One day I noticed jars full of plastic trash sitting on the small shelves.
“This is what we regularly find in deceased sea lions or seals when we do the autopsy,” one staff member told me.
I looked at it again and saw a mix of junk like plastic straws and soda plastic rings. After that day, it was hard for me to shake off what I had learned without trying to do something about it.
This experience occurred when I volunteered at Pacific Mammal Marine Center in Laguna Beach in 2017 where I shadowed educational speakers who informed the public about marine life and ocean conservation.
So I decided that when I could, I would try to make small changes. I started saying no thanks to straws and lids. If my family bought soda or canned anything I would take the time to cut up the plastic rings in hopes that it would prevent sea animals from choking. I knew the bits would still end up in the ocean but at least I was doing something.
I’m a senior this year and I’ve learned it’s become my responsibility to try and educate myself about how I can help the environmental turmoil our world is in.
Of course it would help to know what’s going on. Below you’ll find a snippet of what other news publications have said about The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, Conference of the Parties (This is the 26 year countries have met).
Despite the acronym, COP26, sounding like a chemistry molecule, it’s a meeting where world leaders and climate negotiators create strategies that address the threatening issues the earth is facing. Last year’s meeting occurred Oct. 31 through Nov. 12 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Organized by the United Kingdom and Italy, the conference hosts asked countries to design tangible targets that could keep the planet from heating past 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit from its current temperature.
According to a New York Times article, the climate draft addressed at the conference asked countries to revise and improve their plans for decreasing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. And, it asks rich countries to help developing nations combat global warming through financial support.
However, global negotiators, as reported in a different New York Times article, didn’t clarify how much or soon each nation should decrease its emissions over the next decade. And following the aftermath of the meeting, it leaves the question of how to help developing countries get the funds they need to build cleaner energy and deal with increasingly harsh weather disasters.
The Washington Post reported that almost 200 nations struck a deal on the last day of the conference that’s intended to move the world toward more urgent climate action. They said in the article that the deal however doesn’t offer “the transformative breakthrough scientists say must happen if humanity is to avert disastrous planetary warming.”
What kind of deal did they reach? The Washington Post reported in a separate article that the agreement is for countries to, “Ramp up their carbon-cutting commitments, phase down fossil fuels and increase aid to poor countries on the front lines of climate change.”
Mike Mooring, a PLNU professor of biology who has been conducting behavioral ecology research since 1985, said intergovernmental conferences like COP are important because they keep governments engaged in working together to find some paths to carbon mitigation.
“But no one should expect that they’re going to solve the problem. Governments are based on political alliances, and politics is all about keeping all the different factions happy, so even in the face of a global crisis like climate change, all compromise agreements will be very conservative and way too little,” Mooring said.
As long as they continue to make incremental progress, Mooring said that’s something to be thankful for. All we can do is try our best to slow down climate change because we can’t stop it.
“The carbon we’ve been pouring into the atmosphere has a residence time of 100 years, so it’s not going away anytime soon. But the good news is that we can all take actions in our lifestyles and business practices that God at least sees,” Mooring said.
Sabrina Deulofeu, a fourth year student and president of PLNU’s Students for Environmental Awareness and Action club, said in an email interview that she was “left disappointed at the biggest world leaders who won’t dare to go out of their comfort zone.”
Deulofeu said it’s left to us citizens to make individual moves to protect our planet and that it was about time for fossil fuels to be addressed as the biggest contributor to climate change.
Although emissions due to fossil fuels are highly controlled by the government and businesses, they’re some ways for PLNU students to make a change and reduce our emissions, Deolofeu said.
She suggested: 1) For those of us with cars, walking more, using public transit, the PLNU shuttle and carpooling 2) Be conscientious of where we buy our products. More companies these days are setting their own restrictions about emissions and how they make their products. We can educate ourselves and make the switch to more sustainable companies when we can. 3) Reduce time on electronics, because they produce carbon emissions too (through the way electricity is created).
Deolofeu said just because we’ve been faced with many frustrating blockades regarding climate change, doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference ourselves.
We can acknowledge that last year’s conference had its shortcomings and the climate issues we face in our world are overwhelming. But with a little bit of understanding and compassion we can make steps forward to educate ourselves and make changes to climate policies in place.
“May the relationship between man and nature not be driven by greed, to manipulate and exploit, but may the divine harmony between beings and creation be conserved in the logic of respect and care.” — Pope Francis, at a speech in the Vatican City, Apr. 22, 2015.
Written By: Ashlee Owings