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"Not Just Another Issue"

"Not Just Another Issue"Environmentalism emerges as a major concern for both students and professors at Tufts.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [12.06.02] From academic forums on climate change to grassroots recycling programs, concern for the environment is a hot issue on campus. While "green" programs have a lot of support from faculty, staff and local government leaders, funding cuts threaten to undermine even the most basic environmental efforts. But students and faculty at Tufts -- profiled this year by Grist Magazine as one of the leading campuses in environmental advocacy - are taking steps to combat the problem.

"This is not just another issue," Ross Gelbspan, Edward R. Murrow Senior Policy Fellow at Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, told The Medford Transcript.

Gelbspan joined Tufts professors, Medford city officials, researchers and consultants in a recent seminar to discuss local solutions to a major environmental problem: the global threat of climate change.

"It is the issue which, if unchecked, will swamp all other issues," said Gelbspan - who is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author. "We're living on an increasingly narrow margin of stability."

William Moomaw, professor of international environmental policy and director of the Tufts Institute For The Environment, agreed on the urgency of the issue.

"If current [global warming] trends continue, by 2025, Boston would have the climate of New Jersey; by 2050, that of Washington D.C.; by 2100, Boston would have a climate comparable to that of Atlanta," said Moomaw.

The Tufts experts agreed that without significant changes, the problem will only continue to worsen.

"The need is urgent," Gelbspan told the Transcript.

While some Tufts experts warn of the consequences of failing to address these broad issues on a local level, others worry that financial costs may deter local organizations from making changes.

In a recent article in OnEarth magazine, Tufts professor Frank Ackerman warned that important community environmental efforts may suffer due to lack of short term cost-effectiveness.

"In the big picture, [environmentalism] prevents almost incalculable costs levied on society as a whole," Ackerman - an economics professor -- told OnEarth. "But individual communities have to think about immediate cash flow, and while some [environmental projects] make money in the short term [profitability] has not been easy to generalize."

This could mean that, while experts urge top priority be given to environmental issues, lack of funding may curb efforts.

Tufts student David Hirscher is already feeling the effects of budget cuts for environmental programs. The graduate student in Tufts' Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program coordinates recycling programs in the local community -- and is experiencing the downside of the lack of funding.

"Hirschler is a recycling coordinator shared by [the metro cities of] Dedham, Avon and Randolph," reported The Boston Globe. "Hirschler was hired over the summer with a $40,000 state grant. He is one of seven regional coordinators hired to help communities establish recycling programs. Next year, his job will probably vanish."

The Tufts student said recent budget cuts by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will likely affect recycling and waste reduction programs, and expressed concern over the effects.

"If you have to start charging residents to pick up a new recycling bin, then they won't recycle," Hirschler said.

While some communities are cutting funds, the city of Medford has partnered with Tufts to find new ways to initiate environmental reforms.

"Long-term global solutions will require significant commitment at the local level, commitments that Tufts University and Medford have already begun to make," reported the Medford Transcript.

In collaboration with experts from Tufts, Medford has already begun implementing fuel-efficiency programs within the city. And while it may just be on a local level, efforts like these are an important start.

As Tufts' Gelbspan said, "Real change has to take place at every level of society."


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