story by Caroline Bowers and Jamie Cummings
The debate over climate change is an ever-changing issue with scientists, students, and politicians all weighing in on the discussion. While this debate has begun to dominate the politics of the age, concerns over environmental conservation have also been heightened.
Roberson students who enrolled in AP Environmental Science, and others who were just interested, formed the Environmental Committee this year. The committee is designed to inform and educate students about conservation while creating tangible change in the community. Senior Henry Haggart, who is one of adviser and science teachers Kevin Keen’s former students, is a leading member of the Environmental Committee.
“The most important thing for students to know is that they should be aware of the impact they have in their daily lives on the environment. I can almost guarantee that there is not a single person here whose lifestyle is sustainable,” Haggart said. “Be aware of how many materials and resources you use. Think about the implications that it could have on future generations and future opportunities for yourself.”
The committee hopes to join community members and Roberson staff to create a Green Team which will aim at making TC a “Green School” by following a set rubric of requirements. According to students on the committee, the key to being classified as a Green School is promoting sustainability and innovation in the sphere of environmental conservation.
“Our main goal is to make changes to the school that will continue on for years and years to come. We don’t want to do it just for recognition but to actually create something that will maintain itself and be beneficial to the community,” said Keen. “We’re trying to do things that promote involvement. You can become involved by becoming aware.”
Anticipated actions by the Green Team include revamping the recycling program, creating a composting program at Roberson and planting a garden which would be home to pollinating plants to appeal to the local bee population. Junior Zak Hudspeth is a leading member promoting the composting program.
“On-site composting is not likely because there are all sorts of problems associated with it, such as where to put it. With the population size of our school, it would be very hard to have that big of an on-site composting system,” Hudspeth said. “The likeliest plan is to renegotiate our contract with Waste Management or find some other composting business that could do it for us off-site.”
Across the Buncombe County School district, three high schools, Enka, AC Reynolds and North Buncombe, have been recognized as Green Schools. Additionally, 23 elementary, intermediate and middle schools have also received that designation
Green Schools can receive different tiers of recognition from county to the state level. According to Haggart, the Roberson Green Team is aiming for state recognition.
“They rate you based on energy efficiency, community outreach, school philosophy, and innovation. Being innovative means coming up with new solutions to issues which haven’t already been thought of by other schools,” Haggart said.
Hudspeth believes Roberson could score points on the rubric for a state recognized Green School by eliminating the Styrofoam trays from the cafeteria.
“Styrofoam is a known carcinogen. The chemicals in it can be released into your food. It’s also not a sustainable option, and it does not break down in landfills. That in turn causes build up in landfills,” Hudspeth said.
According to Hudspeth, the issue has turned out to be more complicated than the team previously thought. Roberson has too many students to have enough plastic trays for everyone, and washing the trays would also be an issue because there is not enough staff or dish washers.
Compostable trays are much more expensive so the school would need a grant, according to Hudspeth.
Although the Environmental Committee and Green Team are in the early stages, students have already begun planning to establish clear goals and initiatives that the committee hopes to implement this semester.
According to Haggart, one of the primary initiatives the team hopes to implement is a greater sense of awareness and involvement by the student body.
“I encourage students to be active and know what is going on. If you see new reforms here at school, just be aware of what they are and what their purpose is and how to best utilize them,” Haggart said.
Student Led Panel Discussion:
PANEL MEMBER 1: I feel like it’s basically a fact that the climate is changing. The only thing that’s up for debate is whether or not humans are the cause.
PANEL MEMBER 2: Historically, we can look back in our records as far back to 800,000 years ago, and the cycling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is constantly changing and varying. The highest recorded amount of carbon dioxide we’ve seen before doesn’t get above 300, and this year we’re at around 405 parts per million.
PANEL MEMBER 7: The fact is the climate is affected by the varying conditions at the time, and at the current time, the most contributing factor to climate change is humans because of all our cars and all of the greenhouse gases that we’re producing. Technically, the current state of the atmosphere is our doing.
