Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Campus Climate Challenge make strides to teach

“I am shocked and stunned. I’m going to be better,” was the response of one Whitman student who, after taking an ecological-footprint quiz, learned that 3.7 planets would be needed to sustain his current lifestyle.

Last week Whitman’s Campus Climate Challenge set up tables in Reid where students could take an ecological-footprint quiz through the Earth Day Web site. The point of the quiz is to learn how many Earths it would take to sustain your lifestyle.

According to Sociology and Environmental Studies Professor Ann Finan, the ecological-footprint is a concept developed by environmental sociologists and economists to capture either an individual’s or a community’s environmental impact in terms of acres.

“The idea is to allow an individual to take a quiz, answering a series of questions about their consumption, about where they live and their transportation habits, which will give people an estimate of how many acres their lifestyle takes up in terms of resources,” said Finan.

The lifestyles of the 30 Whitman students who took the quiz required an average of 3.2 planets.

According to the Earth Day Web site, the average ecological footprint per person in America is 24 acres per person. Worldwide, there exists 4.5 biologically productive acres per person.

“Because Americans use so many more resources, we are taking away resources from other people in the world who use less resources than ourselves and from future generations,” said Campus Climate Change Secretary Camila Thorndike.

Students in Finan’s Environmental Studies 120 class, Introduction to Environmental Studies, also took this test.
Finan’s students, although not surprised to learn that Americans consume much more than what is sustainable by the current planet, were surprised by the drastic effect social constraints can have on someone’s environmental impact. For example, it can be very difficult for someone living in Walla Walla to reduce their impact below a certain level as a result of social structural constraints.

“Even if an individual made all of the changes that they could, we’re still constrained by a lack of public transportation, by the fact that it gets cold here in the winter so we need to use heating and by the fact that we import most of our food from further away than 100-200 miles,” said Finan.

“A lot of these factors, which individuals don’t have a ton of control over on a moment-to-moment basis, ended up affecting students’ overall ecological footprints in ways that I think they found surprising. They felt that they were really trying to do as much as they could individually, but it ended up not having as much of an impact as they had hoped,” said Finan.

“It is important to be aware of every step you take, both as a consumer and as a citizen,” said Thorndike.
The Ecological Footprint Quiz can be found on Earth Day’s Web site at earthday.net/footprint.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Whitman Wire Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *