Ahead of YCP’s sustainability awareness campaign, students weigh in on the threat of climate change

By The Spartan staff

YORK College of Pennsylvania will roll out its sustainability awareness campaign from April 19-29.

It will involve a number of events spread throughout the week and a half, developed by President Pamela Gunter-Smith’s task force for sustainability on campus. Certainly, the timing plays into Earth Day, which is April 22.

Click here to access the YCP sustainability awareness campaign schedule, which includes a free public talk by Frostburg State University professor Richard Russo from 7 to 8 p.m. April 20, in Weinstock Lecture Hall, Willman Business Center. The talk, “The Words That Sustain Us ­– GeoHumanities and Sustainability,” is also available virtually through Zoom.

You can read more on Russo and his background at this link.

What is sustainability? It’s the idea of meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It involves components of environment, equity, and economy. 

Colleges and universities play a vital role in preparing students to meet the sustainability challenges of the future, and sustainability is a priority of York College. This campaign will feature one film screening and two guest lectures, including Russo’s.

Click here to access the full schedule of events.

Since climate change is a part of the entire issue, members of the Spartan staff fanned out Wednesday to ask students these questions: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you think climate change threatens your personal health and safety? And what can you do about it? If the answer is nothing, why do you feel that way?

Here are the responses:

Wolf Hall, morning

Wolf Hall was abuzz with activity on this hot spring morning. To many, the heat is a pleasant change after a grueling winter. To others, these temperatures are a grim reminder of the mistreatment of our environment.

Hunter Hudak

Luke Rohrbaugh and Colin Quinn, both seniors in the mass communications program, were two of the students walking through Wolf Hall. Both students say they believe that climate change is very real and needs to be something on the forefront of our minds moving forward.

When asked to grade the personal impact of climate change on a scale of 1 to 10, Quinn replied with 7 and Rohrbaugh said 10. 

When discussing climate change, people fall into two categories: doomist and denialist. Denialists believe that climate change is a nonissue, while doomists feel that climate change is irreversible and our efforts to fix it are futile. Rohrbaugh and Quinn are two students who fall into the ever-growing doomist camp.

But it is not futile to believe in change, they say. 

“I try to reduce my carbon footprint by not driving too much, recycling, and voting for people who support legislation combating climate change,” Quinn says.

Rohrbaugh’s words are more urgent.

“Climate change directly affects everyone around the world. If the world doesn’t pay attention to the environment, then we won’t be able to sustain a clean ecosystem for our children/ grandchildren,” he says.

There was one student who fell into the denialist camp. Hunter Hudak, a senior business administration major, said he believes that climate change is important but there are more pressing issues.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in it, I just think that there are more important things to worry about,” Hudak says. “It is something to worry about in the future, but COVID and other economic problems are impacting our daily lives more at the moment.”

Opinion seems to be somewhat divided. Still, Rohrbaugh advises students to do what they can to reverse this problem.

“Personally, I should be more aware of [doing things like] recycling versus using a trash can,” he says. “It may seem small, but in the long run it adds up tremendously.”

Ben Weyman

Courtyard, lunchtime

Taylor Herr and Allie Smith

Two freshmen, Taylor Herr and Allie Smith, were sitting outside the Student Union at a picnic table enjoying the beautiful weather. In response to the question, Smith says that she felt that climate change affects her an 8 out of 10 because she knows that “in the long term it’s going to affect [her] health and safety.” Smith says that some things she could do to help the issue of climate change is to better educate herself, as she did not have many ideas other than to carpool. “I’m definitely going to see some ways that I can personally help because this isn’t something we can sit around and wait to fix itself,” she says.

Herr says that the issue of climate change affects her a 7 out of 10, and that the biggest way she’s noticed climate change is the weather being hot in typically colder months, and vice versa. “I could carpool and bike to work. I would say those are realistic things I could do, because I agree with Allie, I need to better educate myself since this like a huge issue for us and younger generations.”

It seems like both students are aware of the importance of the issue of climate change and are going to better educate themselves on things that they can do to help.”

Anna-Grace Rowland

Dorm, evening

Colin Larkin

Kyle Ferreira, a senior sports management major here, was open about his views on sustainability. Ferreira scaled his threat level at 4, saying, “Personally right now there is nothing I can do about it because the alternative to not using gas and getting an electric car is not something I can afford right now.”

He concluded by saying that he hopes to make the switch to electric later on in life.

Colin Larkin, a junior mass communication major, put his number a little higher on the scale. “I’d say a 6 or 7, and I actively try to recycle as best as I can.”

Zack Siegel

Grumbacher, afternoon

Taslim Hossain, a junior majoring in civil engineering and chemistry, feels that climate change has an impact on his life. “I would rank climate change as a 7.5 as a threat to my personal health and safety,” he says. “Although, there is an argument to be made that due to climate change not posing an immediate danger to our surroundings, that it should not be ranked this severely.”

