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Earth Week events include panel discussions on health effects caused by climate change

By Andrew Wroblewski

"If anybody wants to claim that the world isn't getting warmer, then it's on them to prove it," said Dr. J. Bret Bennington, a Hofstra geology professor in a moment of frustration during Wednesday's panel on climate change.
As part of Earth Week, the Center for Civic Engagement and Honors College co-sponsored a panel for 100 attendees to focus on the recent abnormal weather patterns and how they affect global health. Along with Bennington, two other University professors, Robert Brinkmann and Kathleen Wallace, sat on the panel with Dr. Perry Sheffield, an assistant professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine; and John Maguire, the manager at the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management.
In an introduction, Bennington spoke about the alarming causes and effects of climate change all over the world. Since the 20th century, temperatures have been gradually rising. This trend has continued into the 21st century and temperatures are only getting higher. With these significant increases, Bennington noted that people, particularly Long Island residents, grow more aware of these climate changes due to this year's warm winter.
Sheffield followed Bennington, speaking about the effects that the changing climate has had on people around the world. Talking primarily about heat waves, Sheffield noted that an increase in heat stress, along with air pollution has led to an increase in asthma cases.
"Heat waves kill more people in the United States than any other natural phenomena," said Sheffield, who predicts that within the next two decades, the amount of asthma attacks caused by the release of ozone gases could increase greatly on Long Island.
Unfortunately, health effects aren't the only negative impacts that are caused by the changing climate. Maguire warned the audience of more climate emergencies. He specializes in the preparation of Nassau County for major storms such as Hurricane Irene-which narrowly missed Long Island in the summer of 2011. "We took a pretty big hit, but it was nowhere near as bad as some of the hits that the Midwest and Florida have taken," said Maguire.  "We're lucky the storm dissipated into a tropical storm."
After speaking about the potential effects of a storm, power outages, loss of communications and heavy floods, Maguire then spent the rest of time informing the audience of the various precautions that need to be taken before a storm-one more serious than Irene-hits the island.
"You don't want to go to a shelter," warned Maguire.  "Either get off the island, or get somewhere safe towards the middle of the island."
All in all, Bennington notes that Long Islanders are not entirely doomed when it comes to climate change. He argues that energy conservation can go a long way.
"As Americans we need to be more efficient with the energy we use," said Bennington.  "However, as individuals we need to be more aware of our energy expensive and find was to cut down on them, such as drive less and make investments into our homes to help reduce our energy costs."
Sheffield added persistency to Bennington's energy solutions. "Start acting now," he said as he walked off the stage.
Along with this panel, the University celebrated Earth Week with many events beginning on Tuesday and lasting until Thursday.
Students had the opportunity to view films relating to the environment throughout the day, including "The Case Against Coca Cola" and "If a Tree Falls". An open discussion was also held to discuss the energy policy in the United States during the 21st century. Another forum focused "The Nuclear Option: Is Nuclear Power Safe, Clean and Sustainable" and compared it to the use of fossil fuels. There were gardening projects throughout the campus where the community could plant and improve the "green" on campus. Students were also encouraged to donate to several clothing drives, where clothes could either be purchased or donated. Lackmann Culinary Services, the main provider of food throughout the campus, revealed where they get the food that Hofstra consumes.
During common hour, the Student Center offered a free buffet and learned information about practices to conserve the earth. Opportunities were promoted throughout the university to spread awareness of environmental issues.

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