By: Paige Griffee

What comes to mind when you hear the term “climate change?” You might think of endangered animals,
extreme seasons or a lack of produce after a drought. It is a term most would prefer to avoid.

Michael Allen, a National Geographic- published author, visited Western on April 8 to clear the air around some common misconceptions people may have regarding climate change. Allen is an assistant professor of geography at Old Dominion University. He used humor and wisdom to put climate change into simpler terms.

Allen said that climate change has become a state of medical emergency as summers are becoming longer and more intense. This doesn’t only cause an annoyingly long season, it disrupts pollen distribution, growing seasons, insect’s domains and has recently caused multiple wildfires in dry areas like California.

Climate change often results in catastrophic events that affect the lives of millions of people. Most people may think of hurricanes, tornadoes or earthquakes as the most deadly natural disasters. However, that is not necessarily the case. In fact, heat waves kill more people than any other natural disaster. The largest ongoing humanitarian disaster today, starvation, is due to severe drought.

Mark Mills, an associate professor of biology at Western since 2008, said that he has even seen changes in the ponds on campus due to last summer’s drought.

“Otoe Creek stopped flowing for the first time since I have been on campus,” Mills said. “Can this be linked to climate change? Possibly.”

While this all seems threatening and impossible to reverse, it does not have to be the end of the discussion. Young people can feel as if they don’t have the right to speak up about issues they are not experts on. However, it is vital that they are the ones who start to make a difference. Mills encouraged students
to do their part.

“You don’t have to be a scientist to understand the basics of weather, climate and climate change,” Mills said. “If we all do a little, it adds up to a lot.”

Mills said that young people can start by using less fossil fuels, electricity and paper.