Warmer or not, planet needs care

Global warming has been a perennial point of contention among politicians and scientists for the last decade. Though it’s debatable whether politicians should be so vocal about their opinions on an otherwise purely scientific matter, there has been no shortage of political discussion on the topic.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

Such debates are usually emotionally charged — and for good reason. A strong belief in the veracity of global warming can lead to the redirection of a good portion of state and federal budget toward research on the subject, technology for sequestration of greenhouse gases and regulations on energy use.

On the other hand, if the government presumes it to be untrue when it isn’t, the planet might be too far gone for anything productive to be done.

But for us average Americans, the existence — or absence — of genuine climate change shouldn’t hold too much sway over our actions. Responsibility toward our environment should be practiced regardless of this single negative consequence.

Not only are there other consequences to be considered — exhaustion of nonrenewable resources, pollution of the atmosphere, destruction of our environment — but we should arguably maintain the health of our planet simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Despite decades of exhaustive efforts by astronomers, until we find another planet suitable for sustaining human life and figure out how we are going to transport a few billion people — and our stuff — 25 light years through space, we’d better take care of our little corner of the universe.

So what does real ecological responsibility look like in our daily activities? Recycling, for one; switching to electric vehicles when it’s feasible; and general round-the-house conservation practices such as turning off the lights and not running the faucet while brushing your teeth.

We should also implement conservative practices at the university level. Electronic assignment submissions save paper, ink and organizational energy. Similarly, distributing handouts online when possible will also conserve resources.

USC is starting to take strides toward conservation. For instance, our campus is going to be a guinea pig for the new Smart Grid technology, which involves power monitoring based on patterns of use. Not only will we be contributing to a new and innovative body of research, but we’ll also be the first to benefit from the efficiency and practicality of the new system.

The important thing to note is that being green saves us money both in the short and long-term. We pay for the energy and resources we use, so if we live more conservatively we’ll spend less by consequence.

Granted, as with the Smart Grid and electric vehicles, initial implementation costs might seem overwhelming, but in most cases, if not all, the technology pays for itself in a relatively agreeable time period.

The same goes for the actions of the government. Money spent on development of new energy sources reduces dependence on foreign countries and on a nonrenewable resource. So the path we’re on now — toward clean, renewable energy, and away from oil and the negative impacts that come with it — is an efficient one.

Continued research into global warming is still advisable, but its effects and prevention can be compartmentalized and viewed separately from other green initiatives, which should be pursued on parallel paths.

A shining example is New York’s Bottle Bill, which requires every beverage vendor to maintain machines for container recycling. Since it was passed, it has “reduced roadside litter by 70 percent, recycled 90 billion containers … at no cost to local governments, saved more than 52 million barrels of oil, and eliminated 200,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.”

The beauty of the system is that it’s in the consumers’ best interest to be green — they’re taxed when buying recyclable goods, but they get this deposit back if and when they bring the goods back for recycling. And though our sense of environmental duty should be enough to spur us toward green behaviors, incentives like this one can’t hurt.

Whether the research ends up proving or debunking global warming, we clearly can’t afford to neglect our responsibility to the earth — either as individuals or through government action.

And hopefully through conserving and exercising good stewardship over our clearly limited resources, we can preserve what we have here for those who follow.

Reid Roman is a sophomore majoring in industrial and systems engineering. His column, “Bright Side,” runs every other Friday.