Saving the World through the Pursuit of Self Interest: Students Input

I have been teaching my Climate Change course using the TBL (Team Based Learning) system. I have 6 groups in my class, each composed of roughly 7 students that have been studying together throughout the semester.

I have challenged the groups to produce a collective paper addressing, “what can we do to save the world?” I view this question as synonymous with the objective of this whole blog. They will post their answers as comments for this post and all of you can be the judges.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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16 Responses to Saving the World through the Pursuit of Self Interest: Students Input

  1. Frances Irizarry says:

    Climate change hasn’t been more prominent. As time has changed over the course of three years after countries vowed to Paris to keep warming below 2c greenhouse gas emissions are up again. Solar power pejects have dewindled in many places, nuclear power is expensive. With President trumps pull of the Paris deal some would say were are doomed, but many Americans reaffirmed their commitment. To speak on behalf of my group the understanding of the measurements that are needed to be taken are grave, large some would say. I firmly believe that violations and restrictions need to be enforced on things such as garbage violations, fines being placed it seems as though what we currently have isn’t be enforced enough. I believe common knowledge about compose and garbage disposal and earth and environmental issues would be alarming helpful. Another way of saving this world is developing and applying environmental technology. We college students can choose related majors like environmental science and energy science, and do contributions to the future environmental protection. We can also pay attention to new environmental friendly products, and to apply these products for reducing pollination and saving energy.

  2. Mekii Kauapirura (Group 5) says:

    To talk about saving the world is a very difficult thing to discuss. No one person is capable of changing everything by themselves. It takes a large number of people working towards the same goals to implement any kind of long-term change. With the current administration turning its back on trying to make environmental progress, it leaves us, the people, at a major crossroads. What are we supposed to do when the problems that were talked about back in the baby boomer period are still around today, and the resistance to solving these problems have increased?

    One way that we could potentially save the world is through the promotion of renewable resources. We have been reliant on fossil fuels and other man-made material for several generations, but with more people being born into the world, there is an inevitability of scarcity. Instead of wasting away a finite resource, a better option would be to take advantage of the material that nature supplies us every day. It can be as simple as converting to solar energy, which can cut costs on electric bills and is environmentally friendly. Renewable energy can also serve as a better alternative to products like gasoline and space heaters, which end up generating more energy and expenses than necessary.

    One thing that every person who even has a prayer of saving the world has to do is start devoting themselves to personal responsibility. We live in a culture surrounded by excess and self-indulgence, where everybody wants the nicest things available because somebody decided to ascribe a certain amount of value towards it. This results in people living above their means, which provides them no nest eggs or chances to save a decent amount of money. Saving the world requires sacrifice. It requires stepping outside of your comfort zone to figure out what you are willing to give up for the greater good. Living below your means is a good start. Fiscal responsibility allows people the chance to have additional income and figure out what their priorities are. It helps them weed out unnecessary expenses and protect themselves in times of financial hardship. The act of conservation and resisting temptation is a major key in saving the world. Just because you can, does not mean you should.

    That does not even begin to go into other methods such as keeping the lights off when you are not in the room, removing plugs from unused outlets, and using recyclable material to create new material, like toothbrush handles made out of yogurt cups.

  3. Group 5 MW12:50 says:

    There are many ways that one can pursue their self-interests while also benefiting the world. Examples include choosing to get energy from renewable sources, purchasing non-GMO food produced locally and utilizing material resources. Cost is often a big factor for people making decisions.

    Energy:
    Many people take energy for granted and often fail to consider little more about it than what it costs them personally. These same people tend to spend about 30% of their income on their homes. This includes rent, mortgage payments, taxes and utilities. With such a large portion of income being spent for this purpose, usually any savings opportunities are welcomed. Sourcing energy from renewable resources benefits the planet but it may also have financial benefits. Many states have tax credits or grants for people that want to install devices such as solar panels or windmills (limiting the use of fossil fuels) on their property. In addition to tax credits in many cases people are actually able to produce more power than they use and sell the excess electricity back to the utility company (if they are connected to the grid).

    Food:
    The amount of environmental damage done by commercial farming has steadily increased over the last several decades. Things such as GMOs have allowed farmers to utilize stronger pesticides and herbicides that often damage the surrounding ecosystems. Moving away from some of these practices would be in the pursuit of self-interest as people would likely spend less on food, boost their local economy, lower the risk of developing certain health problems and have fresh (nutrient rich) food.

