__Ruth Hupart ’08, Co-chair of Sustainable
_Do you think that our knowledge of the environment has changed in the past decade? _
As a freshman, I wasn’t an activist; at that point it was still very much a fringe interest. But then the next year “An Inconvenient Truth” came out, and now technical terms don’t need to be defined anymore. “Carbon offsets” used to be a very technical term, but now there’s enough general awareness about it — not general action yet, but awareness.
How are Dartmouth student leaders affecting environmental change?
We have a huge impact. It’s impossible to underestimate it. Tom [Glazer ’08 co-chair of Sustainable Dartmouth] and I worked very closely with many administrators — the administrators are our friends. The solar greenhouse and the aquaculture project at the organic farm, the sustainable living center, Sustainable Move-Out, the Big Green Bus. It goes back to Type-A personalities. When the administration isn’t pushing for something, Dartmouth students will take up the slack. We feel like universities can be at the forefront as shining examples for the rest of the country.
Professor Nicole Stuckenberger of the Anthropology Department and curator of Thin Ice, an exhibit on climate change at the Hood Museum of Art.
What is your assessment of the presidential candidates’ stances on the environment and global warming?
It’s such a complex and complicated topic. The climate models that scientists work with are models, so they change conditionally. Candidates that work with each model can be proven wrong. People don’t understand that that’s what science is about. So I think the candidates avoided the topic (of climate change) in general or just addressed the environment and not really climate change. To ask a presidential candidate to have a program to deal with climate change specifically would be very premature. They accept that there is climate change but they are reluctant to pin down anything. Strategies need to be flexible and dynamic in terms of their responses, but I don’t know how politicians can do that.
From your experiences of living in Germany, what differences have you noticed in how Americans approach climate change?
One difference that I’ve really noticed is that while the U.S. was the first to have catalytic converters, in Europe there is much less reluctance to let go of cheap luxury goods. For example, the use of cheap plastic bags: it’s a sign of affluence. It seems like in Germany people are ashamed to use plastic bags and they’ve stopped. Getting rid of plastic bags is the same as [converting] cars. Both are status symbols and signs of prosperity, so it might be difficult in the US to tune down [their consumption of these luxury goods] because they are more connected to it than Europe is.