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In Class: Global Ethics and Climate Change

May 20, 2019 — Students in Tim Relyea Global Ethics and Climate Change class have evaluated theories, crunched data, and debated possibilities all semester. They know how dire the consequences of climate change could be, but Relyea doesn’t let them succumb to “It’s too late to change things” resignation.

Their challenge for the last week of classes is to develop and present concrete proposals to reduce the impact of climate change, either at NMH or in their home communities. It’s all about taking action.

The 14 students’ action plans are part of NMH’s larger goal of embedding sustainability throughout the curriculum. Relyea serves on the school’s task force dedicated to increasing NMH’s current and future sustainability. “That goal fit so well with this course,” Relyea says, that his students’ ideas may become part of the school’s real-life sustainability plan.

Sai Pacquette ’19 (above) is first up today, and she proposes reducing the presence of beef in the NMH community’s diet. Key to this “Moo Menu,” as she termed it in a pun-and-fact-filled talk, is gradually weaning diners off of beef and onto creative and international chicken, fish, and vegetarian options. “Animal agriculture is destroying our environment since it produces 18 percent of greenhouse gasses,” she says. Eating less beef would reduce emissions, save money, and improve nutrition at the same time, she argues. As one image in her presentation put it, “The steaks are high.” 

Patrick Rochford ’19 (left) wants to bring “cleaner commuting” to his home state by building a commuter rail line between Southeast New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Rochford presented statistics showing that carbon emissions created by transportation would drop by about two-thirds if people who now commute by car took a train instead. He presented a case study of a similar system that connects Portland, Maine, and Boston, proving the idea is feasible. His proposal included step-by-step plans to develop, implement, market, and measure this idea. Rochford plans to send his proposal to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Rochford, Pacquette, and the other students put their ideas through a rigorous “SWOT analysis,” detailing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of their proposals. All the presentations were videotaped so students’ research could be considered for actual implementation outside the classroom doors.

The Proposals

  • Implementing GFCI outlets in NMH buildings to prevent electric shocks
  • Replacing plastic bags with alternatives at the NMH bookstore 
  • Reducing NMH dining hall and snack bar food waste
  • Raising awareness of buildings’ energy usage
  • Using English instruction to build awareness of sustainability in Hong Kong
  • Reducing the food footprint (especially regarding food transportation) at the NMH dining hall
  • Establishing a New Hampshire-Massachusetts commuter rail system
  • Creating a new NMH community mindset by using consumer power to promote environmental concerns
  • Converting NMH mini-bus activity vehicles to electric power
  • Developing a climate curriculum at NMH
  • Adding solar panels to the new faculty houses along Gilder Way at NMH 
  • Reducing beef in the NMH community’s diet