    Material goods:
    People are able to save money and the environment by efficiently using material goods and disposing waste in a responsible manner. Many people throw out old (but good) items that can be donated. This negatively impacts the environment as much of the waste ends up in landfills (or burned), leads to an increase in material production and therefore an increase in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses omitted into the atmosphere. An ideal world would involve most people buying clothes and household items second hand, rather than new.

    Education:
    The saving of the world all begins with education. We need teachers who believe in science and can engage students in the importance of environmental awareness. We must put this responsibility on both teachers and parents. Parents must also continuously educate their children in the plethora of ways to help the climate. Education is crucial. To save the world, billions of people must change the way they live their day to day life and focus on reviving the planet.

  4. Shivrani Mohabeer says:

    Our global economy is growing, due to free trade and technological innovation, creating international business through-out the world. However, business activities depend on fossil fuels for energy use and production When company burned fossil fuels it pollutes the atmosphere, this effect is contributed to Global Warming . For us to save the world, businesses need to use more renewable energy resources, instead of using fossil fuels. Also, the government need to implement renewable energy resources for individual household. And they should mandate a carbon tax on every individual that choose to use fossil fuels as a way to get by. (Shivrani Mohabeer)
    (Group 3)

  5. Shivrani Mohabeer says:

    Our global economy is growing, due to free trade and technological innovation, creating international business through-out the world. However, business activities depend on fossil fuels for energy use and production When company burned fossil fuels it pollutes the atmosphere, this effect is contributed to Golbal Warming . For us to save the world, businesses need to use more renewable energy resources, instead of using fossil fuels. Also, the government need to implement renewable energy resources for individual household. And they should mandate a carbon tax on every individual that choose to use fossil fuels as a way to get by. (Shivrani Mohabeer).

  6. Laura Morella (GROUP 3) says:

    On an individual level, saving the world will require a commitment to mindfulness and sustainability on a daily basis. This includes using more reusable items, avoiding single use items (especially plastics), using public transportation and/or carpooling when possible, eating less CAFO-sourced animal products, diverting waste from landfills by composting/recycling, supporting local businesses, buying less in general, and so on.
    At the government level, saving the world will require more effort to be spent on banning the use of fossil fuels, implementing laws to prevent environmental destruction, stricter laws for sustainable food production, promoting renewable energy sources, mandating carbon taxes, holding businesses accountable for irresponsible practices, and so on.

  7. Anthony Bianco (Group 6) says:

    What can we do to save the world? What can any individual person in 2018 do?

    We can vote, for starters! Unfortunately, there are too many elected officials willing to accept obscene amounts of money from the fossil fuel industry in order to secure their interests and stymy any real work towards mitigating the effects of anthropogenic climate change. We need a Green New Deal in the United States, that is dedicated to divesting from the fossil fuel industry immediately and beginning a major switch to green and renewable energy sources such as electric, wind, solar, and with some caveats, nuclear. The only way for any of this to happen is for individual people to use their ability to vote for government officials who understand the ramifications of not acting in a real way. We need people in office who are educated about climate change, not beholden to the special interests of the fossil fuel industry, and willing to do what it takes to make legislation happen that can transform our country and our world into a greener and habitable place for us to continue living in.

    While there is no ethical consumption under capitalism, we do have the ability to shape the priorities of corporations through the way we choose to spend the money we do have. It’s one of the only powers we have here on the ground. We can embrace a more minimalist lifestyle, not necessarily by simply getting rid of our things, but by interrogating why we live lives of conspicuous consumption at all. It is unfair to lay this burden at the feet of those who have to make due with what little money they have to begin with, often having to settle for quantity over quality when things like food and clothing can be bought for cheap. But, industries like food and fashion and technology contribute to so much human misery and waste across the world that those of us with the means should at least attempt to buy second hand goods, or even not at all when it comes to certain things. For example, because of planned obsolescence, so much old technology is left to litter and pollute the earth. Ultimately, a very real attempt at “saving the world” will have to require the ending of capitalism altogether.

    The truth of the matter is, no matter how much you recycle or how many lights you remember to turn off, one individual is not going to make a dent in changing the world on their own. Governments and corporations all over the globe have to be held accountable for the ways they overwhelmingly create the dangerous conditions we live in, to begin with. And for that to happen, we have to make sure there are people in positions of power who represent the interests of the human race not just now, but for the future. So, if you have the means, make smarter choices where you can and try to use and buy less things! But more importantly, if you’re able, vote.

