A Wake up Call

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Let’s end our dependence on Fossil Fuels

Today, we have become extremely dependent on fossil fuels. 81 percent of America’s energy comes from fossil fuels. While this number has decreased, this is still an extremely high amount. We all know that fossil fuels are limited, yet we still keep using them in markets like the manufacturing and energy industries. Most of our Carbon Emissions come from Fossil Fuels, but still we have not made the switch. We are still too dependent on the old grid, fossil fuels and petrochemical products in general. My question is “Why”? There are practical solutions out there. Renewable resources technology has increased greatly over the past few years, along with more up and coming solar companies. America has always been in the front to adopt new technologies and innovations, especially in the Information Technology space. So, why haven’t we switched in the energy and manufacturing sectors? Why are we still dependent on petrochemical products and fossil fuels?

There are many answers to this question. Many say it’s because of decreasing oil prices, or the failures of Solar Companies like Solyndra. While these may be true, I believe that the reason we have not changed is because of a more psychological reason- an unwillingness to change.

This behavior can be explained through a very simple quote, “If something works don’t fix it.” This thinking can be seen in the petrochemical industry. During the 20th century, and the early 21st century, fossil fuels and petrochemical products were the answer to our demands. Clean Coal Technology was the solution. But, as time progressed and as more scientific research was done, we must come to a realization- Fossil fuels are not the answer. Studies show that an increase of Carbon Dioxide caused by Fossil Fuels is one of the biggest factors causing Climate Change. Fossil fuel extraction is also polluting our water, air, rivers, aquifers etc. Some places do not even have access to clean tap water anymore!

So, how long are we going to remain stubborn and not change? The more we procrastinate, the more we postpone signing treaties, and the more we argue; more lives are being put in danger and more people are being robbed of their basic necessities: clean air and water.

We MUST change. No longer can we go with the mentality of “If something works don’t fix it.” It is time that we break this habit and realize the severity of our actions. We must stop using fossil fuels in the manufacturing and energy industry. We must start the change NOW!

There is still hope. We have not completely lost. If we join together, and rethink, redesign and restore with environmental sustainability in our hearts, then there is hope. If we make environmental care, a priority and put it on the economic and social agendas, then there is hope. If we focus on the future generation and sustainability for years to come, instead of the short term gain, then there is hope. If we start caring more about our basic necessities, instead of short term profit, then there is hope.

So, this is why we must wake up and take action now. There is still hope, and if we join together and make changes, we can solve our issues and end our dependencies on all fossil fuels and petrochemical products.

 

About The Author:

Pavan-1Pavan is 14 years old and a passionate environmentalist. He is the founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc. He is also the founder of Green Kids Conference. Pavan has published two books, “Geckoboy-The Battle of Fracking” and “Two Tales from a kid”. He is a Climate Leader and also enjoys being a global reporter.

To request Pavan for a presentation, you can submit a request at: http://presenters.climaterealityproject.org/presenter/pavan-gowda_7084

Fair Trade

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Author: Megan, student at Metropolitan Expeditionary Learning School, NY

 Sustainability has been a common topic in all of my school classes. For example, a sacrifice to cut out one non sustainable activity/thing from our lives in ELA, fossil fuels and their impacts in science, sustainable packaging in math, and how sustainable the current clothing system is in social studies. Sara Ziff (a model who founded an organization called Model Alliance who is also working on a film called Tangled Threads) came into my social studies class to speak about her visit to Bangladesh and her discoveries about the current clothing industry. A summary of her presentation is that the fashion industry as a whole is built on the backs of young girls who are mistreated, over worked, underpaid and work in unsafe conditions. Her presentation inspired me to find a better, more sustainable way to make products. In social studies we learned that there are three types of sustainability: social, environmental, and economical. I did research to see if fair trade items are more sustainable in all three ways than a regular, non-fair trade items.

