By Karina Mazhukhina | May 18, 2016

The UW Law, Societies, and Justice (LSJ) program held a panel last week to encourage students to think about ways of alleviating our collective carbon footprint. More than a dozen students gathered in Smith Hall to dive deep into the widely debated topic of climate change.

“Climate change is a reality,” said Trace Chaplin, a doctoral student in the Jackson School of International Studies and one of the panel facilitators. “Not only is it here, it’s going to continue.”

Consumerism is a driving force behind climate change. According to the panel, what people fail to realize is that the production of our food is a huge water cost. For example, a loaf of bread takes about 240 gallons of water to produce. Likewise, a pound of corn takes 147 gallons. 

“But we just don’t see it," said Brandon Derman, LSJ lecturer and additional panel contributor. “We have to focus on companies that use a lot of water. States need to regulate companies and provide to its citizens.”

He added, “We also have to start becoming conscious of the effects. It’s time we change our identities as consumers and take steps towards a more sustainable future.” 

Although individual actions are essential to minimizing the impacts of climate change, collective change will still reap the most results. According to Chaplin and Derman, it’s time to think on a much bigger level. 

“We can change the light bulbs in our homes, but don’t think it will prevent climate change,” said Derman. “Taking a shorter shower will also not save the day. We have to become active members within a collective group. We have to act as a collective body to initiate change.”

For instance, the public can engage in corporate responsibility campaigns, elect someone who values “green change," or vote to approve the Washington state carbon-tax initiative that will be on the November 2016 ballot. 

The proposal aims to regulate corporations that are polluting the air in an effort to get them to use better equipment to reduce carbon monoxide output.

“It’s hopeful change towards reducing climate change,” said Chaplin. “I think that’s really exciting.”