Climate Culture at Payton

By Bella Watts, Editor-in-Chief

As the new year and administration commences, one of the largest issues affronting the public is climate change. Climate change is the scientifically concerted phenomena of global temperature rise, resulting in a myriad of environmentally deprecating behavior like ocean acidification and glacier retreat. While meaningful silver linings can be uncovered from the pandemic’s enforcement of slowing activity, as global carbon emission decreased at 17% from 2019, as the vaccine proliferates and life crawls back to normal, the record decline of emissions will not stand. Understanding this, a survey was conducted on the Payton student bodies opinions on the factuality of climate change and the mechanisms necessary to mitigate it. While fear loomed unanimously, the severity at which action was deemed essential varied, and the invention of the United States in securing a green world order on a greater spectrum.

When asked “How severe do you believe climate change to be globally” out of a scale of one to ten where ten is extensional, the largest percentage of student respondents answered in the highest category. The lowest number of students ranked the risk a six or seven, a still consequential, yet not divesting threat. No Grizzlies fell under these numbers, citing unanimity of concern.

But severity does not always correlate to time frame. While the most number of student’s marked that transformative impacts of climate change were already happening, half of that number agreed that these impacts won’t come into fruition closer to 1,000 years in the future.

On globalization, the trend of likeness waned. Prompted with “Considering the phenomenon of global temperature rise, human heat tolerance and the majority trend of developing countries, the most vulnerable states are the ones to be most victimized as the status quo continues over time. If such persists, what role to you believe the United States should play?”, the samee percentage of those answering the most gravely stated that the United States could fix its ways before it goes on to compel the rest of the world. Still, almost a fifty percent majority of respondents bel;ived that a high role is necessary, requiring full geopolitical leverage garnerable by the U.S.

Shifting focus from the world to our city, students were asked to comment on Mayor Lightfoot’s campaign platform that seeks to create effective environmental infrastructure and give ideas to guide Chicago’s strategy. These ideas include, but are not limited to, the Air Quality Agenda in which vows to consult socioeconomic, population health factors into the calculation of regulations, and the Healthy Chicago 2025, which includes many environmental bench-markers. Under this framework, Lightfoot is eager to have the entire city operating under renewable energy by 2035. Recently, as published in the 2021 budget, the city allocated money towards environmental causes by the means of municipal departments such as public health, and made an independent investment of 206,000 dollars to a program entitled Environmental protection and Energy.

“The city should work to create policy regarding sustainability in large corporations, where a majority of climate issues arise from. writes Payton senior. To recognize that the individual does not play any significant impact on climate change is critical, and rather Lightfoot needs to turn her attention to larger systems and businesses, and come to a compromise that won’t sacrifice necessary economic profit, but does promote sustainability.” 

Other’s say that Chicago should simultaneously promote individual and environmental interests through “ making job training and job offers for management of renewable energy sources more accessible and easier”. Creating transitional programs before “ immediately shut[ing] down those industries” prevents unfairness, says another Senior. “I hope there is a plan in place ready to address the development of the renewable energy jobs sector.”

Even not not a city wide program, students reflect on their own environments to create meaningful solutions. At schools, respondents agreed that energy saving solar panels, non plastic silverware in the cafeteria, larger composting system, reusable book exchange are viable methods to curbing waste, but also regarded community practices that “seemed tedious and a huge waste”, like too many printed materials. One mentions the need of climate change embedded into the curriculum beyond being taught about its prominence. Students need to know “what we can do outside of school” 

As individuals, all believe they can do better, while understanding the limits of their contributions. A freshman commits to  “compost, recycle, make sure what I buy is sustainable, avoid fast fashion, and try to turn lights off when I can.  I also bike and walk everywhere, and drive rather than fly.”, when another reflects on how “ it’s a little sad to know that not everything ends up getting recycled and I’m wondering how the city or private partners can change that.”

Indeed, each response interacted with the importance of corporate regulation to grow into a new, more environmentally friendly atmosphere.

 “I’m hopeful that the environment takes a position of importance in the new administration’s list of priorities. I will reiterate that while we certainly need to expand the renewables sector, it can’t be at the expense of those in the fossil fuels-emitting sector if they don’t have a job or steady income lined up and ready to go.

“In regards to the fires and extreme weather, it’s time for us to start learning to live with it. I am very pessimistic about climate change changing course in the next few years so I believe we ought to learn to live with it. That means increasing forest management efforts, building homes away from the coast, etc. These extreme weather events will continue to occur and we can’t sit by idly as they demolish communities.”

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