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Ideal world in climate change: Part I

Photo courtesy of NASA Scientific Visualization Studio

Climate change is so complicated and multi-faceted that I cannot digest it even when I talk about each issue line by line with somebody. The conversation starts seriously and ends with helplessness: Who are enemies in climate change? Oil companies? Do they really want to destroy the planet? No, petroleum and oil are very profitable resources. For oil companies, their ways of wealth happened to raise temperature and sea level, and employees just want to earn a living. Okay, so how do we transition to a sustainable world? Maybe renewable energy? Let’s do that right away. No, it’s not that easy.

In Bruff (Tulane University main dining hall), Luff (Loyola University main dining hall), and LBC, this conversation loop continues without much satisfaction.

All current Tulane undergraduates that I have talked to, the ones who were born in 1994 and later, have a clear awareness about climate change and agree that decisive actions must be made. The national statistics are also hopeful. According to the Yale Communication on Climate change, 69% of adults in the United States want to resist carbon emissions from coal power plants, and 75% support regulating CO2 as a pollutant more generally. The numbers show that near majority of people are willing to act on climate change, then why can’t we solve the problem right away?

In a democracy, people vote for representatives and the representatives become decision makers. In the United States, Mr. Trump became the president against Mrs. Clinton by the number of votes calculated under Electoral College system. The result is so contrary to opinions of people around me. No one I had talked to in Tulane before the presidential election thought Mr. Trump had a chance of becoming the next president. The popular Facebook posts on my News Feed criticized or cynically made fun of Mr. Trump’s quotes on women, Mexicans, terrors, and climate change. Not a single post I had encountered supported his comments and policies that are far away from ideal future directions that I discuss with my colleagues.

The fact that I have never talked to or met anybody who supports Mr. Trump showcases that I am living in a bubble. In October 2015, 69.2% of 2015 American high school graduates enrolled in colleges or universities according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tulane University is one of 4,000 public and private universities in the United States, with an annual tuition around $50,000 and the acceptance rate of 30%. Unless one receives a scholarship, it is realistic to assume that the people around me are from rich households with great education to survive through one-out-of-three competition. In other words, the people around me are far from representative of the United States.

This does not deprive me of the hope that undergraduates are capable of taking actions regarding climate change issues. The university is a unique environment where people in different disciplines share the physical space of campus. Since climate change calls for interdisciplinary analysis and solution, campus can be the optimum environment to gather thoughts from students that are interested in different issues.  In an ideal scenario, such synergistic effect can increase awareness among undergraduates about recognized and unrecognized issues regarding climate change.

I will be diving into these different groups and talking to people to find out their thoughts on climate change and how we can combat it. First up will be the president of the University Student Government, Sam Levine. Look for our conversation and his thoughts on what Tulane can do to help with the crises at hand.

Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at kelley@nolavie.com.