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'Hope remains' in youths

Experts may warn of global warming, but local teens pledge to protect the environment

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Fossil fuels and the environment were on the minds of members of the Student Writers Advisory Group. Theres a place to charge your electronic vehicle on A Avenue in front of the Shell station in Lake Oswego.When faced with the prospect of global warming, something akin to the lyrics of a Bad English song may run through adults’ heads: “Sometimes I wanna give up, wanna give in; I wanna quit the fight.”

But then we hear from optimistic young people — our “ray of light” — who are already pledging to make a difference, serving as an example to anyone who may feel overwhelmed by the world’s ills.

Members of Student Writers Advisory Group (SWAG) — composed of students from Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, West Linn, Wilsonville and Riverdale high schools — say they can see that pollution has marred our world, but they still manage to find promise in the changes world leaders are making. They also believe in what they can do themselves.

Last month, representatives from almost 200 countries adopted an agreement aimed at preventing catastrophic global warming. Countries now must report on “national inventories of emissions by source” and mitigation efforts, something President Barack Obama says had not been done before.

SWAG member Claire Williams notes that countries aren’t required to meet the goals set in the Paris accord, but young people plan to fight: “Hope remains, however, in youth,” she writes. Other SWAG members agree. Anisha Arcot says “we’re well on our way to solving” the issue of climate change, and Kriti Rastogi points out that it’s everyone’s responsibility to participate in making that happen. Brynn Cunningham also believes this is one riddle we can answer if we all pitch in. Ava Eucker tell us of the positive steps the City of Lake Oswego has taken to support the use of electric vehicles. Talia Lichtenberg reminds adults not to count on the next generation — but to step in and participate and be a part of the change we want to see.

That kind of hope and enthusiasm is like a smile for the rest of us, and we can see it “shining right through the rain.”


An American Paradox

By Claire Williams

Despite taking great pride in the natural beauty of our vast wildernesses, mountain ranges and national parks, the United States dumps more greenhouse gases into the environment than almost any other country on Earth.

This is a distinctly American paradox: hiking in serene national forests after having driven miles in a carbon dioxide-spewing SUV to get there.

In Lake Oswego, as in most other places in the developed world, the effects of global warming are virtually unnoticeable: While the first nine months of 2015 were the warmest on record, according to the New York Times, the Portland area was just hit by the Northwest equivalent of a blizzard. It’s easy for us to sit in our temperature-controlled houses and cars and forget about climate change entirely.

But at the same time, communities in countries such as the Maldives are in danger of disappearing completely under the ocean. Why? The sea level is rising because of the industrial past of developed countries like our own. Nations such as ours are largely to blame for their problems: We polluted almost without restriction for the past century. Now, our policy makers expect countries that are trying to expand their developing economies to somehow develop green technologies and curb emissions.

If we really want to see a change, we need to be willing to pay for it on both sides of the ocean — our massive emissions must be curbed, and renewable energy must be made available to developing nations.

The adults at the recent Paris Climate Change Conference have demonstrated that although they have the impetus to talk about the issues at hand, no one will take responsibility to solve them. The agreement they reached, which allows nations to set their own goals and doesn’t require them to meet these goals, isn’t enough to limit global warming to the 2 degrees Celsius promised in the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty adopted in 1997 that set emission reduction targets.

Hope remains, however, in youth. For example, last year at the Oregon Model United Nations Conference, I witnessed a room full of high schoolers propose and debate solutions to climate-related issues for three days straight. From ridiculous suggestions (such as using the Avengers to solve our problems) to solutions that could potentially have success in the real world (instituting a cap-and-trade program on carbon dioxide emissions), the ideas put forth showed that high schoolers care about the planet.

Since we will inherit the planet just as the dangerous results of climate change begin to take effect, I believe that the younger generation will have to make a stronger stand against global warming — not simply out of interest or care, but out of necessity.

Claire Williams is a junior at Lakeridge High School.


Solving a global catastrophe

By Anisha Arcot

We often hear about the deteriorating environment and the impending doom that will follow. Posters, signs, TV shows, books and articles flood us with information. We see graphs and charts with lines that begin fairly level but skyrocket in the blink of an eye. Our schools and workplaces warn us about the consequences of our actions, but despite our attempts at reducing, reusing and recycling and our enthusiastic acceptance of composting and planting trees, the lines on the graphs still stretch to the heavens — and the warnings just keep coming.

