Denver, Colorado, April 25, 2016 – Climate change is considered to be one of the greatest threats to humanity we currently face. With the scope of potential ramifications still unknown, it is difficult for people to imagine what Earth will look or be like in the future.
More frequent natural disasters like the earthquakes in Japan and melting glaciers in Greenland are just early indicators of what may be coming, and affecting everyone.
Still, students at DU, and across the country do not think of their actions, and their impact on the environment, because none of these signs of climate change have truly effected them on a personal level. Unfortunately, as a nation and global community it may be too late to reverse some of the negative impacts in the near future.
Awareness about this issue is important, and presenting DU students with hard examples as to what may happen in their lifetimes can generate buzz. For example, at the current rate of fossil fuel emissions (and the ice caps melting as a result) Miami will be almost entirely under water by the year 2100.
To bring this issue close to the heart of University of Denver students, I asked questions revolving around the future of skiing and snowboarding, and whether or not students believe there will be enough snow to ski for the rest of their lives.
According to the Rocky Mountain National Park website,
“It is getting warmer (a 3.4° F rise in average annual temperature over the last century) in Rocky Mountain National Park. What does it mean to see a 3.4° F rise in average temperature? Imagine climate change is like a fever – if your temperature went up 3.4° F, you would feel sick. Warming in Rocky Mountain National Park can similarly affect the park’s natural resources.”
For winter sport enthusiasts this is not good news. Of course, with rising temperature comes a decrease in snowfall, and less than stellar ski conditions.
The student answers were fairly mixed, with the common theme of a discouraging hope.
Griffin Olson, a junior sustainability minor at DU and avid skier was the most pessimistic.
“I would love to believe that I will be able to ski with my kids for as long as I can, but the snow may be significantly worse before the time my body tells me I can’t ski anymore” Olson said, “we just have to enjoy it while we still can.”
Olson is about halfway through his sustainability minor, and was adamant that drastic changes need to be made in every aspect of our society, not just for skiers and snowboarders but for all future generations.
Tess Greenwald, a hopeful for the undergrad student president at DU offered a similar opinion as Olson, but did not think the impacts of climate change would impact her life and skiing career as much.
“I know global warming is a serious problem, but I still believe I will be able to take my kids on ski trips as they grow up.”
When given a few climate changes facts (like Miami being underwater etc.) Greenwald’s expression and attitude changed a little.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t heard anything like that before. Maybe I won’t be able to ski for as long as I thought I could.”
By simply hearing a couple of easy, “Googleable” stats Greenwald’s mindset on climate change was altered. This example of a lack of education on the environment illustrates the bubble that students live in.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Sachin Verma a sophomore finance major was confident that climate change wouldn’t have a large impact on skiing, at least in his life.
“I don’t ski much, but I just don’t see a scenario where I would ever be unable to ski due to a lack of snow, at least in my lifetime.”
This mindset provides an example of how environmental problems fall under the tragedy of the commons. Because people cannot see or feel the immediate impact of climate change, they feel that they don’t have to worry about it, or do anything to stop it. Increased education and awareness is an easy first step in combatting climate change, and it is one that must start at the high school level. Giving college bound students a baseline education on the environmental problems will set them up to live sustainably and continue to enjoy activities like skiing and snowboarding in the future.
MFJS 2140 Reporter