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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

One Decade To Change The World

by Jen Thomas
12:00AM / Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Rachel Payne delivered a hard-hitting presentation about global warming to a packed house. Payne is a senior year student at the Mount Greylock Regional High School. [Photo by Jen Thomas]
Williamstown - She did not sugar-coat, she inspired.

“We have one decade to save the world,” Rachel Payne said as she introduced her senior project presentation, “Making the Commitment: Community Action and Climate Change.”

“This is the moment that determines the rest of human history."

Payne, a Mount Greylock Regional High School student, spoke to a full crowd Monday night at the Main Street-based First Congregational Church about the urgency of the problem of global warming and individual steps to reduce the “carbon footprint.”

“You’re not doing as much as you think you should,” Payne said to the attentive audience.

The Indictment

Utilizing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” as a model, Payne used charts and graphs to explain the science of global warming. She showed a distinct connection between the carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and global temperature; as one increases, so does the other.

“These are scary pictures,” she said. “Essentially, they’re an indictment.”

Because of the Earth's “fragile climate,” rising global temperatures produce startling statistics, said Payne.

According to NASA scientist and leading global warming researcher James Hansen, temperatures could range from a 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (if consumers radically change their practices and emissions are drastically lowered) to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (if no changes occur).

If humans don’t begin reducing greenhouses gas emissions, that 7.2 degrees means producing “a different planet,” according to Hansen in reports released in 2006.

Further, Payne cited statistics from the Union of Concerned Scientists that said “the climate of Massachusetts will resemble that of South Carolina by the end of the century, with nearly 65 days a year when temperatures in Boston exceed 90 degrees, as compared with about 10 now.”

“This is the choice we’re coming up against,” Payne said.“We couldn’t ask to live more meaningful lives.”

The Consequences

Payne used the country of Bangladesh as a poignant example of the devastation that could be wreaked by global warming.

“This is where global warming will hit home on a human level,” she said. If sea levels rise, 17 million people will be displaced.

“We’re not just talking about suffering; we’re talking about death,” she said.

If global warming continues at the current pace, the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free by 2050, over 1 million different species will go extinct, sea levels will rise and cover existing coastal towns, and tropical diseases like malaria, river blindness, and dengue will spread, according to numerous scientific sources.

“This is not a situation where we can do nothing,” Payne said.

The Pledge

Payne urged everyone in attendance to take a pledge with her. It read:

"Because I value life on Earth, I resolve to cut ____ pounds of carbon dioxide from my carbon footprint, to advocate for climate solutions, and to always remain a conscientious member of my community."


The pledge listed a variety of behaviors that would reduce individual contributions to global warming.

For example, lowering your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit would save 214 pounds of carbon per year, while line drying clothes in the summer would save 729 pounds per year. By taking the pledge, attendees vowed to first look at their own lifestyles, before attempting to restructure the entire globe.

“This might be our last moment to take a stand for social justice,” Payne said. “We’re trying to affect change by overcoming the vice of convenience.”

Generation Green?

“She’s a phenomenally eloquent young woman,” said Amber Chand, a Williamstown resident who attended the presentation. “We’re facing a major crisis as a global community, and it’s really time for each of us to be the change.”

Payne plans to take her ideas to the next level. Currently she is working with a Mount Greylock group called the Youth Environmental Squad to provide incentives for seniors at her high school to take the bus instead of driving their own cars.

“It’s a way of saying ‘I’m aware of the decisions I’m making,’” she said. “This is our generation’s cause.”

“Let this be the start of something.”

Jen Thomas is a senior at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and a www.iberkshires.com correspondent.
Your Comments
Post Comment
I am also doing a project on climate change, the topic is scary seeing what we are leaving behind or our "footprint".
We aren't putting enough effort into changing the world to make it a better place..do not drive to the local food store, walk. or cycle.
from: Emmaon: 03-28 00:00:00-2007

i am currently doing a essey on climate change and global warming your lecture was really helpful packed with facts totally inspiring thanks
from: amyon: 03-27 00:00:00-2007


 
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