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Community evaluates the state of the environment and what they can do to help
March 8, 2017
Students and staff analyze the effects fracking has on business and the environment
Last month, when protesters were taking to the streets after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, government organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service, had a protest of their own. Although it all took place online, the rogue Twitter account uprising brought bigger problems to light. While some people support Trump’s plans to deregulate businesses and build pipelines in order to support the oil industry, others are unsure how this will affect the environment.
For science teacher Eric Thomas, it’s difficult to find a balance. Still, he believes that government agencies should focus more on preventative regulation rather than reactionary.
“Don’t come in and monitor after a situation’s already happened,” Thomas said. “Just be diligent along the way. I certainly think there’s a way you can work with businesses that … moderately regulates in a way that the environment can be helped and businesses can still be successful.”
The discussion of regulation reform comes at a momentous time for Kansas. According to HomeFacts, between 1981 and 2012, the average number of recorded earthquakes in Kansas never reached more than five per year. In 2015 alone, however, there were 119.
Fracking forces water into the ground in order to free up room and force up different petroleum resources. Some claim that it is possibly linked to causing these high amounts of earthquakes, but scientists are still unsure.
Social studies teacher Jeff Strickland thinks the government should take measures to clean up infrastructure, reducing waste.
“I think fracking in southeast and south central Kansas needs to be studied,” Strickland said. “Environmentally, there’s some concern with that. I love the idea that [Trump] is talking about infrastructure projects. Hopefully it’s not just roads and bridges, but it’s investment on … water plants and underground pipes.”
For sophomore Elizabeth Joseph, fracking and other environmental concerns can be deterred through increased regulation.
“Lawmakers in Kansas can try and [represent] those environmental concerns in Washington a lot better,” Joseph said. “Here in Kansas, we can fight for the Ogallala Aquifer and pass some restrictions so that water usage isn’t too high.”
Although this comes at the price of regulating business and to some, stunting business growth, Joseph believes protecting the environment is worth it.
“We have a pretty good system going on Earth so when that gets messed with, it’s hard to recover from,” Joseph said. “Right now, we’re in this global water crisis and I think the best thing we can do is preserve and protect the sources of groundwater, making sure the system is being upheld without disrupting it permanently.”
Studying the environment provides a way to reduce waste and encourage change
Here at school, there are numerous opportunities to get involved for people who care about the environmental protection. Biology classes usually have an environmental impact unit, but for those who want to delve deeper, Environmental Science is the pathway to learn more.
Environmental Science teacher Julie Roberts teaches what kind of impact humans have on the environment.
“We cover populations and then spend the rest of the class on human impact,” Roberts said, “so for human impact, I separated it out into the atmosphere, land and water and how humans impact those different areas.”
Senior Dalton Bray said his interest in environmental issues encouraged him to explore his higher education options. After high school, Bray plans to attend Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska where he will participate in a lineman and energy program.
“I want to figure out how energy is distributed among the entire grid and find better ways to conserve energy,” Bray said.
Nearby at the University of Kansas, there are many roads to take when it comes to learning about environmental impact after high school. Dr. Terry Loecke from the Environmental Studies program described how interested students can earn a degree while benefiting the environment they live in.
“Across the university, many faculty have an interest in the environment that finds its way into their courses,” Loecke said via email. “At KU, the Environmental Studies program is an interdisciplinary program and undergraduate program where many of faculty interested in the environment are appointed or affiliated.”
The list of classes available to study just at KU includes everything from Environmental Issues in Africa to the Biology of Fungi. Research opportunities are also emphasized, many of which are available to undergrads.
“As a faculty in the Kansas Biological Survey research unit,” Loecke said, “my colleagues and I focus on how a number of factors [such as] climate and land management within Kansas and beyond, influence water, air and soil quality, wildlife habitat and populations and ecosystem diversity and functioning.”
Not everyone, though, is going to college to major in environmental sciences. Roberts says that simply taking an interest in the subject and educating yourself is important to reducing human impact on the environment.
“I think the biggest thing for most people is understanding their impact,” Roberts said. “The first step is understanding. Once people understand how they’re impacting the planet, they’re willing to make changes.”
With aid from recycling and other waste-reducing methods, Mill Valley makes positive changes to the environment
Since elementary school the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been the mantra for saving the planet. For many students, though, it’s hard to figure out how this can be applied. Diving deeper into the meaning of reducing, reusing and recycling involves taking a closer look at how people can change their own habits.
For example, in science teacher Eric Thomas’ classes, he reuses all the paper from the library for students to write essays on.
“We figured it out one time on how much it saves in terms of a whole year’s worth of paper, and it’s significant,” Thomas said. “You figure if you take a test, and that test requires say six sheets of paper, and you have 50 students, that’s 300 sheets. That’s just one subject, so if you do that regularly, you’re saving an entire ream of paper.
Most students, however, are not using 300 sheets of paper by themselves. Still, reducing our impact can be easy as well. Because of her interest in reducing negative environmental impact, junior Mary Kate Stoneburner remains conscious of her wastefulness and tries to cut down when she can.
“Whenever I pick up my nanny kids, I turn off my car in the car line,” Stoneburner said. “I don’t use plastic bags in stores and I don’t use styrofoam cups. I also reuse my cups and water bottles.”
Dr. Terry Loecke from the Environmental Studies program at the University of Kansas thinks that although common methods of waste reduction are important, simply going outside can also improve how people impact the environment.
“Feeding student curiosity of how the natural world works is extremely important, yet difficult to do from within a classroom,” Loecke said via email. “As a society, [we] simply need to get outside more and experience the natural world.”
In the eyes of social studies teacher Jeff Strickland, learning about the environment is the path to improving it.
“Just be informed,” Strickland said. “[Students] can sift through the minutia of garbage that’s out there that doesn’t matter. Try to learn about something every other day.”
For Stoneburner, protecting the environment is an important cause and she believes other people should take it more seriously.
“The environment is our home and we only get one Earth,” Stoneburner said, “so take care of it while you have it.”