Skip to content

Taking a breath of fresh air

January 15, 2013

Published here on January 15, 2013. My second “un-signed” editorial.

This past weekend, according to a report from the U.S. Embassy, the air pollution levels in Beijing, China, were at 886 micrograms per cubic meter. That’s a meaningless figure, unless you also know that any level above 300 deems a warning of “emergency conditions” from the EPA. New York City, in contrast, had a level of 19.

China has always been there for the anti-climate-changers as a buffer, protecting them from the need to enact further legislation towards sustainable practices. “At least we’re not China,” they say.

Then again, are we really blame-free when it comes to climate change? Our iPhones, our shoes, our computers, our car parts, our clothing — they’re all made in China. Our obsessive craving for the next “new thing” is indirectly causing China’s abhorrent pollution.

Knowing this, should we all turn to hummus as our only source of protein? Should we join the ranks of Greenpeace in droves and only shop at Goodwill? That may be a bit of an overreaction, and it’s also impractical. The groups that burn down development projects in the name of the environment are not that different from the groups that threaten to bomb abortion clinics. Extremism is not the answer.

It’s easy to get caught up in the rhetoric of both sides, losing our way in the ever-changing reports on the ozone layer. The sustainability debate should take a lesson from the gun control talks — minus the contributions from the NRA — and look at a reasonable solution.

North Carolina is making progress in the sustainability arena. Asheville houses the National Climatic Data Center which seeks to record climate data, ranging from the less-than-an-hour-ago recent all the way back to the paleo-era. The data provides researchers, scientists and government the information needed to enact appropriate sustainable changes.

In 2010, N.C. State launched a master’s program in environmental assessment, which teaches students how to bridge the gap between research and policy change. Many of the new buildings and additions, such as the recent Student Health Center addition, are LEED certified, having passed a test which measures them in areas such as energy efficiency and air quality.

And yet, not everyone in North Carolina is for adapting. The progress our legislature is making toward sustainability seems to be inversely proportional to the rising temperatures. In June, the General Assembly proposed a bill that prohibited any studies on rising sea levels, essentially outlawing the information coastal governments need to prepare for the expected 1 meter rise in those sea levels by 2100.

But back to avoiding hummus as our new food staple. What can we as students do? We can petition our government to avoid getting stuck in the past. Based on recently inaugurated Gov. Pat McCrory’s election campaign, there will be a lesser focus on sustainability issues and climate change over the next four years. Most scientists have accepted that the answer is not to deprive ourselves to the extreme, but to make rational changes and enact rational policies that would reduce our impact on the ever-rising temperatures.

North Carolina may be beating China in the air pollution arena, but not when it comes to actual concern over environmental issues. Places like the Asheville Climate Center and N.C. State are leading the way in sustainable change. We demand that our government get on board.


Comments are closed.