Environmental change through discussion

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

What do volcanic rocks, a seahorse holding a Q-tip and a 2-year-old polar bear named Nora have in common? They’ve all been large conversation starters for the state of our global ecosystem in the last month.

This is a necessary conversation to have, and there is room for everyone to be involved in a way that resonates with them.

Everyone has conflicting narratives when it comes to the health of our world, the man-made carbon footprints we leave and what this means for the future. We see this on our campus with groups rallying for environmentally conscious decisions to be made, with recycling  and composting options changing in our dining facilities, with campus vehicles running on recycled oil and so much more.  

Despite the differences in narratives, your average good human would agree that there are measures that ought to be taken, at the very least, to see what we can do as a society to limit our negative impact on the world, and if at all possible, reverse the impact that has already been undeniably left as humanity has advanced and developed.

A Swiss startup company called Climeworks recently developed a machine that actually sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere. Once they gathered the CO2, however, they had to find a place to store it. The company has now found a way to bury the gases in rocks underwater, hundreds of feet underneath Iceland where they combine naturally with volcanic rocks.

The company has not yet found a way to make this cost effective, nor to amplify production of the machinery to a level where it could make a major impact globally. However, it shows the possibility of innovative technological solutions to actually reverse some of the impacts of CO2 gases in the atmosphere.

Heading away from the technological element and into the emotional realm of unifying the world populations, a photographer accidentally captured an image that has been recently circulating the internet. The picture shows a seahorse, in the coast around Indonesia, gripping a Q-tip in its tail. The photographer submitted this picture to the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition where it is one of the finalists.  

“It’s a photograph that I wish didn’t exist but now that it does I want everyone to see it,” the Instagram caption reads. “This photo serves as an allegory for the current and future state of our oceans. What sort of future are we creating? How can your actions shape our planet?”

Emotionally connecting with masses of people is a major obstacle. An image as simple as this one has succeeded in starting a more nuanced dialogue.

And while steps are being taken to technologically reverse damage to the Earth, and people are generating conversation in mainstream society, there are other people still devoting their time to understanding how the animals living in all corners of the Earth have survived all these years.

The Oregon Zoo recently conducted an experiment with a 2-year-old polar bear named Nora. The zoo built Nora an infinity style pool and trained her to stay in motion in it to get a better understanding of how many calories polar bears burn in their natural homes thousands of miles away.  

The importance of understanding this is to learn how polar bears survive every year during the time that is ice-free. In some parts of the world, that time period has not remained stable in the past few years. The ability to begin collecting data to understand the conservation needs of this species is monumental.

Whether through technology, emotions, conservation or anything else, every person can play a role in supporting the world we live in.

We have been privileged to live in a world that is still able to house so many ecosystems and species, but we need to make sure that remains true for the coming generations.

However you can make an impact in the world around you, each contribution counts.

Just keeping this conversation in the minds of the people around us will lead to a better future for us all.

Hayley is a junior in ACES.

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