Kent State’s Scientistas held climate change panel

Ariel Reid

The Kent State Scientistas chapter held a panel of speakers on Thursday night in Bowman Hall to discuss climate change and what can be done to curb it.

Topics ranged from climatology, fracking, environmentalism, alternative energy and many others were examined and debated.

“I have a very cynical view of these things,” said Cleveland metroparks field researcher, Patrick Lorch, about mountaintop removal, fracking and other environment-altering practices.

Lorch was joined on the panel by Oscar Rocha, a biology professor from Kent State University, and Sandy Angle, an activist.

The panel first covered the history of Earth Day, which falls on April 22 this year and first started in 1970. According to Lorch, reports on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching fire in the late 1960s from surface chemicals helped bring national attention to environmentalism and create Earth Day.

Jaynell Nicholson, the President of the undergraduate chapter of KSU’s Scientistas and event-organizer, moved the conversation toward climate change and the effects it has on the planet.

“Warming is just one of the things that can happen,” Rocha said, discrediting the notion that global warming is only what the name implies.

Rocha listed longer dry seasons, shifts in blooming times, pollination problems, bee populations dropping and more commercial water consumption as a few of the effects of climate change on tropical regions, like the rain forest.

Lorch, who works in the temperate Great Lakes region, said she  sees major weather changes and more flooding for places like Ohio.

“It’s affecting us humans, as players in the biosphere,” Rocha said.

“We’re putting ourselves in an alley by not preparing.” said Lorch in response to Rocha, a native Costa Rican, who talked about how his home country has taken huge strides in protecting the environment and, in that way, the country’s future.

Rocha is worried about the selfish nature of people in not wanting to change, a notion shared by the other panelists who warn that even simple denial is dangerous.

Doubt was a major topic of discussion despite all those in attendance being clear believers of climate change, and the panelists explained that doubt has become “popular” in the United States.

All agreed that doubt and denial, mostly in the “comfortable” parts of the world, lead to nothing getting done.

“We can’t wait until it gets two degrees warmer,” Lorch said. “We want to hope or have the more positive result, even if it’s not supported by the facts.”

He also lamented the fact that scientists don’t seem to do enough to show the public what they can do to combat climate change.

Angle, from an activist’s standpoint, stepped in to offer several first steps for those looking to make a difference, such as curriculum changes in schools, cultural shifts to appreciate nature and actions citizens can take on governmental and legal levels.

The panel offered a wide view on the issue of climate change as Lorch and Rocha discussed the science aspect and Angle spoke on options to move forward.

Ashley Lattimer, a senior biological anthropology major, agreed that getting the “whole picture” is important with climate change.

“It’s interesting to see how people lived,” Lattimer said. “And then we look at how that will affect (us in) the future.”

Ariel Reid is the sciences reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]