It was a peculiar sight to the Lehigh community when it returned after spring break to find a campus blanketed with snow.
It was a reminder of the erratic weather patterns that have prompted raised eyebrows from the general public over the past few years. And even though one storm or a recent pattern of storms does not alone prove anything about our world, the winds have been whispering to us that we need to act — our climate is changing.
The weather plays a hit role in the environment’s blockbuster. It is not the only thing affected by climate change, but it is the most easily perceived one by the common person.
But what about experts and corporations? Surely they don’t need to rely on such glaring sensory cues to keep their attention focused on preserving the planet.
The truth is, they know all about the dangers facing us, including rising sea levels, wildfires and the deterioration of the ozone layer. Scientists have been discussing the topic for over a century, with major evidence in the open since the ’80s. Even worse, big corporations like ExxonMobil knew about their harmful effects on the environment before that.
What power does the average person have when professionals have refused to correct a problem that has been in the news for so long? What can a Lehigh student do?
The cliché answer of “making sure you do your part” is not enough for us. One person making a half-hearted attempt to recycle is going to be the last thing that will save our world. When there are 90 companies that have accounted for the majority of the world’s carbon footprint, we need policy change.
A grassroots movement can only do so much to drive change when policy refuses to catch up. However, when changes are made in the law to restrict big corporations from polluting at will and to encourage citizens to be part of the solution, the blooming possibility of hope can appear.
But we are far from it.
President Donald Trump’s proposed budget re-prioritizes many things, but the biggest cut in terms of percentage comes from the Environmental Protection Agency. This group plays an essential role in providing regulations that prevent corporations from harming the planet more than they already have.
The worst part is that Trump’s radical stance is creating more of a compromise in this budget. During his campaign he said he would like to terminate the EPA, and a bill introduced by a Florida congressman would do so as early as 2018.
As a developed nation, this course of action is pathetic when compared to efforts being made by some countries who are much less well off. For example, in late February, Kenya banned the use of plastic bags.
So while other areas of the globe are doing their part, the United States is taking steps backward. And as students, we are powerless. It seems we’re always being given generic advice to do our part by recycling more and driving less.
The only thing we can do is resist the urge to let our government’s policy of prioritizing economic competition over our global future trickle down and pollute our minds. We must be ready to really do our part when policy catches up with reality.
Now that these notions are out in the open, there is no escaping the challenges we face. And hopefully, each March flake that reminds us of our situation will be a catalyst of change to come.