Socially, fair trade items are significantly more sustainable than regular items. For example, I found out from www.stylewithheart.com/category/fairtrade/  that workers get a fair amount of money for the work they do. Not only do they get a salary, they also receive a premium that goes towards things in their community like giving them access to clean water or building a school. Plus, according to http://fairtradeusa.org/blog/win-win-win-consumers-farmers-and-environment the quality of life can also be improved by fair trade. “Fair trade is an organized social movement that aims to help producers in developing countries to make better trading conditions and promote sustainability. It advocates the payment of a higher price to exporters as well as higher social standards.” That evidence is from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade, On the other hand, regular non fair trade items don’t pay workers fair wages and they don’t treat workers fairly.

Environmentally, fair trade is sustainable. According to http://fairtradeusa.org/blog/win-win-win-consumers-farmers-and-environment fair trade items reduce water usage and help to reduce pollution. That means it is better than regular items because it uses less water and reduces pollution. That makes the environment a better place. Fair trade is a movement that has higher environmental standards than regular items. That evidence is from http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Trade. With higher environmental standards fair trade is more environmentally sustainable. According to http://www.triplepundit.com/2012/04/protecting-people-protecting-planet  fair trade helps farmers to be better stewards of the land. Without fair trade some farmers struggle with money so they use cheap agricultural practices that aren’t good for the environment. I learned in science and math class that burning coal to make electricity pollutes CO2. CO2 gets put into the air and comes down to pollute the water 7 years later. With fair trade polluting less it stops the cycle of pollution in the air and then to the water. That means they don’t only keep water clean by not putting chemicals in the water, but also by not putting pollution in the air. Without fair trade the environment is being compromised. Fair trade is environmentally sustainable.

Economically, fair trade is sustainable. According to http://www.equalexchange.coop/about/fair-trade/faqs/does-fair-trade-coffee-cost-more-consumer, fair trade items/ products don’t have to cost more than regular items. Compared to organic or specialty grade coffee it normally costs the same or less. Even if it did cost more people are willing to pay the extra dollar or even as much as 40% more! I know this because when Sara Ziff came in to speak to my class she said that she did an experiment. There were two boxes of the exact same socks except one box was labeled “Fair trade.” The fair trade box was marked up 40% more but most people still bought the fair trade socks. Plus, in social studies class I learned about subsidies. According to http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/subsidy.asp a subsidy is “a benefit given by the government to groups or individuals usually in the form of a cash payment or tax reduction.” That means that when fair trade farmers get subsidies, it isn’t coming out of the consumers pocket, it is coming out of the governments.

In conclusion, fair trade is a way to meet the needs of our generation without out sacrificing the needs of future generations. If everyone did one small thing differently/more sustainably then the world would be a better place where future generations’ needs are still being met. This is essentially what we are doing in ELA. We have all given up one unsustainable thing for a month. Instead of giving up things that are very hard to give up like television, restaurants, meat, and electricity we could give up something simple that will still have a huge impact. The thing that we could give up are non-fair trade items. People, companies, and factories should realize that fair trade is the key to a more sustainable society. Over all, fair trade is a more sustainable alternative to regular items socially, environmentally, and economically.

Author’s statement:

MELS-logoThis research paper clearly meets the learning targets: I can evaluate the impact of my choices on the world and I can synthesize my learning in other classes to connect to real world experiences.

I met the first learning target by showing how the fair trade system currently affects people, consumers, companies and most importantly the environment. Plus, I showed that the choices you make now can affect people in the future. For example I wrote “Without fair trade the environment is being compromised.” I wrote that because if we choose to buy non-fair trade items the pollution and chemicals from those regular items make could hurt the environment. One small choice has a huge impact and I showed that by writing about how choosing fair trade items you can impact the environment for the better.

I met the second learning target by supporting the idea of fair trade with evidence from other classes. For example I wrote about Sara Ziff from social studies to show my inspiration that made me want to write this paper. I also wrote about her to show how non-fair trade factories treat women/people. I backed up how pollution can affect all places in the environment with evidence about fossil fuels from science and math. Also I spoke about a sacrifice in ELA to show that giving up non-fair trade items is simple but still has a big impact.

That shows us that everything we do connects to one another and everything we choose to do or not to do has an impact whether it be big, small, negative, or positive.

