Saturday, July 21st, 2018

USM hosts Earth Day discussion on environmental problems in Maine

Hannah Lyon | The Free Press

Posted on April 27, 2015 in News
By Brian Gordon

The 45th annual observance of Earth Day was last week, and all around campus there were events to celebrate our relation to the Earth and how we can work to try and make it a sustainable place to live by preserving its natural resources.

Kappa Alpha Omicron, or KAO, the USM Environmental Science Student Honors Society invited Lisa Pohlmann of the Natural Resources Council of Maine to speak on behalf of USM’s environmental student honor society about “The State of Maine’s Environment: A Status Report.”

Pohlmann laid out the current threats to Maine’s environment, most notably the government under Governor Paul LePage repealing environmental protections that have been in place for years. Several bills are before the legislature right now including a bill that would repeal the deposit on bottles larger than 32 oz.

According to Pohlmann, it will save companies such as Coca Cola billions of dollars because they now have to pay for that nickel deposit. If the bill passes, more two liters will end up in landfills instead of being recycled for the economic incentive.

Dr. Travis Wagner, environmental policy, teaches his students to come up with better policies and laws for protection so commercial development can continue, but do so in a sustainable way for the Earth and economics. He teaches consensus building at the grassroots level. Wagner agreed that the greatest threat to Maine’s environment is the “potential rollbacks” of laws.

“Proposal to take the parks and make that part of the department of forestry and to maximize timber harvesting on public lands,” said Wagner. “There seems to be no plan, other than just doing it. There’s no sustainability.”

Another of the events for Earth Week was the screening of the documentary “Cowspiracy – The Sustainable Secret.” According to the film, missing from the talk of climate change is the impact of agriculture, namely, raising animals for meat as the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

A report from the United Nations found that animal agriculture contributes more methane and other toxins than all transportation in America. That’s more than all cars, trucks, planes and trains combined.

The filmmakers found the big environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club unwilling to talk about the ecological impact of commercial agriculture. Their stance being that Americans are unwilling to change their eating habits to more of a plant-based diet, even in the face of California’s drought, and rising temperatures and seas worldwide.

“Often people don’t realize the environmental impacts associated with the food they eat. Massive amounts of natural resources, namely fossil fuels, are used in commercial agriculture,” said Tyler James Cyr, president of KAO.

It takes between 442 and 8000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. Cutting down on your meat consumption could cut your carbon footprint in half.

“You’ve got some pretty high environmental costs associated with that sandwich you’re eating,” said Cyr. “Rethinking how our food is produced and where we source it from is going to be a key consideration for our generation.”

Wagner said that the most important action for students is to be informed, because if you’re not informed then you don’t become active and concerned.

Heather McIntosh, environmental science policy & planning sophomore, echoed Wagner’s idea, saying that the most important thing to stopping climate change is to, “Get involved. Volunteer. It feels really good to give back and connect with your community’”

For students interested in taking action to keep our Earth a sustainable and clean place to live, there are certainly environmental groups on campus to join in order to become more involved: The community garden has plots available and teaches students about sustainable practices, or you could join The Eco Reps or DivestUMaine.

At the state level are groups like Pohlmann’s NRCM. She finished her presentation by saying “The bottom line is, are we going to fight or give up?”

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