Enviro Day encourages green activism

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The Newtonite

B-block
by Amy Morrill
Speakers from 350 Mass, an organization dedicated to advocating for environmental change, came to the Little Theatre to speak at Enviro Day B-Block.
The block featured Kenneth Weiss, Andrew Gordon, and Bob Morrison, who spoke about the need for young people and students in particular to protect the environment.
The presentation began with Weiss, who discussed why each member of the audience should be invested in climate change.
One of the most striking parts of his speech was when Weiss showed graphics of what Boston would look like with a sea level raised three feet, the projected amount if we stop all pollution right now, and with twenty feet, the amount if we continue as we are. The urgency for environmental protection was made clear to all.
“If we want to solve this, we have to take control,” said Weiss. “We have to dream that we can make a difference.”
He went on to talk about the recent proposal at the Newton Free Library to put in solar panels, which was rejected because it wouldn’t be aesthetically pleasing. He asked the audience to consider petitioning city hall or writing letters.
“I’m going to do everything I can to fight for you guys,” explained Weiss. “But in reality, right now it’s only me. I need you guys to join too. I need you guys to fight for your future.”
Next, Gordon took the podium. He described his fight to become an advocate, and urged the audience to do the same.
He explained that, “the question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Whose pain moves you, and why?’”
Again, Gordon described what each individual person can do to make a difference, along with discussing his or her power.
“If you take nothing else away from this, other than the fact that what you value matters, know that you have power” said Gordon. “Being powerful is being able to make decision-makers do the thing you want them to do.”
The final speaker, Morrison, focused a little more on the science behind the presentation. He talked about the need to find an “energy economy that’s sustainable,” and how people must find a global radiative equilibrium.
He finished the block by explaining that he did not do enough to protect the environment; he even gave the audience his blessing to yell at him for messing up.
“This is going to be your job,” said Morrison. “My generation didn’t do a lot, and we’re delivering this problem to you.”
C-block
by Tali Falk-Judson
Daniel Perez, a member of Boston Harbor Now, presented on the dangers of rising sea levels and changing tides as a part of during Enviro Day C-block.
“If we don’t take action now, then by 2050 flooding will be a very serious problem,” said Perez. Boston Harbor Now, is a non profit that deals with problems Boston faces from the sea.
Most of the presentation discussed the implications of rising water levels due to global warming on the Boston waterfront.
“By 2100, the sea level will have risen five feet,” said Perez. “That means that at high tide, twice a day, 7% of Boston will be underwater.
“Even though the sea level is only rising gradually, the higher it gets the more devastating a potential storm could be,” said Perez. “If the time comes when a storm hits at high tide, we could see destruction like that of hurricane Sandy.”
In the end of the presentation, Perez talked about solutions to the inevitability of rising tides. “What Boston needs to do, and what we are already doing, is to learn from the Dutch. The Netherlands is over 70% below sea level, but they use a system of dykes and floodable transition zones to achieve safety from the ocean.”
Floodable transition zones are large areas, normally parks or bridges, which fill with flood-water in the event of a storm. Perez believes that these will provide a safe and practical solution to the growing problem of rising water levels.
E-block
by Laura Schmidt-Hong
Boston University professor Nathan Phillips spoke about changes that can be made in Newton to improve the environment as part of Enviro Day Thursday, April 14 during E-block in the film lecture hall.
Phillips outlined solutions for decreasing fossil fuel emissions, particularly changes in transportation methods, as well as describing the effects of natural gas leaks on trees in the Greater Boston area.
Junior Jennifer Horsburgh also spoke about environmental justice and changes that must be made to close disparity gaps between people in Massachusetts in terms of their exposure to environmental hazards.
Phillips began by showing the Twitter hashtag “LeadWithUs,” a movement for fossil fuel divestment led by students. He said, “That’s what I want to convey to you: that your voice really matters.”
Next, Phillips presented a video of himself and his colleagues investigating natural gas leaks in Boston and analyzing the effects of the methane in the gas on trees. According to Phillips, there are over 300,000 gas leaks in Boston and approximately the same number in Newton. He added accordingly, “we need to get behind the renewable energy movement and push it as hard as we can.”
To get involved, students can visit the statehouse or attend environmental advocacy meetings, said Phillips, because “it shows you care about your future.” He added that walking and biking to school is another way to participate.
Newton has the most cars per household of all the towns in Greater Boston area, according to Phillips, so “we need to shift the dial on our transportation methods.” Creating parking areas for bikes and establishing rental bike or bike share companies are potential solutions, said Phillips.
Phillips then introduced Horsburgh, who described environmental justice, which she said, “acknowledges that environmental issues aren’t isolated” and “involves tackling unfair policies,” which put groups of certain racial and income status in harm’s way. She presented the water crisis in Flint, Michigan as an example.
Explaining how those who have the least impact on climate change are “on the front lines” of it, Horsburgh added that wealthier communities which have a greater impact on climate change must take advantage of their power, even if they do not experience the immediate effects.
She added that while Massachusetts seems environmentally progressive, it has high levels of disparity and requires a “mindset shift.”
“We will eventually become the front lines,” said Horsburgh. “To change everything, we need everyone.”