally, it is unsustainable to clear trees for farmland when most of the food cultivated on this land will not be consumed; yet, FAO estimates that 90 percent of deforestation is for agricultural purposes. Furthermore, every year, 1.4 billion hectares of farmland are used to produce food that will ultimately be wasted.
Water waste is another environmental issue that is connected to food waste. It is estimated that around 70 percent of our freshwater is used in agriculture and that 9 billion people could have used the water that was used to produce wasted food. This is primarily because conventional agriculture is inefficient in terms of its water use. Many crops are grown in hot and dry climates where water evaporates before it can be used by the plants, requiring more water. About 40 percent of water used in agriculture is lost because of this. There is no reason why crops should be grown in these warmer, humid climates.
Also in the agriculture sector, the meat industry heavily relies on water. For example, the production of only one pound of beef requires about 1,800 gallons of water. This is especially concerning since we are currently in the midst of a global water crisis. According to the World Health Organization, one-third of people around the world do not have clean drinking water, including individuals in the United States. Water scarcity and shortages are only expected to worsen in the future. While it may seem as though we have an infinite supply of water on our planet, it is important to note that less than three percent of our planet’s water is freshwater. Therefore, individuals should strive to decrease their food waste, as it will help to minimize unnecessary water loss.
PC should make changes to decrease the amount of food we waste on campus, as it continues to be a significant issue. To start, smaller portions would be a simple and easy way to decrease food waste. Additionally, composting is an effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With food waste being one of the greatest contributors to climate change, as well as many other environmental problems, PC should take actions to mitigate food waste on campus.
Skip The Flowers This Year: Valentine’s Day Doesn’t Show a Lot of Love for Our Planet
I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day, and it is not because I have been single for 20 years. On Valentine’s Day, stores are stocked full with cards, stuffed animals, and bozes of chocolate. Most of these products will end up in landfills within the next few months. Cards and flowers are among the most unsustainable gifts purchased for Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, most cards cannot be recycled because they are covered in decorations and glitter, meaning that many of the 145 million cards bought for Valentine’s Day each year, according to Hallmark, are thrown away. There is no point in buying these unnecessarily wasteful gifts when more sustainable options exist.
Flowers are probably the worst Valentine’s Day gifts in terms of their environmental impact. The National Retail Foundation (NRF) estimates that this year, 37 percent of Americans will order flowers for Valentine’s Day, which will result in significant environmental consequences. The flower transportation process releases tons of carbon dioxide as flowers are transported from countries where they can be grown in better climates and produced for lower costs. Additionally, because cut flowers have to be refrigerated for preservation, this further increases their carbon footprints. According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, if four billion flowers were shipped from Colombia, where we get many of our cut flowers, to the United States, 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide would be released.
In addition to the transportation process, the production of cut flowers is also environmentally harmful. Flower companies rely on pesticides to deter and protect flowers from insects. Pesticide use not only threatens important insect species such as honeybees, but these toxins can contaminate bodies of water through runoff, putting aquatic species and ecosystems at risk.
Once flowers are produced, purchased, and given as gifts, they inevitably begin to wilt and need to be disposed of. As they begin to decompose, they release methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. This worsens global warming and contributes to climate change. Additionally, with the amount of water that is used to produce flowers, it is wasteful to cultivate something that will ultimately be thrown away. According to a 2012 study from Kenya, seven to thirteen liters of water are used to produce a single rose. With more than 250 million roses harvested for Valentine’s Day alone, according to the Society of American Florists, it is undeniable that flower production has a significant impact on our water supply.
Fortunately, there are alternatives to flowers and cards that have lower environmental costs. For example, homemade cards are much more eco-friendly. However, if you are completely set on flowers, you could opt for a potted plant instead of a bouquet, as they are more sustainable and will last longer if they are properly taken care of. I would honestly take a succulent over a bouquet of roses any day.
Hope for a Greener Future: Why PC Should Have a Plastic Water Bottle Ban
As a student at Providence College, it is impossible to ignore the plastic water bottles found on desks. Students often justify the use of plastic water bottles by claiming that the water quality is better, and often follow-up with a promise of recycling. However, it has been continuously proven that these two justifications are untrue. Many students are surprised to learn that even if a plastic bottle is properly disposed of, there is no guarantee that it will be recycled. According to the Environmental Prevention Agency (EPA), about 29 percent of plastic bottles were recycled in 2018. Even worse, that same year only 8.7 percent of plastic was recycled, while the rest polluted our waterways and landfills. Scientists have already estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Despite these statistics, there is a huge lack of environmental awareness amongst students at Providence College. This disregard has led to much of our recycling going directly to the landfill because of contamination. Many students do not realize that recyclables have to be clean before they are put into the bin. Additionally, many are unaware of what can and cannot be recycled. For example, paper towels, plastic utensils, and plastic bags are not recyclable; however, they are consistently found in recycling bins around campus. Students should be better educated not only on this subject, but on sustainability in general, in order to become more aware of the harmful environmental consequences of their actions.
Plastic water bottles themselves are not the only issue, as their unsustainable production requires millions of oil barrels every year. Furthermore, during the transportation process, millions of tons of greenhouse gases are released into our atmosphere, contributing to climate change. It is ironic that the production of only one bottle requires close to two gallons of water. Not only is this extremely wasteful, but it also places a greater stress on our water supply. This is especially critical today as nations around the world, including the United States, are experiencing water scarcity. Some countries have already lost access to clean drinking water, which is only projected to worsen and spread due to future climate change.
While some argue that plastic bottles provide cleaner water than regular water from the tap, this is not the case, and it is a claim that is commonly used by water bottle companies to convince people to purchase their products. According to the CDC, tap water in the United States is safe to drink, having to meet the EPA’s water quality standards.
In the past, PC had a plastic water bottle ban on campus. Today, other colleges have similar bans in effect. Brown University, for example, has already banned disposable water bottles on campus through their Beyond the Bottle campaign. PC should follow these universities and re-establish the ban on plastic water bottles. There are multiple water filters installed throughout campus, making it easy and convenient to carry and refill reusable water bottles. With approximately one million plastic water bottles purchased every minute, it is undeniable that plastic pollution will continue to be a huge threat to our planet if the demand on plastic water bottles remains high. PC should take actions to help minimize this demand and our environmental impact as they have in the past.