  8. Luis Santiago–Group 3 says:

    America is a country of extreme capitalism, and we comment from America. So, when the concept of self interest comes up we either think money or power, and sometimes both. So, in the question how can we as individuals affect climate change through our own self interest…one answer is to siphon power away from the energy producers to the energy consumers. In doing so the customer saves a noticeable sum (over decades of course; this is a long term benefit) and position themselves as partners in the system that is the energy industry. The best way to execute this kind of individualism is to make it about an entire residential subdivision. This will make a big enough impact, locally of course, to effect the system in a noticeable way.

    In spite of setup cost, a switch from electricity to solar energy shows itself beneficial in a reduction of CO2 emissions simultaneously with lower utility costs. The average residential solar system offsets about 100,000 lbs. of carbon dioxide in 20 years—the equivalent of driving a car for 100,000 miles (Maehlum, 2018, num. 8). In addition, the average cost of energy for solar is 6¢/kWh v. almost 16¢/kWh for electricity (“Facts about installing a 4.74kW solar system in Brooklyn, NY”, n.d.; openei.org, n.d.). Notably, the setup cost returns in about 5 years with all tax incentives advantaged (“Facts about installing a 4.74kW solar system in Brooklyn, NY”, n.d.)! Of course there are other ways less involved to affect climate change in self interest but long-term and sustainable in our opinion is best. And so, we encourage Homeowner Associations to tackle this idea at their level.

  9. Syed Haq (Group 2) says:

    In order to begin the process of saving the world, we first need to get rid of unnecessary items destroying the individual’s health, as well as environment. A good start would be to completely eradicate smoking. Cigarettes, Cigars or any sort of chemical related substances that goes in the air without doing any benefit what so ever to the individual or the society, should be a part of ones common sense to avoid. Another method would be to avoid driving when necessary, and stick to walking or riding a bicycle if one is able in respect to their physical ability. This would avoid the extra emission of carbon dioxide from the car’s exhaust while also be beneficial to an individual’s general health and fitness level. Or, if we are going to drive, specially in a large family, we should avoid multiple cars if possible and try car-pooling; having less cars, therefore, less carbon dioxide emission.

    Some of the methods we can utilize in our own home are, avoid turning on the heater. We can try wearing socks, and a sweater which shall keep us more comfortable and warm, rather than a big blow of warm heat suffocating us and releasing CO2. Also keeping plants inside our homes would be beneficial as plants, absorb CO2 and release oxygen. Avoiding excess use of air conditioners can be a problem too, therefore a better alternative could be opening our windows or a fan.

    When it comes to the ocean, many people underestimate the harm ocean pollution can bring to the atmosphere. Not only a direct harm but also through harming animals as well. Recently there was an article published about a whale found with plastic bags and cups in its belly. The point is that we should avoid dumping things regularly and rely on the process of recycling more. Getting rid of an item by burning it or finding any other method of disposing it off usually produces more harmful gases which affects our environment. Therefore, recycling can avoid the excess disposal of things and allow us to re-use the item without more industrial manufacturing work.

  10. Yong Qi Chen (Group 4) MW12 says:

    As an individual we can save the world from climate change and benefit our own interests at the same time. One of the most common ways is to change our living behaviors. For example, we start to use more environmentally friendly ways to commute such as public transportation, bicycles and electric car. If everyone uses public transportation, we will produce a lot less CO2 because there will less cars on the roads. Bicycle is even better because it produces no CO2 at all. Even if we really need a car, we can choose electric car instead of gas car. Besides the ways of commute, we can also decrease greenhouse gas emission by changing our diet such as eat less meat. Livestock produce a lot of greenhouse gas compare to the vegetables, and It may be surprise to many people that livestock produce a similar amount of greenhouse gas as the transportation. Our diet is not just impacting the world but also our own health. Today in US, obesity is already a serious social and health problem. If we can start to eat from vegetables than meat, we are not just helping the world but also ourselves. Climate change is a big problem, but we start to solve it by changing the ways we live.

  11. Dinaira Jagoo GROUP1 says:

    My group and I think one way to help save the world is by developing and encouraging the use of biodegradable products. We should develop and make more biodegradable products to prevent trash from accumulating in the environment. Plastic, glass and metal aren’t biodegradable so when they’re discarded in the environment, they will pile up. Developing more biodegradable products, encouraging people to use them and educating people on the affects of non biodegradable products will help save the world by reducing pollution in water and on land.
    PHYS1080- MW12 GROUP 1

  12. Kevin Lin says:

    Kevin
    Physics 1080 Team 2
    Prof. Tomkiewicz

    With the increase in population, we have started pumping out resources at a rate much higher than these resources can be re-generated. This has created so much stress on our planet that our environment has started degrading and we all can see its effects in the form of global warming and climate change. Though many countries have taken several steps to promote environmental conservation and improve environmental health but unless we do not reduce our consumption of resources that are proving lethal for our environment, we cannot provide a sustainable future for our children.