We are told that future generations may not see a luscious green Earth like the one we enjoy. Carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere, and we are in danger of extreme heat. Some days, the future just seems uninviting and bleak.

Fortunately, there is a bright side and things may even be improving. Governments around the globe are stepping on the brakes and taking action to safeguard our future. For example, Japan has promised to reduce its emissions by 6 percent below its 1990 levels, and Brazil has directed its attention toward reducing deforestation rates. The United Nations’ Paris Climate Change Conference was held in November and December 2015, when heads of state from around the world came together to discuss the issue of global warming. By the end of the conference, more than 150 countries had published their action plans to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

That isn’t all, though. Awareness of the causes and consequences of global warming has risen significantly in recent years. Children as young as 5 are aware of their responsibility to recycle and plant trees. People in every corner of the globe have heard about climate change and have begun to understand how it might affect them personally. I think increased awareness is by far the most important element that is needed to push us toward finding solutions.

Stopping climate change is everybody’s responsibility. No one person or nation can do it on their own. Therefore, it is critical that every person be aware and educated about the signs of climate change, its impact and, most importantly, the actions we can take to stop it. I think that we have done an excellent job creating awareness, and now that we all agree that we have a real problem, we are well on our way to solving it.

Anisha Arcot is a sophomore at West Linn High School.


Earth’s warming atmosphere

By Kriti Rastogi

Representatives from 195 countries late last year signed an historic environmental deal in Paris to fight climate change. The deal marks a significant step forward in the effort to greatly reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and prevent global warming. This advancement is long overdue. Now that it is finally being implemented, there is hope that perhaps now is as great a time as any to make major strides in protecting our planet.

But this cannot be accomplished solely with the large-scale changes suggested in the Paris climate talks. While global warming is indeed an issue that requires bold measures, it also necessitates the involvement and cooperation of individuals.

From the time that we are very young, we are told that turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth or turning off the lights when we leave a room can make a big difference. While these tasks seem mundane and useless, they can actually have an effect on our environment.

According to Washington University in St. Louis, about 33 percent of a building’s energy is spent in lighting. Additionally, only 0.27 percent of the Earth’s water is actually drinkable. Therefore, it’s obvious that if everyone pays attention to the seemingly minor things that we waste on a daily basis, we would be greatly reducing energy consumption in the long run.

Yet most people neglect the impact that their actions have. With fear spreading throughout the globe from ongoing terrorist attacks, environmental issues are taking a back seat because their effects seem to be a long-term problem. However, that is not the case. As the National Wildlife Federation states, “The Earth’s atmosphere has already warmed by 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.”

While this number may seem small, it is actually a dramatic increase. This fact highlights the importance of our individual actions, as well as major steps made on a larger scale.

Global warming is not something we can procrastinate on any longer. The reality of the issue is that it concerns each and every one of us and generations that follow.

Although the Paris agreement will undoubtedly help this, environmental issues require the efforts of everyone, not just political leaders. In order to preserve our Earth, we must be willing to take the small steps forward to prevent this large problem.

Kriti Rastogi is a sophomore at Lake Oswego High School.


Answering the global warming riddle

By Brynn Cunningham

There is an answer to every problem, but sometimes the solution is unexpected.

Have you ever heard of the riddle about the farmer who takes a fox, a chicken and a sack of grain to the market but has to cross a river before he can reach his destination? In the riddle, the farmer realizes that the only way to cross the river is by a small boat, which at the most can hold only him and one of the three items. If left unsupervised the chicken will eat the grain and the fox will eat the chicken, but the fox won’t eat the grain and neither the chicken nor the fox will wander off.

The farmer needs to get everything across the river as few trips and as fast as possible. But how will he do it?

The puzzle’s main obstacle for most is that one must consider the possibility of taking an action that seems detrimental or a step backward from the original goal to ultimately complete it. The environment has been such an obstacle for quite a while. The natural world as we know it is deteriorating at a seemingly unnoticed rate.

