Gross: Hope is not lost in the fight against climate change

Dillon Gross

Graphic illustration depicting the earth within a glass greenhouse (centered) with the words "Climate Column" over the top and two pieces of greenery to the left and right.
Climate Column (Graphic Illustration by Abby Flitton | The Collegian)

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. 

With Colorado State University students participating in the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also called COP26, climate change is on the minds of many here on campus. CSU boasts its renowned sustainability, but the actions of one university feel infinitesimally small when the scope of global climate change affects, well, the entire globe.

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Stephanie Malin, an environmental sociologist and associate professor of sociology at CSU, said climate change and its ramifications have spread to everyone on Earth.

“Especially if we look at vulnerable populations in non-Western countries, … we’re already having climate refugees,” Malin said.

Malin said these climate refugees are fleeing from places that aren’t contributing to climate change as much as other countries, such as the United States or China.

“We’re at a point in time where we can do a lot to change these systems if we move quickly.” – Stephanie Malin, environmental sociologist and associate professor of sociology at CSU

CSU students are no exception to the effects of climate change, and many students want to get involved and do what they can to help the planet. One way is by being an Eco Leader, a group of students dedicated to keeping the school as environmentally friendly as they can.

Izzy Bennett, a first-year environmental and natural resource economics major, became an Eco Leader because of her passion for the environment and sustainability. 

Bennett’s job as an Eco Leader is to promote sustainability and direct sustainability-focused activities within the dorms. 

“We do things like going to the farmers market or a movie night with a movie about sustainability,” Bennett said. She also said the impacts of climate change now will lead to huge consequences in the future.

“We just had the Cameron Peak fire last year, which went right up to the mountain campus, and everyone had to be evacuated,” Bennett said.

“We think about the extra hot and dry summers we’ve been experiencing in the West, or the historic wildfires we had last summer, and we see how CSU students are already being affected by climate change,” Malin said.

Organizing as a group and taking collective action against systems that continue to ravage the environment is the best way to stop things from getting worse.”

There are a lot of things CSU students can do to decrease their impact on the environment.

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“They can be mindful of their own carbon footprint, like what they’re doing, what actions they are taking and how sustainable they can be,” Bennett said. For example, students can bring their own mug or thermos to buy coffee to cut back on plastic waste, or they can use the Transfort public transportation system to reduce automobile emissions. 

However, individual actions to save the planet feel like nothing when compared to the monstrosity that is corporate America wreaking havoc on the environment.

“One of the big problems with capitalist systems is that they’re founded on unending growth, … but that requires pretending as if our resources have no end,” Malin said.

Malin described the current American economy as a neoliberal capitalist society. This type of society is based on unsustainable extraction, which has obvious negative repercussions on the environment.

“They treat these resources like they’re infinite, when in fact they’re finite,” Malin said.

Climate change leaders across the globe are showing a dedication to changing the status quo. The main goals of COP26 are to develop global plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect natural resources as well as gather the funds for these projects and allow governments across the globe to work together.

In the face of such enormous change, it’s easy to feel defeated, like there’s no point in helping the environment when so much damage has already been done. Malin said fossil fuel industries push a narrative that discourages people from taking action to help.

“The messaging is about hopelessness and powerlessness and ‘there’s nothing that we can do to change this,’ so people just kind of have to put up their hands and sit back,” Malin said. “And that is so wrong. It’s incorrect, it’s inaccurate and it’s also really disempowering.”

Climate change is happening on such a large scale, but not all is lost yet. Organizing as a group and taking collective action against systems that continue to ravage the environment is the best way to stop things from getting worse.

“We’re at a point in time where we can do a lot to change these systems if we move quickly,” Malin said. 

The effects of climate change may be large and overwhelming, but everyone has a voice and an opportunity to enact change. The future of the Earth can be influenced by its inhabitants.

“I think that’s a really important thing to exercise because it’s not all doom and gloom,” Malin said. There is hope for the future and for the generations to come.

Reach Dillon Gross at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @DillonGrosss.