Hossain then went on to say, “But I would argue that mindset is what got us in this situation in the first place. Climate change is preventable but delaying action has placed us in a situation where climate change may now be irreversible.“

Taslim Hossain

He says that he feels that there are steps that can be taken to prevent climate change, however.

“Supporting renewable energy, reusing materials before disposing of them, and smarter personal water consumption,” he says before talking about how to make a larger change. “The biggest way of getting a change would be to target these businesses and the reason we have so many emissions is because these large companies won’t change for the climate. We should be targeting them at their core and then we could truly witness a large change.”

Andrew Reever

Dorm, evening

Jeremy Hadler

Freshman Jeremy Hadler says that “the issue of climate change affects us on a scale of 7 or 8 out of 10. My main viewpoint is that everyday people’s small efforts are not going to help the earth. The people who need to change are Fortune 500 company owners whose mass production is terrible for our environment.”

He also adds, “I try my best to make a positive difference myself, but it is hard to keep it in mind from day to day.”

Chris Hulsart

Sparts Den, morning, and courtyard/amphitheater, afternoon

When asked how much climate change affects them personally Chloe Orner, Madison Reeser, Isabel Cox and Aliyah Newcomer all say climate change affected them a lot, giving 7s and 8s on a 10-point scale.

Orner says she thinks that the biggest way to make an impact is to make less personal waste saying, “We make a lot of trash throughout the week.” But the best way to reduce this is by recycling more and using reusable water bottles.

Reeser also says she thinks that waste is the best way to go in making an impact for everyone but looked at it from a carbon emissions point of view. Though she took a class on sustainability and climate change she couldn’t remember all the mitigation techniques other than walking or biking is the best way to lessen your carbon footprint.

Later, on the other side of main campus in the outdoor courtyard between Apell Life Science and Willman Business Center, Cox is all too happy to answer how climate change affects her saying, “Oh, that’s easy!” before giving a variety of solutions. 

She, like Reeser, thinks that the best way to make an impact is in reducing everyone’s carbon footprint. Doing things like using metal or silicon reusable straws, reusable water bottles, and carpooling or using public transportation will make a big difference. Cox also continues her list of suggestion that instead of buying new clothes all the time to go thrifting for clothes that are new to you.

Newcomer’s advice is to go and enjoy the nice days outside, essentially to go and worry about your surroundings and environment and don’t do anything toxic to it. Other than that Newcomer says, “What can I say that hasn’t already been said?”

Taryn Cook

Several campus spots, morning

Jared Bair, a sophomore majoring in supply chain, put his number at a 9. “Climate change is the single biggest health threat facing humanity, and health professionals worldwide are already responding to the health harms caused by this unfolding crisis,” he says. “Increasingly frequent extreme weather events, like heat waves, storms and floods, cause disruption of food systems, shortages in food and water, and an increase in diseases. Action needs to be taken now to reduce emissions and avoid the breaching of dangerous temperature thresholds and potential irreversible tipping points.”

Jared Bair

Victoria Romero, a senior majoring in integrated marketing communications, says she’d score the impact of climate change at a 4 or 5. “I can recycle and try to reuse materials in my house, which I actively try to do. I don’t use plastic bags as much as reusable bags. It’s hard to be conscious about it as many products aren’t eco-friendly so I have to be diligent about what I buy and when I buy it. I think many things are out of our hands because companies aren’t held accountable despite their being most responsible for waste in the us.” 

Clare Brennan is a junior majoring in public relations. She takes a bit of a different tack in answering the question. “I think that TikTok is a detrimental tool to advertise to our age group to expand our shopping addition, especially in fast fashion,” she says.

“Fast fashion is a huge and unnecessary contributor to climate change. The pollutants from these factories are admitting C02 and assisting in thinning out the ozone layer. This in turn is allowing sun rays to hit our waters more directly, warming them and melting the ice. If this pattern continues, the water levels to rise and start to flood our shores. While this is not an immediate problem, the less action we take against it, the more immediate it becomes. I can help by reducing, reusing, and recycling. This includes thrifting and hand-me-downs. I also do not want to contribute to the capital gains of fast fashion companies. Every dollar spent there is casting a vote to keep them in business. It is not the most glamorous life but it is worth it for our future generations.”

Ulices Samaniego

Starbucks, morning

Onasis Bisbal says she would rate the threat at a 3 or 4. “I’m not really in a bad area, whereas in China were there’s a lot of pollution I’d give a rating of 8. Me personally, I don’t think there can be much done about climate change. Not using a car and biking somewhere isn’t going to do anything impactful, it would have to be on a larger scale as a city or country taking a step.”

Sophie Barnes rates it a 6. “I’m saying this because it probably affects us in ways we don’t know about,” she says. “I’m sure I’m being affected in ways I don’t cognitively notice but see it on a larger scale.” “It’s hard to make a change as one person but I think there are ways you can support, like for example, you can support companies and businesses that supports sustainability and are ecofriendly. If you can educate yourself and those around, then it can make a bigger change.”