    The bad habits of human beings are a major source of environmental destruction. Though the environment already suffers, There are things we can do to help our environment to heal and grow. As we embrace the concept of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” We can continuously learn new ways of thinking that can help us to live more sustainably. Making simple changes in our daily lifestyle won’t cost much but can prove beneficial for the environment and our future generations.

    Examples of changes we can make:
    -Changing incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED remains one of the most effective yet affordable ways to save the environment.
    -Plug your electronics in energy saving power strip which will turn off the appliance on its own.
    -Never waste food, it takes a load of effort to make it.
    -Turn the lights off when you leave a room.
    -Turn off the computer and TV when not in use.
    -Plant a tree. This will be a symbolic gesture and it will promote others to do the same.

    It is hard to think of technology and nature together but even advances like Artificial Intelligence are helping conservation efforts. As we engage new applications of technology, I believe an informed and engaged public is critical to this work and we must constantly make people aware of the challenges facing our planet and what we are doing to solve them.​ Currently, there are five main types of renewable energy sources:
    ● Biomass (uses organic mass and even landfill waste to create energy and fuels)
    ● Wind
    ● Geothermal (uses the Earth’s heat)
    ● Hydropower
    ● Solar
    Alongside the technological revolution, what we need is an equally unprecedented cultural revolution in the way we connect with the planet. If we are smart and we are conscious, we will invest in saving the planet for the next generations to come.
    There are hundreds of ways that we can affect positive change for the environment every day. But the single most important change we can ​affect as parents is the generation we raise. If we want to save the planet, we need to raise children who will speak up for it, take action, and stand against the destruction of natural resources. The world we will pass on to our children isn’t the one we grew up with. If we want to take responsibility for that, we need to give our kids the tools they will need to affect the change we haven’t.

  13. Shanjida, Selena, Kevin, Tayyaba, Ashley, Fitzroi, Shakhnoza says:

    Physics 1080
    Team 2
    Prof. Tomkiewicz

    With the increase in population, we have started pumping out resources at a rate much higher than these resources can be re-generated. This has created so much stress on our planet that our environment has started degrading and we all can see its effects in the form of global warming and climate change. Though many countries have taken several steps to promote environmental conservation and improve environmental health but unless we do not reduce our consumption of resources that are proving lethal for our environment, we cannot provide a sustainable future for our children.
    The bad habits of human beings are a major source of environmental destruction. Though the environment already suffers, There are things we can do to help our environment to heal and grow. As we embrace the concept of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” We can continuously learn new ways of thinking that can help us to live more sustainably. Making simple changes in our daily lifestyle won’t cost much but can prove beneficial for the environment and our future generations.
    Examples of changes we can make:
    -Changing incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED remains one of the most effective yet affordable ways to save the environment.
    -Plug your electronics in energy saving power strip which will turn off the appliance on its own.
    -Never waste food, it takes a load of effort to make it.
    -Turn the lights off when you leave a room.
    -Turn off the computer and TV when not in use.

    It is hard to think of technology and nature together but even advances like Artificial Intelligence are helping conservation efforts. As we engage new applications of technology, I believe an informed and engaged public is critical to this work and we must constantly make people aware of the challenges facing our planet and what we are doing to solve them. Alongside the technological revolution, what we need is an equally unprecedented cultural revolution in the way we connect with the planet. If we are smart and we are conscious, we will invest wisely in saving the planet for the next generations to come.
    There are hundreds of ways that we can affect positive change for the environment every day. But the single most important change we can affect as parents is the generation we raise. If we want to save the planet, we need to raise children who will speak up for it, take action, and stand against the destruction of natural resources. The world we will pass on to our children isn’t the one we grew up with. If we want to take responsibility for that, we need to give our kids the tools they will need to affect the change we haven’t.

  14. Sofia Granovskaia (group 6) says:

    Most people live for today and don’t think about tomorrow. We drive, cook and use electricity, which all increases the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to the earth. This also pollutes the earth and leads to global warming. We need to think more about the future for the sake of our future generation. Measures need to be put in place to decrease pollution.
    Our idea is for the government to require all homeowners to install solar panels by 2030. If the government forced homeowners to install solar panels, everyone would have an electric source that saves money. It also improves our world overall because it doesn’t burn fossil fuels. It has zero impact on global warming and doesn’t rely on mans interference. In the long run, we will be able to establish a pure sustainable energy source for the 21st century and beyond.

