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UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Earth Week

The upcoming UMass Boston campus Earth Week Festival-meticulously organized by a coalition of student environmental groups and faculty members-can’t come at a better time as even here in the city people are beginning to venture outside, soaking up the splendors of nature and seeking the serenity only offered by the great outdoors.

Water pollution, air pollution, deforestation, suburban sprawl, erosion, the current largest mass extinction event ever, and the contentiously debated global warming are all anthropogenic forms of environmental degradation. These worldwide epidemics show us that we desperately need more initiatives like Green Day and Earth Week to raise public awareness about current environmental issues and to educate people about ecologically sustainable practices.

For example, in Massachusetts we have many beautiful lakes and rivers, yet according to the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, more than two thirds of our waterways are too polluted for swimming or fishing. Much of the polluting chemicals come from industrial waste, but a common source of water pollution is from lawn fertilizers and pesticides. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that they are using dangerous chemicals in their own backyards, consequently, putting themselves and their families at risk; a recent study has shown that children who live in homes where chemical weed and insect killers are used are four times more likely to develop cancer.

There are many examples of practices that ordinary people can implement that, collectively, will have a major impact on the local and the global environment and therefore all of our lives. In certain areas of the U.S., potable water is growing to be a more highly valued commodity due to its increased scarcity. It’s unfortunate that an American household may still flush as much as 29,200 gallons annually. On the other hand, households with low-flow toilets flush an average of only 8,760 gallons.

The average person throws out 1,500 pounds of trash a year; however, someone who composts only throws out 375 pounds. There are many more problems than these few examples, but there are many simple procedures consumers can adopt that will have a very positive impact on the environment-even though you’re just one person.

The World Watch Institute this year said that there are “examples where society already has stepped in to encourage practices friendly to the environment.” The institute goes on to mention Denmark’s accomplishment of generating 18 percent of its energy from solar wind power alone, and that California has mandated limits on auto emissions far superior to what federal policy required. It is the global efforts like these that have “contributed to [reducing] environmental damage.”

Alas, the World Watch Institute also noted that as a result of deforestation and water pollution, birds, for instance, are becoming extinct at a rate 50 times faster than what is considered to be natural. The UN has acknowledged the increasingly desperate environmental situation, saying in this recent statement, “That progress in implementing sustainable development has been extremely disappointing since the 1992 Earth Summit, with poverty deepening and environmental degradation worsening.”

Right here at UMass Boston we’ve recently seen, again, our own controversy over the lead content in campus water fountains. On top of helping to organize next week’s Earth Week Festival, the Environmental Club tested the water from UMass Boston’s campus water fountains discovering that, on average, the water contains levels of lead that are too high according to the EPA’s regulations.

Despite how daunting the task of solving environmental issues may seem, cleaning up the earth is just a matter of will. The more people learn about the problems at hand, the sooner people will be motivated to work towards a solution. Next week as you pass through the Science building on your way to class, stop by the table in the lobby and pick up the Earth Week Festival events schedule; The Mass Media feels that attending the Earth Week events is a fast, fun, and easy way to learn about solutions to pollution; as the Earth Week bags, which are made from recycled plastic, say, “if we don’t do it, who will?”