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Unplug for Earth Day

Samuel M. Livingston

Some SUNY ESF scientists say a booming world population and over-consumption, are the earth’s biggest enemy.  But they say there are things humans can do on a an individual level that can make a difference in the big picture.

With a world population expected to top eight billion in a decade, professor Chuck Kroll, of the department of environmental resources engineering, looks at all those humans and the resources they uses as the biggest environmental threats out there.

"Specially, as you see other countries try to become more industrialized. Everyone sees us in the U.S. with our cars and our iPhones, and all those other countries want that, too,” said Kroll. “And the U.S. does not have a very sustainable resource use.  It’s certainly not a model the rest of the world can follow.”

Kroll says people need to talk about overpopulation in order to deal with it. But that’s tough because it’s a very sensitive issue with many political, cultural, social and religious implications.

Beyond that, there are small things we can do, to minimize our impact on the earth, says Timothy Volk, co-director of the SUNY Center for Sustainability and Renewable Energy. He thinks the big problem is that most humans don’t make a connection between charging up their phones, and the impact of doing that on the environment.  But all electricity has a source, which means one way to start to helping heal the earth, is simply to unplug.

"Turning the lights off when you leave the room, unplugging units that are running. It’s amazing how much power flat screen TVs draw even though they’re off -- just because they are in ready mode,” said Volk. “So turning things off and making wise choices about how we use energy."

Volk says people need to become aware of where their electricity comes from, and suggests switching to more renewable energy, or using a utility that buys renewable energy.

"Conservation is always the first best choice. And I think sometimes [people] feel that if I just turn off the lights, it’s not going to have a big impact. But if everybody would do it, if everybody would change some small habits, we could have some big impacts,” said Volk.

In the midst of all this concern, Kroll does see some signs of hope for the earth’s future.

"You’re seeing less carbon-based fuels. You’re seeing people think about alternatives. Change is happening. Sometimes it doesn’t happen as fast as we would like."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.