The 3 New R’s for our path forward

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When most people think about environment care they think of the current ‘R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. But, these ‘R’s, are not sufficient as it only focuses on Waste Management. Going forward I think we should adopt, “Rethink, Redesign, and Restore” with Environmental Sustainability in the core of everything we do. These new ‘R’s will dramatically help us, as it would provide us with new vision and new set of goals to redo, rebuild, and revive.

Rethinking can be applied in the manufacturing industry. For example, most of the problems we are having today in us not knowing how to use our raw materials properly and to dispose of an item properly, like plastics, are because when we were formulating these products we did not consider these important factors. But now we know from our previous mistakes that the correct way to make a product or solution is to think of environmental sustainability from the beginning. It’s time for us to rethink our manufacturing processes and our materials industry, by adopting natural processes like self-assembly process of nature, and expand green chemistry initiatives to ramp up the availability of new materials.

Our current systems are mostly outdated, and redesign is desperately needed to manage our current and future needs. Almost everything in our built world, like our energy distribution, our water storage and distribution, transportation and communication systems, requires rebuilding. Let’s take the electrical distribution system; in today’s world if one electrical line breaks, most of the city has a black-out. Scientists have been studying the vein structures found in leaves, for its efficient and redundant ways by which it distributes water, and other materials. Even when the main vein of the leaf is cut, it doesn’t affect the distribution to the rest of the leaf. Studying and adopting the natural systems will help us redesign for a more robust and sustainable built world.

Over the past years, we have destroyed too much in order to build and expand. That’s why we need to restore and revive our natural resources. We need to increase our preservation and conservation efforts. We need to also be aware that every time a plant or animal becomes extinct, we lose knowledge that could benefit us greatly. Remember, anything that affects our ecosystems, will affect humans too.

So, let’s collaborate to Rethink, Redesign, and Restore our world, with Environmental Sustainability in our hearts.

About the Author:

Pavan is 14 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Published author, Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org)

Watch Pavan’s speech at the 4th annual, Green Kids Conference:

Founder’s Speech at the 4th annual, Green Kids Conference!

Real Solution

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In order to achieve true environmental sustainability, the whole community needs to take action. We need to change our ways and our behaviors, and environment care and sustainability must become the social norm.  Because, if only one person changes their behavior and no one else in the community does, then that person will be ridiculed and their actions will be deprecated.   Voluntary behavior changes and changes to social norms can be achieved by increasing awareness efforts and working together with the community leaders.

When you raise awareness, people would realize that their actions could have consequences, and it could affect other people, other communities, and even cause long term damages.  Once people understand this, they would want to change their ways voluntarily.  But when we enforce laws and force them, people won’t change, because they don’t understand the reason why they are being forced to do something. An example is the law passed to ban plastic bags in New Delhi, India.  However, this law has not made any effect on the number of plastic bags being used. People are still continuing to use plastic bags because they are not aware of the consequences.  As a result there has been no reduction in plastics bags in New Delhi. This is the reason why we have to educate people and raise their awareness, because if they know the effects of their actions they would want to change their behaviors.

For changes to be accepted by the society, the grassroots level actions alone are not sufficient and we need to work together with the community leaders. When the leaders are supportive and shows importance for environmental sustainability then all the people will also feel confident that they are doing the right thing and move in that path.  This will help make these changes become the social norm at a faster pace.  Usually for changes to become social norm it could take several ages and generations too. We do not have that much time to experiment when it comes to caring for this planet, as we are in dire need for fast changes.  A leader has a very powerful say in the direction for a community. So, grassroots level organizations and leaders must work together to bring fast changes that will be accepted by the community.

An example of a country were environmental sustainability has become the social norm is   Costa Rica. Everyone cares for their environment, and it is expected from people to live sustainably. Being caring and responsible towards the environment is a part of their daily lives.  We should all take a closer look at Costa Rica, and believe that it is indeed possible for environmental sustainability to become social norms in our country too.

Environmental Care and Sustainability is our Social Norm!!!

About the Author:

Pavan Raj GowdaPavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)

Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html