Ramapo’s sustainability committee did not allow social distancing to dim Earth Day on its 50th anniversary. Instead, they hosted an “Earth Hour” event with presenters from the committee to help students learn more about the climate crisis and how they can help.
Secretary of Sustainability for the Student Government Association Zoë Tucker-Borrut introduced the event relating it to the pandemic.
“The fights against coronavirus and the climate crisis go hand in hand,” she said.
The first presentation called “The Global Wildlife Trade” was presented by Kristina Hollosi, giving some insight as to how this virus is related to the sale of wild animals. The virus originated as a strand that affected animals, which mutated into a human strand in a wet market in Wuhan, China.
Wet markets commonly store wild animals and slaughter them on site, causing an abundance of dangers for human health. Knowing that the virus ultimately led back to a strand found in bats, the wildlife trade in China halted considering the SARS epidemic in 2002.
“This February, China announced a seemingly permanent ban,” Hollosi said. She and other activists for sustainability and wildlife are optimistic that the ban will not be dropped as it was before.
Tucker-Borrut then presented “How to Vote with Your Wallet,” an informative session about what it means to buy into companies that match your sustainable values.
“If you’re shopping ethically, it can be really confusing,” she said.
Sustainable shopping requires consumers to ask themselves critical questions about the products they are buying. This also means being critical of the companies they are buying from, which can be challenging if they don’t have the right resources.
Tucker-Borrut shared a variety of resources consumers can use to find out the values of different companies and third parties who certify companies as environmentally friendly. This ranges from certification of being compostable, being ethical to employees, given proceeds to reputable charities and more.
However, she warned of “greenwashing,” a common marketing tactic which uses words with no restrictions on them to lure customers in. Products that say “natural” or “biodegradable” are not always telling the truth, which is why it’s important to check with third parties.
Patrick Monahan then presented, “Why You Should Care About the 6th Mass Extinction,” and spoke about how climate change has affected wildlife across the globe. He shared how many species have been lost since the beginning of human civilizations and even more so since industrialization.
He also shared hope, though. Through conservationist efforts, some species are showing a rebound in nature and in captivity. Animals like wildebeests have dramatically turned the decline of their species around, showing hope for other species with the help of human consideration for wildlife.
Finally, Jamie Latona shared “Solutions to Our Planets' Most Pressing Problems,” a brief overview of four main issues climate change directly affects.
Latona spoke about ocean health and how important it is to reduce plastic intake, as those plastics often end up in the ocean. Microplastics can be so small they are unseen, but are consumed by marine life which is then consumed by humans.
On shore, deforestation was another huge issue. Latona said that 15 billion trees are lost every year for development, but especially for agriculture to feed animals in the animal agriculture industry.
Food consumption and waste is the next issue, as plastic food wrappings are not only responsible for 30 percent of waste in America, but the amount of food in landfills gives off massive amounts of methane gas. Greenhouse gasses were another one of the main issues Latona identified, as they cause heat to be trapped in the atmosphere at harmful levels.
By identifying this wide range of issues, the sustainability committee was able to teach students something new and hopefully provide ways for them to combat the issues, too.
“Take care of yourself,” said Tucker-Borrut. “And go outside.”