Letter to the Editor: Ways to lower carbon emissions

I am writing in response to Dr. Gallay’s letter last week (“Population size takes toll on Earth,” The Rider News, 10/19/07) and his emphasis on the unsustainability of the current rapid rate of human population growth given the earth’s limited natural resources. The point he has missed is that even if there were no net increase in population size for the next 1,000 years, the rate at which our current population is using resources is outstripping the earth’s resources. CO2 is the issue. And U.S. citizens are a major source of the problem.

The lifestyle of the average world citizen produces 5.8 tons of greenhouse gases every year. In developing nations such as India, this number drops to about 1.8 tons per person per year. The average U.S. citizen’s lifestyle produces 19 tons of CO2 per year. To put this into perspective, that’s the same weight as three African elephants.

Cutting our CO2 production by two-thirds would merely make us average. We’re all individually responsible for our CO2 footprint; this is not an issue about excess “procreation” in developing nations, it’s about excesses of the American lifestyle.

How can you reduce your impact now, today? Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Replace a burnt-out light bulb with a compact fluorescent light (CFL). CFLs use one-fourth as much electricity as conventional bulbs and last at least 10 times longer.

2. Eat more vegetables. Livestock are huge producers of greenhouse gases, especially methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than CO2 in raising earth temperatures. A carnivorous diet generates the equivalent of at least 1.5 tons of CO2 per year from the animals alone.

3. Reduce the margins. By changing the margins on your documents from 1 inch to three-fourth inches, you use 13 percent more of the page. Each month, 16 trees give their lives to supply paper for the printers in Memorial Hall alone. Changing the margins keeps two more CO2-absorbing trees in circulation per month!

4. Learn more. Come to a talk by Dana Isherwood on Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. in Science Hall 102. Dana is one of 1,000 people trained personally by Al Gore to speak to audiences about causes and implications of global climate change. And don’t miss the spooky display on the academic mall about electricity use next week!

— Laura A. Hyatt
Associate Professor
Department of Biology

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