PANEL MEMBER 3: My uncle, he’s an environmentalist, believes that climate change doesn’t exist. We don’t have an effect on the climate. He says that it is because of the earth’s rotation around the sun. There was an ice age 20 or 21 thousand years ago that had more drastic changes than we have now, only in a shorter period of time. And they didn’t have the same industrialization that we do today.
PANEL MEMBER 4: What’s really interesting to me is that my dad is very conservative, and what he thinks is that climate change is a hoax that is perpetrated by the democratic party to eventually tax carbon emissions.
PANEL MEMBER 5: I think that if politics are involved, taxpayer money can be used to reverse the effects of climate change, but also there can be, as Trump has done, actions which take back some of the advancements that we have made.
PM 4: I think that if we are willing to make advancements, tangible effects on the environment that people see everyday need to be present globally. If you’re an average person, you don’t see carbon emissions affecting your everyday life, then it’s hard for you to care about it.
PM 7: It does affect people daily, but whether or not they notice it or aware of it is a completely different matter.
What would be your response to scientists and politicians saying climate change is being used as a piece of false propaganda or platform?
PM 4: I think it is over exaggerated because time is of the essence really. I think that if you don’t exaggerate it now, then when you truly do need to exaggerate it, it’s just too late. Politically, I mean going back to my parents, who don’t believe in climate change and have been Republicans all their lives, I think the talk of climate change is catering to some Republican leaders who shy away from that [topic], because they don’t want to aggravate their constituents.
PM 6: The funny thing about politicians using the idea of climate change to their advantage and kind of overusing it– while there are Democrats who will still acknowledge it, I don’t think they will use it as a platform for running or getting elected. So I don’t think that it is overused. Most people who do talk about it probably genuinely support it.
PM 7: It’s one of the things that as a President or someone who is running for a position you’re going to have to have an opinion on climate change and global warming; you’re going to have to explain it, and affirm your standing on it, because that’s something that is accepted nowadays. You have to have a view on the environment.
PM 4: I think a lot of times it’s brought up to appease voters or not brought up to make it appear as though it is not as important as it really is.
PM 5: Honestly, even it was over exaggerated, I feel like these changes would be beneficial to humans overall, either way. It would better human health, the economy, and create more jobs. We’re not just putting it out there to be wasted; this would be beneficial in the long run anyways.
What is your opinion of Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt for the EPA?
PM 2: I believe it isn’t necessary to select someone who doesn’t believe in the purpose of what their job is in charge of doing. I don’t really agree with that appointment.
PM 5: I think it’s pretty ridiculous. If you’re going to have someone in charge of the entire EPA, you need to have someone that is willing to actually do things for the EPA that concern your job. You can’t just have a person there to fill a spot but not doing anything relating to their job.
PM 4: I think it relates to confirmation bias. Trump is just trying to validate his political views by selecting people who align with him. It’s pretty vain to be doing that especially when you’re in one of the highest offices in the world.
PM 2: My biggest hope is that he (Pruitt) looks at it from an economic standpoint and realizes that there are jobs in renewable energy that can continue to grow even more than what we’ve seen in the last decade. I don’t think it’s politically right to wish that he fails and screws up the environment so that we can get someone who’s more earth-friendly.
PM 5: I’m worried that he’ll want to get rid of all the advancements that we’ve come up upon and reverse all these things that we have pushed for so long. If he gets rid of it so quickly, then it will take decades and decades more to get back to where we were today.
PM 6: Up until now, all the presidents, regardless of how they feel about climate change, have acknowledged how important the environment is. It’s a bigger issue than just our climate and you can look at it in terms of business.
PM 4: I don’t think people take it seriously enough because it isn’t affecting them fast enough to see it as much. If climate change was happening faster, I think that people would be more concerned. By the time people see the real effects and problems and can really see the difference in their everyday lives, is when it’s going to be too late to make any changes to the environment.
PM 2: I totally agree. People need to be more aware because without the environment, there are no humans because there are no resources for humans to live off of.