Rachel Toomey puts her number higher, at an 8, “I can’t explain the actual mechanism of it but it’s a time-sensitive situation, and our resources aren’t being paid attention to by those higher up in society, pushing further and further to being a problem. We’d have to pitch in to things will add up in favor of being sustainable. There are a bunch of different resources that we can preserve and not use, definitely cut down on carbon admissions and the number of plastics used on a day-to-day basis,” she says.

“I even recycle; although I am not perfect at it. Every day I divide up plastics and the things that have the recyclable label on them from my other trash. However, they don’t always go to the right place, you’d think all recyclables go to the same spot but that is not always the case.”

Vaughntay Mcgraw

Richland dorms, morning

Hanna Rudick, a resident at the dorm, says as of right now she would put her response at a 6 because the pace at which the climate is changing is slow, but it grows exponentially every year. “I also worry more about my future health and safety with the destruction of our ozone, continuously changing weather patterns, etc.,” she says.

Austin Falco, another resident of the Richland dorms, settled on the impact as a 6 out of 10. “The statistics and information I’ve read makes it hard to think that climate change isn’t having some impact on our well-being.”

He adds, “At the same time, it isn’t something that I think about on a day-to-day basis.” When asked what he does to help out climate change, he said he tries to use as little water as possible when cleaning himself up along with recycling often.

Autumn Miller

Bookstore employees, morning

When asked to rank how much he believes climate change threatens his personal health and safety on a scale of 1 to 10, Anthony Chrisitano rates a 6. “I don’t believe we’re doomed, we have to start using different materials to help reduce the impact of climate change,” he says. “A lot of these resources are just inaccessible at the moment, and may take a while to get to.”

Another student worker at the bookstore, Josh Sparrow, states that he would give a ranking of 3. “I don’t know a lot about climate change, so it is hard to understand its effects entirely … I think if anything we should increase recycling, because other avenues like electric vehicles will take a while to become adjusted into our society.”

Breanna Hoffner

West Campus community center, dinnertime

When asked how much climate change affects our safety and well-being, sophomore professional writing major Alex Merritt says, “Considering where I live, I don’t feel that climate change particularly affects my safety. A lot of places are at a higher risk for hurricanes and tornadoes, which can be much more dangerous for personal safety, but here we don’t really have those issues here. If I had to put it on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d say about a 6.”

Alex Merritt

On the other hand, sophomore international relations major Juneau Sykes says, “I feel this area has really bad pollution issues. When I come to school my skin feels dry and itchy compared to when I’m at home. I feel like York City is very unsafe pollution-wise.”

When asked what they could do to help, Sykes continues, “I feel like there’s not much I can do to slow climate change. Large corporations are the ones that are the leading cause of climate change so I feel anything I do doesn’t matter.”

Sykes’ concern is a widely agreed-upon concern among many people. Some feel hopeless when it comes to climate change and feel they can do nothing about it.

Alyson Hatfield

Sarah Martin, of SpartanGreen

Sarah Martin is a sophomore nursing major and Eisenhart Community Scholar. SpartanGreen is a part of her Independent project.

Asked the question of rating the impact, she landed on 6 out of 10. “I think it is definitely a threat, but I would consider it more long-term and into the future,” she says. “There are a lot of other threats that can cause immediate harm to our safety.”

Martin says there are some misconceptions that students have about sustainability, most notably that small actions don’t make a difference. “But in fact, even picking up a few pieces of trash does because possibly other people driving by see you and you spark an idea in them,” she says. “Then they do the same with their family or friends. Small simple tasks that everyone can do so easily make a difference because it means that a person is consciously aware of their actions and how they affect the Earth. I think there is also a misconception that sustainability is expensive. I think people think you need to buy organic or only equipment made from plastic. Sustainability does not solve all of Earth’s problems, but it can help save our Earth and prevent some of the problems from worsening.

So what is SpartanGreen and when was it established? Martin says it gives students an opportunity to volunteer in service-related initiatives for the environment. The events occur on Earth Day (noon to 3 p.m. and 3:30 to 6:30 April 22) and are available to all York College students who want to participate. It offers both on-campus and off-campus events in the York community, with limited transportation provided. “It was established this semester as my Eisenhart Community Scholars project,” she says. “I have always been passionate about the environment and have been a nature kid, so I created this project because it is an area of interest and of concern in the world.”

This is the first-ever SpartanGreen, so Martin says she is hopeful that it becomes an annual event at York College. “That all depends on how successful it is, but I think even having 25 students would be a success,” she says. “Having even a smaller number of students feel empowered to make a difference and spread the word about Earth Day would be a huge success. I would love for SpartanGreen to continue and become a planned part of Sustainability Week in the future.”

Anyone who wants to participate can sign up at this link.

Karisma Boyd

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