Jesuit Chronicle

Covid-19’s impact on the environment

The+Covid-19+pandemic+is+having+interesting+impacts+on+the+environment.+

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The Covid-19 pandemic is having interesting impacts on the environment.

With Covid-19 putting a halt to business and “normal” life, emission rates around the world have decreased substantially. As climate change is one of the major issues young activists have tackled in recent years, the current pandemic is giving people a glimpse of what a less carbon driven world could entail. 

“The air feels cleaner, and the skies are much clearer,” senior Ella Howe said. 

The immediate halting of unessential businesses and transportation has led to a sharp decline in pollution, and some cities have cleaner air than they have had in years. Levels of pollution in New York City have dropped nearly 50%, and carbon emissions in China have decreased by 25%. Within the United States, domestic air travel has dropped 40% and international travel has reportedly dropped 96% (cnn.com). 

While we are seeing these relative decreases, climate change activists should be aware that this may not be considered a huge win. Environmental Science and Biology teacher Ms. Mahoney is not sure this period will have any positive effects on the future of our environment. 

We may actually see an extra bump in high temperature increase this year due to the lack of particulate matter in the air,” Mahoney said. “The particulate matter in the air normally blocks some of the sun’s rays from striking the Earth and getting trapped, but now the cleaner air is lacking some of its capacity to block out sunlight.”

Though there has been a decrease in emissions and air pollution, there has been a surge in waste. Oregon as well as other states including Maine and New Hampshire and many major cities have delayed their bans on plastic bags and instead directed retailers to prevent the use of reusable bags. (usatoday.com). 

“I think right now single-use products are unavoidable,” senior Helen Rocker said. “Everyone is so scared of touching things and getting sick that these products are again becoming the go-to.” 

While the global pandemic offers a much needed temporary “break” for the environment, the long-term effects of this are still uncertain. Could policy makers grow an appreciation for this clean space, or will production and economic drive dominante the new world? People also may take advantage of what they currently can not, and air travel could increase carbon emissions. 

It is my hope that people with power outside the government, because so many of our laws have actually concentrated power not in the government but in these individuals and corporations, recognize that for them to maintain their own power and wealth in the long term we must meet our energy needs in a dramatically different way and soon,” Mahoney said. “They are the ones with the ability to force rapid change.”

The environmental impacts that Covid-19 has created are similar to that of the 2008 economic recession. This economic crash led to a reduction in industrial activity and in turn an overall decrease of emissions by 1.3%. However in accordance with the economic recovery following this crisis, emissions reached an all time high. (bbc.com). 

People are not the only life-form that has been noticing a change in our planet. Animals all around the world are taking advantage of cleaner water, air, and less inhabited areas. Endangered turtles in Thailand are nesting in greater numbers than they have seen in two decades, and whales are swimming closer to shore than ever in the Mediterranean and Canadian waters (abcnews.go.com). 

“I was driving and there was a deer just walking along the side of the road,” Howe said. 

The future impacts of this pandemic are also dependent on the length of its duration. With things beginning to re-open, the “break” the earth is experiencing could soon be over.

It is my hope that people, once we return to work and school and a pattern of life that more resembles what we are familiar with, make different choices in how we live and what is truly important,” Mahoney said. “Fast food, fast fashion, frequent rapid travel, globalized production chains, and always wanting more stuff cheaply and beyond what we need, maybe this part of the human world doesn’t get to survive Covid-19.”

 

About the Contributor
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

NCAA changes impact future spring athletes

NCAA+has+granted+senior+spring+athletes+a+fifth+year+of+eligibility%2C+leaving+possible+complications+for+incoming+freshmen.

NCAA has granted senior spring athletes a fifth year of eligibility, leaving possible complications for incoming freshmen.

On March 30, NCAA announced an extended year of eligibility for all senior spring athletes due to the cancellation of their 2020 seasons. While this change allows collegiate seniors to properly finish their college careers, it comes with a great impact, especially on the incoming freshmen recruits. 

