Carnegie Science Center holds event for Earth Day

Filled with movies, presentations, and environmental activities, the Carnegie Science Center hosted its Earth Day event last Saturday.

Bill Perkins, a lecturer from the Climate Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to raising global warming awareness, was one of the presenters at the event. His presentation, entitled “It’s time to Act: The Reality of Global Warming,” discussed the causes of climate change and its impact on people’s quality of life.

Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere contribute to global warming because they absorb heat that reflects off the Earth, thereby warming the Earth. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, which is emitted from the burning of fossil fuels, and methane, which is produced in the process of making coal.

Global warming threatens to melt glaciers in the Arctic, potentially increasing Arctic temperatures by several degrees. Melting icebergs will also increase water levels, and they may also influence ocean currents by causing freshwater to enter the ocean.

Furthermore, this process of heat absorption by icebergs is self-perpetuating. When an iceberg melts, the leftover water absorbs sunlight, which causes the iceberg to melt even further. Thus, global warming enacts a positive feedback loop that leads to even more glacier melting.

A key point that Perkins made in his presentation was that “Human beings have become a force of nature.” In other words, population growth, as well as humans’ continual reliance on technology, has led to global warming.

More specifically, as the human population grows, the demand for resources and land increases. As more people clear trees to make room for homes and farmland, there are fewer trees to control carbon dioxide levels through photosynthesis. This results in increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Increasing population leads to greater energy demand as well. This demand is mostly for coal, which emits more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than any other energy source.

Perkins also talked about how technology has allowed humans to move from manual labor to machine labor. Although machines produce more products over time, thus satisfying the increase in product demand from population growth, they often use fossil fuels for energy, thus emitting greenhouse gases.

In his presentation, Perkins dispelled the notion that there is nothing one can do to help solve the self-perpetuating problem of global warming. In fact, Perkins said that this misconception only adds to the problem of global warming.

According to Perkins, humans already have everything they need to curb global warming, including renewable energy sources and passenger vehicle efficiency. He also said that the measures needed to stop global warming are not only cost effective but also easy to do.

He said, “Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, inflate tires, check water heaters, use low-flow shower heads and take shorter showers, reduce garbage, plant a tree, and tell your legislature to pass Earth-saving bills. All of these things combined can save up to 5500 pounds of carbon dioxide.”

In addition to Perkins’ presentation, Earth Day at the Carnegie Science Center consisted of environment-based films. The movies were shown in smaller theaters, and two movies, Stormchasers and Coral Reef, were shown in an IMAX theater.

There was also an 18-foot inflatable Earth in UMPC Sports World across from the Science Center and a RiverQuest program for people interested in searching for various aquatic organisms in the nearby river.

The films seemed to be the highlight of the day for Penn State students Max Staplin and Eric Gruebel.

Gruebel said, “In addition to Earth Day events, watching the Coral Reef movie in IMAX put it all into perspective. Before Earth Day, I didn’t realize how big of a problem global warming was and how rapidly it was happening.”

Gruebel said that the Earth Day event has even led him to consider certain career options. Gruebel said, “As an engineering student, it makes me think of going into green engineering.”

Staplin said that the one thing he learned was that the “planet was better off before we got here.”

According to Hall, the Earth Day celebration and the Rachel Carson Environmental Film Festival will become an annual event at the Carnegie Science Center.

The Rachel Carson Environmental Film Festival is a collection of films about the environment that span a wide range of genres, including comedies and thrillers. Hall said that the film festival will continue on the first Saturday of each month, June through December 2007.

In addition to hosting Earth Day, Hall stated that Carnegie Science Center will be focusing heavily on the environment in the next several years as it advances its project Eco.Experience. Eco.Experience is still in the planning stages, but according to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this project will involve an expansion of the current center, including the addition of new facilities.

According to Hall, the Carnegie Science Center is currently incorporating environmental issues into its endeavors.

Hall stated, “Our café continues to support local farms, our outreach programs continue to develop environmental education curricula and our rivers and environment will be a critical part of our development over the next several years — embodied in the project we are calling Eco.Experience.”