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Student Life

The solution in our stars

Amid the horrifying realities in our world, have you ever looked up and wondered why God, karma, the universe – anything – isn’t doing something? 

I don’t know about God or karma, but the universe does, in fact, have something. World Space Week (WSW) occurs yearly from Oct. 4 to Oct. 10 in over 86 countries. It is meant to educate people on space findings, the importance of space exploration and the role of space in sustainability on earth. I found out about WSW only recently, and having gone to the event in Lebanon, I met the Lebanese National Coordinator Cyrine Nehmé, an astrophysicist.

“The only way we are going to save the earth and the universe is if we elevate to a higher frequency, and to think differently,” she said. “We are not just flesh and blood, we are other.” She added that, although she wasn’t speaking very scientifically, she said those words responsibly. 

In the 19th century, scientists noticed that sunlight reflected in some objects generates an electric current called solar cells (or photovoltaic power), which became solar panels meant for spaceships. Satellites, Google Maps, television, wireless products — all are results of space education.

Looking to outer space for a more sustainable use of earth’s resources isn’t new — it’s one of the goals of space exploration. The role of WSW is to make this information available to non-scientists, to reach as many people as possible. Space belongs to everyone; it’s our right to know how it can benefit us and how we can use that knowledge to help solve some of the problems we created. 

Living in space requires a strong sense of rationing — everything is limited and should be used efficiently. That alone is something us earthlings can learn from. Water scarcity is expected to become an imminent threat in the next five years. According to the WWF, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to suffer water shortages by 2025.

There are techniques that were initially developed for astronauts to purify wastewater into drinking water. According to an article in Space News, the University of Kenitra in Morocco uses these techniques to purify nearby groundwater supplies. This provides clean water for 1,200 students, thus reducing the need to transport clean water, which reduces carbon emissions.

Like solar panels, technologies meant for outer space have a place here too, and an eco-friendly one at that. In a 2016 BBC article, Daniel Thomas wrote that NASA’s Ames Research Centre built a “green building” in California, where they’re testing energy-saving technologies. 

“Sustainability Base leaves ‘virtually no footprint’ and uses several innovations from space, including solid oxide fuel cells of the type found on Nasa Mars rovers to generate electricity, and a system that reuses wastewater to flush toilets,” wrote Thomas. 

According to the WWF, agriculture plays a massive role in climate change; from greenhouse gas emissions to water pollution, deforestation to loss of wildlife biodiversity, the impact is significant. Growing food in space became possible last year, and has also set the idea of virtual farming a “highly sustainable form of agriculture,” as Thomas wrote. Space farming uses LED lights which increase productivity and are sustainable.

Sustainability is built primarily on humanitarian ideals: meeting the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ ability to meet theirs. World representatives at the UN’s Fourth Committee spoke about the benefits space education had for their countries, from developing technologically to alleviating extreme poverty. Other benefits include improving the efficiency and facilitating the achievement of the UN’s 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, satellite communications, enhancing disaster preparedness and mitigation, and even improving the understanding of “symptoms relating to aging.” 

There’s already a lot from space technology we can adopt on Earth for a more sustainable use of our limited resources. Yes, let’s march and raise awareness about climate change, it’s important that we highlight the problem. Yet, we should also spread information about the solution – look up, it’s in the stars.

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Student Life

The year of green

Climate change; global warming; the planet is dying–however you want to label it, the time to act in order to reverse the severe damage to our planet is now. 

According to a recent report by the United Nations, the world is 1° C hotter than it was between 1850 and 1900.  In 2015, 196 world leaders came together to sign the Paris Agreement, a plan to keep global warming well below 2°C.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, if the world doesn’t collectively act to reduce negative changes by 2100, sea levels could rise by 1.8 per cent, virtually all coral reefs will die, arctic summers will be nearly ice-free, 2.7 billion people will be exposed to heat waves every five years, flooding will increase by 170 per cent, and 18 per cent of insects and plants will lose more than half their habitat.

Luckily, if everyone does their part, there’s still hope. Coming into the new school year, implementing a sustainable approach to everyday routines can help. Little changes go a long way for the environment.

Food and drink

Several major U.S. cities like Seattle and Washington D.C. banned plastic straws this year. In June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his plan to ban all single-use plastics by 2021. As a result of these bans, reusable straws have become more popular. If you’re a frequent straw-user, there are many alternatives to plastic straws, such as metal or silicone straws that you can buy and keep on you at all times to avoid using plastic ones.

Bringing a reusable water bottle and travel mug with you for constant water and coffee/tea refills can also reduce your plastic water bottle/coffee cup usage.

For food, wrapping your lunches in beeswax paper is a sustainable alternative to using plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Canadian brand Mind Your Bees Wraps makes eco-friendly colourful reusable beeswax wraps for all food storage purposes. Tupperware’s and cloth snack pouches are also a great alternative to plastic bags for trickier loose foods.

Carry reusable grocery bags in your pocket or backpack for when you need to go shopping—most grocery stores now charge for plastic bags. When shopping for groceries, try choosing a zero-waste grocery store where you can bring your own containers and buy in bulk. Méga-Vrac is a zero-waste grocery store with two locations, in Rosemont and Hochelaga, that offer discounts on products if you bring your own containers. The waste-free store also offers all the products listed above!

Health and beauty

Wasting less and choosing eco-friendly products is possible even for your beauty routine. In regards to menstruation, some alternatives to regular tampons or pads are menstrual cups such as the Diva Cup or menstrual cloth pads.Try using reusable cloth pads to remove makeup instead of disposable cotton pads and handkerchiefs instead of tissues.

When it comes to hygiene, try choosing a soap bar or shampoo bar instead of liquid soap–it usually lasts longer and doesn’t come in a plastic container. Ditch your plastic toothbrush and opt for a bamboo toothbrush. Did you know the plastic and nylon used in your toothbrush are virtually indestructible? According to National Geographic, approximately 23 billion toothbrushes are thrown out in the U.S. every year. Most of the plastic ends up in our oceans, killing marine life–100,000 marine animals per year to be exact. According to Ocean Crusaders Foundation, over 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris are currently in our oceans.

Studies

Here is something to think about: how much paper does Concordia and its students use every year? A lot of people around campus have already switched to digital for practical reasons. Try going digital this semester by taking notes on Google Docs/Word/Pages, opting for a PDF or ebook instead of textbooks, and handing in your assignments online (when permitted of course).

Mobility

According to Statistics Canada, the transport sector is responsible for 74 per cent of CO2 emissions. That’s why thinking of the way you travel is crucial to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Luckily, Montreal has a variety of sustainable transportation options. Try to ride to school on a Bixi or Jump bike if you don’t have your own. Bixi docs are all over downtown and at least 3 can be found in close proximity of the downtown campus. The new Lime e-scooters are now a fun new option for days when you just don’t feel like pedaling. Another option is to use public transit, the shuttle bus or carpooling with friends. The fewer cars used per person, the less greenhouse gasses emitted.

Acting to help reverse the severe effects of climate change is an adjustment, but if everyone does their part, it’s possible.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

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