It was a chilly Monday evening when I finally explored the depths of the C-2 bus route and headed toward the John Hope Franklin Center. Inside the warm, quaint building, Dr. Franco Einaudi spoke to a crowd of scholars, engineers, and environmental activists on the subject of “The science and impact of environmental change.”
The seminar began with each person in the audience introducing themselves, listing their name, year, major, and contribution to climate change (which, as it turned out, could be either very positive or very negative). As we went around the room presenting ourselves to our peers, the diversity in the room struck me. Not only in regards to background and education, but also in regards to environmental attitude. Some guiltily confessed to leaving the fridge open and having long commutes, while others spoke of their compost piles and biking everyday as a means of transportation. However, those who impacted negatively towards climate change, I noticed, often did not have a choice. Individuals were forced to fly weekly due to clinical work, or endure long commutes due to work.
As the confessions began to die down, Dr. Einaudi took the floor and started the presentation with his own contribution towards climate change. He told us of his college experience when he relied primarily on his desk lamp as opposed to turning on the general room light. He then moved on to address the definition of climate change, as opposed to weather or natural variability. He touched upon a few central ideas/questions:
- Why study climate change? How?
- Are humans responsible for climate change?
- What is the impact of climate change?
He included many theories and noted different trends in environmental fluctuations in regards to variables, or forcings, that impact climate change. He noticed how the variables are all correlated, and that global temperature increase takes a considerably shorter amount of time than temperature decrease. However, the exact implications of human impact regarding climate change are variable.
At the conclusion of the presentation, the Q&A presented considerable thought-provoking questions that sparked a series of arguments and debate.
Typing in the policy aspect of environmental issues, there was a shout out to the political race and the lack of urgency regarding the issue of climate change. Climate change is seen to be a large-scale concept that transcends many years. A politician’s term is too short to be truly impacted by climate change, which drives their attention away from the environment and towards issues with more immediate impacts, such as the war abroad and healthcare. The true effects of climate change are shown when an individual steps back and looks at the bigger picture. However, by the time this is understood, it might be too late.
The Q&A concluded with a question relating nature and ethics, which brought in yet another component to the current mixture surrounding environmental analysis. A prime example raised was the issue of building a road through a biological hotspot, such as a rainforest. At first glance, scientists and activists would adamantly oppose to this road, as it would disrupt biodiversity and the pristine wilderness this hotspot embodies. However, on the flip side, the road would allow for many rural, native people to receive supplies from developed countries. The debate further intensified when it was asked if we should be allowed to restrain currently developing countries from indulging in the same environmentally detrimental practices that we, as a nation, went through in order to stand where we are today. Who are we to control their actions and development of a nation as a whole? However, due to our development, we generally have a broader, more rounded understanding of various environmental issues and could use this knowledge to prevent
Is there a point in the past which we could rewind to and where everything would be okay? No. The point is, there has always been some relationship, whether positive or negative, between humans and the environment around us. We cannot change the past, nor would we like to return to the technologically deficient past. Thus, the only choice is to improve our current state of being and look ahead at what we can do to establish an equilibrium between nature and mankind.
(below): Students chat over dinner as Dr. Einaudi prepares for his presentation.