A small part of our planet’s original and natural beauty is found in preserved parks around the world. Interest groups rise up and speak about ways that protecting the world from ourselves is beneficial in the long run. There are always the small ways of helping, such as solar panels, dual flush toilets and shower heads, composting, recycling, carpooling and turning off the lights when you leave a room. But if enough people do them, doesn’t it all add up?

Think of the farmer as the government; he has various parts to balance with one end goal regarding the environmental issue. The chicken, grain and wolf are simply parts of a whole. None of the characters in the riddle will be satisfied until they have reached the other side of the river. But at what point do you start to think that you should cut your losses, take what you can get and hightail it across the river? Or do you decide which character is going to have to backtrack and give up the satisfaction of already having reached the other side so that the other two can join them?

The end goal is the same. With a little cooperation and some give and take; we might just find ourselves together on the other side of the river.

Brynn Cunningham is a junior at Wilsonville High School.


Save the Humans!

By Talia Lichtenberg

Why hasn’t America made serious plans to change our carbon footprint? It isn’t that the scientific community isn’t unified on the anthropogenic nature of global warming. As clearly shown in recent reports released by NASA, nearly 200 worldwide scientific organizations including American scientific societies and intergovernmental bodies agree that climate change is anthropogenic. It isn’t simply that the majority of Americans don’t acknowledge global warming. In fact, a 2014 Pew research study showed that 60 percent of Americans recognized global warming as a serious issue. Why is it that instead of galvanizing us, the three-decade long global warming campaigns, time-lapse shots of melting polar ice caps, and the extinction and endangerment of species popular and obscure has yielded little change?

In the 1980s, when less was known about global warming, many people were paralyzed by fear. What could people do to combat an enemy of our own creation? Campaigns like “Save the Polar Bear,” counting on peoples’ emotions, has spread both awareness and embitterment. Years of repeatedly stating the problem and telling people that they are responsible has led to skepticism and backlash. Even with the abundance of research that has been conducted, it seems that the more evidence that the scientific community gathers on global warming, the more apathetic Americans have become to the issue.

It is this indifference that is the true obstacle in our way toward a more sustainable future. We seem to have adopted this mentality that individuals cannot create change. By convincing ourselves that we are powerless, we have allowed this issue to be seen as the “next generation’s problem.” Think about it this way, if every one of Wilsonville’s 22,026-person community, West Linn’s 26,289 population, and Lake Oswego’s 37,999 peoples banded together, we’d have a coalition of almost 90,000.

If all of us agreed to reduce electricity usage around the home, improve vehicle fuel-efficiency, and conserve energy in the home and yard by recycling and eating locally produced foods, we have the potential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 42 percent. Change like this is infectious, and I know that if all the communities in Oregon took part it would spread to other communities in other states. I propose that our community become a leader in the environmental movement because change is infectious.

Talia Lichtenberg is a senior at West Linn High School.


Going green

By Ava Eucker

The waste produced by fossil fuels has exceedingly damaged our world. Oil, coal, and natural gases, commonly used nonrenewable resources, yield to exhaust polluting our air, and trash overflowing landfills.

Oil spills, smog, and ash given off by coal factories are hurting the environment and make air difficult to breath. In the past few decades, we have moved to using renewable energy including solar power, wind power, hydropower dams, and electric cars. By using environmentally friendly energy we can help the earth thrive while efficiently spinning energy that allows our society to exist harmoniously.

Oregon has been going green by supporting more than 140 solar installment companies, investing $6 billion in wind energy, using hydropower dams that account for 8.2 percent of America’s energy generation, and ranking seventh in the nation for using plug-in electric vehicles. By using less fossil fuel we can breathe cleaner air and put out less exhaust, this makes for a clean and safe place to live and it saves endangered species from becoming extinct.

Lake Oswego recently purchased 100 percent clean wind energy from PGE, and according to the city of Lake Oswego official website, we have since reduced our CO2 emissions by almost 9 million pounds a year! Lake Oswego has also partnered with Plugshare to enable electric vehicles to charge in downtown parking lots to support the use of environmentally friendly vehicles.

Going green in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and beyond means initiating the use of new reusable fuels to save the environment. In order to maintain our clean and healthy lifestyle, we need to protect our fresh air by continuing to eliminating the use of oil and coal. Oregon has never looked so green.

Ava Eucker is a sophomore at Lakeridge High School.