Campus climate conversations

UW-Eau Claire talks environment while national leaders convene in Paris

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Rachel Douglas is the winner for Save On Energy’s Education scholarship. Her essay is about how e-readers are less eco-friendly compared to paper books.

President Obama and other world leaders are in Paris for the climate change conference and taking part in discussions with other nations about environmental issues and solutions.

Although the Paris conferences are far away from Eau Claire, climate change impacts everyone, associate professor of geography Joseph Hupy said.

Here in Eau Claire, one student took the opportunity to show their concern for the environment, and benefited.

Rachel Douglas, a sophomore elementary education student recently received the Save On Energy Education scholarship published on their website for writing an essay about how e-readers are worse for the environment compared to paper textbooks.

Douglas said she was surprised at what she found while doing research for the scholarship.

“When I first started writing it, I found that I was thinking, ‘oh yeah, e-books are way more environmentally friendly because they use no paper,” Douglas said. “I realized that if you are reading off of your laptop, you need to think about all the materials (that) went into making that laptop.”

Douglas said the shelf life of the technology also came into play in her essay. She said most tablets last about two years compared to books, which are recycled at the university because of rental and used textbook options.  

Students who utilize those textbooks are therefore participating in recycling and positively affecting climate change, Douglas said.

The climate change debates in Paris are related to issues faced in Eau Claire, Hupy said.

“The Paris talks have foreign policy implications, on your home life, cost of renewables, current energy grid, how we address our current heavy reliance on oil, whether or not we pay for the hidden environmental costs of coal,” Hupy said. “A lot of that will come home, not just to Eau Claire, it’s going to come home to the consumer.”

One of the issues being discussed in Paris is the use of nuclear energy and moving away from using coal through mining practices. Douglas said using this energy source is good, but there is the issue of how to deal with nuclear waste.

“The issue of nuclear waste is troubling to me, as neighborhoods would lose backyards to nuclear waste plants and there could be deadly spills,” Douglas said.

The climate change conference is going on until Dec.11. Last year, the conference took place in Geneva, Switzerland, and the representatives agreed on 84 pages dealing with climate change.

On Tuesday, the class participated in a video conference with Kaia Rose, a spectator of the negotiations in Paris. Rose said the U.S. is having a significant impact during the talks, and are trying to negotiate actions to reach a goal to reduce the average projection of increased temperature in the world.

The class is having an event at 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Thursday in Woodland Theater about climate change solutions, and reasons to be optimistic. During the free event, there will be pizza and the class will discuss how one can make a difference in their personal and home life, at a business, through faith and spiritual groups, technology and politics.