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Speaker discusses climate change

[media-credit name=”Maliha Ali ” align=”alignright” width=”229″][/media-credit]
Presenter Brian Stilwell speaks to students interested in joining the ACE network after his presentation.

by Jay Feinstein

“How many people heard of climate change?” Brian Stilwell, New England Educator of Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), asked the audience of the little theatre during his G- and F-block presentations Wednesday.

Everyone’s hands went up. However, fewer people raised their hands when asked if they understood how climate change works.

From there, Stilwell went on to explain climate change and its effects on the Earth.

“The Earth is like a giant thermostat being jacked up by fossil fuels,” he said. “People are living large, and that causes the temperature on the thermostat to rise.”

He clarified that he meant that by saying people are living large, people are taking up more space on the planet than just their physical living space. “There’s the space in Iowa that grows your food, the space in Middle East where your fuel comes from and there’s the place where all of your garbage goes,” he said.

According to Stilwell, every person in the United States uses an average of 21 football fields of resources. The resources that a school uses could span all the way from Boston to Washington D.C, he said.

These statistics are just for the United States. If every country were to use energy like the United States uses energy, five Earths would be needed, he said.

“Using these resources improves our quality of life, but many people don’t realize the destruction it takes to get them and the fact that we might run out.”

Stilwell then went on to describe the greenhouse effect.

He explained that cars, factories and other human machines release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases keep heat contained in the atmosphere, and excess greenhouse gases can heat up Earth.

“Even small changes in carbon dioxide can make a huge difference,” he said. “Trees and other plants are carbon sinks, meaning that they consume some of this extra carbon dioxide, but the trees can’t keep up. Plus, we are losing so many of them due to deforestation.”

According to Stilwell, at the time of the industrial revolution, the Earth had never experienced more than 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide. Currently, there are 390 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a disconcertingly large amount, he said.

Due to this increase in the level of carbon dioxide, the 10 hottest years in recorded history have occurred in this generation, he said. In addition, he said that 98 percent of climate scientists agree that people are responsible for the increase in the Earth’s temperature.

According to Stilwell, the warming increases the odds of extreme weather, hurts the economy, threatens national security and can affect the health of everyone on the planet.

If nothing is done about it, the qualities people love most about New England will disappear, he said. Ski areas will begin to close earlier and earlier due to a lack of snow, maple trees will produce less and less sap for maple syrup and New England’s fall foliage will not be as beautiful as it is now.

During the next part of the presentation, Stilwell pretended that this generation took actions to reverse climate change. He pretended that it was the year 2052 and that the audience was at its 40th high school reunion.

To set the mood, mementos began appearing on a projected screen like “40 years ago a slice of pizza cost $2.50” and “40 years ago The Hunger Games was the number one movie.”

Stilwell began talking about all of the positive effects the future version of this generation had on the environment. He talked about how solar, wind, geothermal and ocean tide power was used everywhere in the world. He talked about how the last coal plant was shut down in 2050 and how new innovative technology was created.

One example of new technology was a dance floor that would power music and lights for a dance party. The vibrations caused by the dancing on the floor would create power.

According to Stilwell, the future that he showed in the fake 40th high school reunion is possible. He said that anything can happen if students put effort into helping the environment.

One way to help stop climate change is to participate in ACE’s Do One Thing program, he said.

To participate in Do One Thing, text DOT to 30644 and think of one thing to help the environment. “It could be recycling sneakers, unplugging gadgets, buying vintage clothing or even having a weekly burger free Tuesday,” Stilwell said. “Every one thing makes a difference.”

“Our generation didn’t start this climate change, but we have to stop it.”

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