  15. GROUP 4 says:

    Thanks to the Energy Use and Climate Change Course we took this semester, we found that anything and everything we do affects the world we live in. With the knowledge learned in this class and the concerning predictions discussed about how the world is aging, we found it important to take matters into our own hands to prevent further damage to the Earth and preserve as many resources as possible.
    To begin, we can start with what we consume in our body. Drinking more water has numerous health benefits in itself, and also stops the production of many artificial drinks. By drinking water you are also eliminating the process of many beverage sweeteners and other resources that are causing scarcity for sugar cane and tea. Also, if you drink water from a reusable bottle you are saving production of plastic and decreasing the chances of littering and pollution in the world.
    save the world by saving paper!
    we have been living in a world that can’t live without paper. Now it’s time to change the world!. America is the heaviest user of paper according to data. The average American uses seven trees or an average of 700 pounds of paper. by using all that, we are destroying numerous animals houses, contribute to negative changes in our climate, using energy sources to complete the job. By reducing the amount of paper we use daily, we reduce our carbon footprints on forests, we cut energy uses, limit water, air, and other pollutions to reduce producing papers. Why not use your electronic devices for taking notes in class, or submitting an electronic version of an assignment to your professor instead of physical copy!. Use the hand air dryer in public bathrooms rather than paper towels. Wash your dishes when you have a party instead of buying paper plates. You can make an improvement by adapting one method at a time then make it a habit, spread it, enjoy a better cleaner environment for you and your kids!
    Roaa Yousef
    Energy resources come in all different kinds of technology, from solar, to wind, to hydro power plants. However, a long time producer of clean energy has some new tricks up its sleeve and those who were once afraid of this source might want to reconsider it in today’s society: Nuclear energy. Traditional Nuclear power plants have typically had 2 major problems: 1. Nuclear waste is a major pollutant and is incredible toxic and dangerous to earth life forms. 2. Nuclear plants have the potential to have a catastrophic meltdown that could lead to events such as 3 mile Island and the worldwide known event of trinoble.
    However, newer designs that have been developed by startup nuclear companies have shown incredible promise in eliminating meltdowns all together and creating significantly less nuclear waste. While removing all the massive smoke stack like structures that normally cloud a communities skylines; thus, making them smaller and far more elegantly designed than the new ones. These plants would run off specially designed fuel capsules that enable the use of up to 90% of uranium’s full power potential, with only the remaining 10% being left as a small amount of nuclear waste that breaks down much more quickly than traditional nuclear fuel rods. With plants like this becoming safer and newer reactor designs proving to completely eliminate the possibility of nuclear meltdowns, it’s time the public takes a closer look at nuclear power once again, for a long term solution to renewable, clean energy! Forget the mushroom clouds, and walk by that silent nuclear plant admiring the beauty of the plants architecture!
    We should develop and make more biodegradable products to prevent trash from accumulating in the environment.
    Things such as glass, plastic, and metal are non-biodegradable and if dumped in the environment can last forever! Even though glass, metal, and plastic are recycled, they are not recycled worldwide. And styrofoam or packing material is hardly recycled at all! Wood is biodegradable but it lasts a very long time—maybe decades or even hundreds of years!
    We need to develop more biodegradable materials that will not accumulate in the environment! As an example, styrofoam packing material was replaced by many companies by starch. The starch is soluble and is biodegradable by bacteria and fungi, s it will not accumulate in the environment indefinitely. So what we need to do is to try to develop new packing materials which are biodegradable. This will help reduce land and water pollution!
    Living in NYC we have easy access to public transportation. Even with significant delays during day hours public transportation is faster and less aggravating than driving. However many people still choose to drive a car to work or school instead of taking public transportation. Yes you might be cold or get wet waiting for a bus or a train once in a while, but you will be doing a greater good for the environment taking public transportation.
    According to the APTA by reducing the amount of miles we drive a day we can reduce the amount of c02 produced by 37 million metric tons annually. Cars don’t just require gas when you drive, many components go into a car such as oil and tires which need to be replaced as you drive. If we drive less than harmful products such as those will not have to be disposed off or made as frequently. Public transportation also greatly reduces congestion, which means you get to where you’re going faster and less aggravated. There are many benefits to public transportation that we need to realize and stop driving our cars so unnecessarily

  16. David says:

    To save the world, one needs to take care of surrounding environment and protect with all possible ways.

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