It’s easy being green

Allison MacLachlan
Allison MacLachlan

The third annual Arctic Report Card was released last week, the Globe and Mail reported, combining climate change research from 46 scientists in 10 countries. The study concluded air temperatures in the Arctic are sitting at five degrees above normal. 2007 was the warmest year on record.

Fall temperatures in the Arctic have reached record highs and it has been an unusually warm fall in Kingston, too. Although it’s fun to barbeque and wear shorts to class in October, something isn’t right here.

Global warming has become a real and visible threat in Canada. Although this year’s Arctic Report Card doesn’t convey trends we haven’t already heard about, it should serve as a wake-up call.

The Arctic is the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the Earth when it comes to global warming. It’s the first region to show impacts of climate change and predicts the environmental future of our country. Surely, this should matter to us.

Here at Queen’s, we do relatively well with sustainability on an institutional level. Projects run through the Sustainability Office, such as the Residence Energy Challenge, should be commended for their activism.

But when it comes to the grind of our daily lives, we don’t put nearly enough effort into planet conservation.

We accept eco-friendly efforts when other people do the work for us—for example, the Common Ground’s switch to biodegradable cups has been well received—but many of us still won’t take the personal initiative to recycle a pop can if we have to walk more than a few blocks to find a blue bin.

We are quick to scold or applaud the various environmental efforts of the University and the government, but how many of us stop to consider whether we should scold or applaud ourselves?

Many of the things we can do to help the earth are both easy on the wallet and healthy for the planet. As students, these are reasonable steps we can take.

Recycling plastic, glass and newspaper is made fool-proof by countless clearly-labelled containers around campus. Replacing regular light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones will make them last several times longer, while using two-thirds less energy. And applying weather stripping to doors and windows can reduce the amount of energy needed to heat your house, while cutting down considerably on utility costs.

We hold the higher-ups accountable for the planet; we sit back and react to GreenShift plans and sustainability initiatives on campus. But leaders are few among the many.

As the mob that creates this mess, we need to stop being reactive and start being proactive.

We should stop relying on University and government leaders to take green steps for us, and start doing what we can to make 2009’s report a little more positive.

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