Fredrickson: CSU embraces global environmental responsibility with McCarthy talk

Michelle Fredrickson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

On Feb. 28, former EPA head Gina McCarthy will speak at CSU. The much-anticipated event is brought to campus by International Programs, with support from many other organizations – including my own school, the Colorado School of Public Health.

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If I had guessed which organization would be primarily responsible for bringing McCarthy here, I would not have guess International Programs. I would probably have guessed either my school or the School of Global Environmental Sustainability. Upon further reflection, though, their involvement is excellent. The role of International Programs brings up a key question: Whose responsibility is environmental health?

Everyone is affected by environmental health, and everyone has some responsibility in protecting it. The environmental health community has debated about who should be in charge of the environmental health efforts, discussing whether environmental health is a human right and whether governments have a responsibility to solve it.

Environmental sustainability is a danger that belongs to everyone on Earth, and we must work together to end it.

International Programs bringing in McCarthy, who was a key player in pushing international collaboration in the Paris Agreement, is a perfect example of this intersectional approach. By bringing McCarthy, they are acknowledging the role the international community must play in protecting the environment.

McCarthy was the EPA head under Obama, and she was a major player in the environmental health world.  She signed the Clean Power Act, which was the first American legislation regulating carbon emissions on existing power plants. She is a leader in global health and international involvement, which makes her a perfect choice for the Global Engagement Lecture Series.

Every student who can should attend the event, and everyone should think about what their role is in protecting the environment. Environmental degradation is, as McCarthy said, a public health issue.

Environmental health affects the quality and availability of the water we drink; it affects the pollution levels in fish, which is becoming increasingly problematic in some populations; it affects the air we breathe, which is particularly important in Colorado’s Front Range; it affects the way we travel. Environmental health is all around us, and its impacts are not something to be written off.

McCarthy was succeeded as the EPA administrator by Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic who McCarthy has criticized for his rollbacks of coal regulations and disregard for international efforts to stop climate change. She has been vocally critical of the administration’s many attacks on climate efforts.

At an event in California, McCarthy expressed concerns about the way the administration was handling environmental policy, saying they were “politicizing science, denying climate science and looking at changing the way this country actually does science,” McCarthy said at an event in California.

A heat map shows increasing temperatures across the United States.
This map shows the trends in climate across the United States. In every region, temperatures are increasing | Courtesy of Climate Central.

She has encouraged states to take the lead on issues like clean air and water, since the federal government is failing to do so.

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“I don’t know why climate change got to be a religion instead of a simple, fact-based science exercise,” McCarthy said, “but I do know that the actions that California’s taking and others will make the difference between whether we stand still or fall back.”

International Programs bringing McCarthy here for the Global Engagement series shows that groups at CSU are still committed to combatting climate change on every level. It’s hard to feel empowered with a federal government that tries to pretend it’s not happening, but bringing McCarthy is a good step. And there are a few things everyone can do to fight back against climate change.

The most obvious one is, of course, political engagement. By letting representatives on both the state and federal level know that this is an issue we care about, maybe Colorado can follow California’s lead and institute environmental protection regulations that the federal government won’t enforce.

Little things we do on a daily basis can also make a difference. Taking the bus or riding a bike instead of driving to campus, for example. Consistent efforts to recycle. Calling on businesses to implement composting. Supporting composting initiatives like the one at the CSU Foothills campus.

As the saying goes, “little by little, one travels far.” If everyone made these little adjustments, it actually could make a difference. By bringing in McCarthy, CSU is making a small contribution that can bring about hat difference. 

Michelle Fredrickson can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @mfredrickson42