As a new semester and year begin, many Rider students are reflecting on how intense 2016 was. The year brought a lot of breaking news, including the deaths of many beloved celebrities, a drastic shift and divide in the American political climate, and many changes in the environment.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, 2016 was the hottest year on record. This set an all-time high for the third year in a row. These hot temperatures drove forward extreme weather in the United States, as seen with the flooding in Louisiana and Texas, the wildfires that raged through Tennessee and the extreme drought that gripped California.
Likewise, last year had a lot of political issues with the environment, like with the continued lack of clean water in Flint, Michigan and the turmoil between the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the Dakota Access Pipeline. These two issues are still undecided in 2017, along with the Keystone XL Pipeline, which was just revived last week by the Trump administration. How the environment is closely connected with Americans and the way they live their lives was clearly demonstrated last year. Many saw that people are less likely to be complacent when it comes to environmental injustices that impact their communities.
Senior English major Kathryn Weniger kept up with news about the pipeline last semester and was surprised to hear that Keystone XL was given the go-ahead to resume construction.
“I was not expecting that at all,” she said. “If anything, this just means that we have to become more active in protecting the environment. I think both of these pipelines should be stopped because they hurt people’s lives.”
Rider’s surrounding areas also saw environmental troubles in 2016. Late in 2015, a pipeline that would go through Burlington, Ocean and Monmouth counties was proposed to the state legislature for construction the following year. This pipeline is also supposed to cover a protected portion of the Pinelands on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. Hearings for the pipeline are still happening, as many residents around the area are protesting its construction. If Rider students are interested in becoming involved with this matter, they are encouraged to visit burlingtoncountytimes.com for updates on the hearings.
Despite the severity of these issues, both in our area and across the nation, not every environmental issue last year was negative. The Paris Climate Agreement, brought into effect in 2016, is a global initiative to keep the rising of the Earth’s temperature below two degrees Celsius. The agreement also pursues a push to keep the worldwide temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
This pact can be paralleled to the Rider University Carbon Commitment (formerly known as the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment), signed into action in 2007. This commitment pushes Rider to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Many of the environmental issues currently happening in the world can seem far away. We watch the news or scroll through our Twitter feeds and look at articles about places experiencing catastrophic fires or flooding that are thousands of miles from us. We look around and see that our own environment seems perfectly fine.
But we must remember that we are all interconnected. People just like us are experiencing these environmental emergencies, and we are not exempt from the adverse effects of climate change. We saw that quite clearly with Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
We also must remember that we are the catalyst to making change. Jan Friedman-Krupnick, assistant vice president of student affairs at Rider, urges students, “Take your individual responsibility for social action seriously…Take every opportunity you can, to make phone calls, send letters/emails to express your opinion, and to work on political campaigns.”
Combating climate change always starts at the local level. It starts by using less plastic with shopping bags or disposable water bottles. It starts by recycling more. It starts by carpooling to use less gas. Preventing climate change starts with us.
Lawrenceville Eco Rep
Printed in the 2/1/17 issue.