“I think if I was in a current player’s position I would want another year to play lacrosse, so I understand,” senior Ella Smith said. “However that really affects incoming freshmen because now there will be a lot more players than anticipated.”

Smith, an All-American Vanderbilt University lacrosse commit, was highly sought after by many universities. One of the factors when choosing where to continue her career was roster size and potential playing time. 

“I’m really worried about playing time,” Smith said. “I denied some schools because of how big their teams were, so now being part of a team that big is disappointing,”  

Many freshmen recruits also often make their final decisions with the graduation of other players in mind. 

Senior Patrick Duffy, also named an All American and Syracuse University commit for lacrosse, initially saw this change as a positive before his worry set in.

My first thought when I saw spring athletes were getting another year of eligibility back was ‘oh that’s good they deserve that,’” Duffy said. “Right after I said that to myself I remembered that the starting goalie for Syracuse this year was a senior. So that is tough because he’s coming back next year, and when I originally committed to Syracuse I planned on him being gone.” 

With this new change, NCAA has allowed schools to increase roster sizes beyond scholarship limits to account for this unforeseen alteration, and next years’ teams are sure to be substantially larger than normal. The organization has also expanded the 35 player limit of baseball rosters, the only sport that imposes a regulated size.

“As guys return, the roster will be bigger than expected so maybe the coaches will have to cut some guys or maybe the coaches will look at kids and say they want them to red shirt and sit out next year,” Duffy said. “I really hope I don’t have to have that conversation with my coaches.”

The NCAA has decided to leave it up to the school how they will deal with the financial aid for returning fifth years, and has stated that this flexibility only applies to athletes who would have exhausted their eligibility after the 2020 season (espn.com). 

Scholarships are often not guaranteed full-rides for student athletes. With families still having to pay part of the tuition, a fifth year that might not be fully covered by the university, making the financial aspect even trickier and the desire to red shirt as a freshman less likely. 

The extended eligibility applies to all spring sports including: baseball, softball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s track and field, men’s and women’s lacrosse, rowing, men’s volleyball, beach volleyball and women’s water polo. The extension  also aligns with rules regulating four seasons of play, essentially mimicking the ability to red shirt. Despite the NCAA announcement, the Ivy League has decided not to extend senior eligibility. 

Not only does this change impact playing time and financial resources, but may also change the team dynamic. 

While these impacts could potentially cause friction amongst teammates, Duffy believes that the drive and competitiveness of collegiate athletics will certainly still be present. 

“As for the team dynamic, I still think there will be that intensity and commitment to getting better and being the best team we can be,” Duffy said.

For some freshmen entering a large and already close team may cause worry. 

“I think that it will be hard going into a team who has had a lot of time together because we are new and will have to try to manage joining a huge team,” Smith said.

Though entering a new and already close team might lead to stress, bringing back the intensity of older seniors might raise teams’ levels of cohesiveness and increase leadership. 

“I feel like the NCAA’s decision to allow players another year of eligibility will help boost the team morale, given that seniors stay,” senior Mick Abel said. “I am extremely excited to get on campus this fall!”

As the uncertainty surrounding this virus continues, fall sports are also under review. Despite a lack of solid information, the virus is predicted to possibly spike again in the fall and ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit said he would be “shocked” to see a college football season in 2020 (sportingnews.com).

 

About the Writer
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

Women’s golf swings into the new season

The+women%27s+golf+team+is+looking+forward+to+fresh+energy+this+season+from+new+players+and+coaches.

Jesuit High School

The women’s golf team is looking forward to fresh energy this season from new players and coaches.

The women’s golf team welcomes a new face as English teacher, Ms. Michele Gray, takes the position of head coach. Following the team’s two consecutive state title wins, Gray is prepared to bring new energy to this role. 

 

After graduating five dominant seniors, the young team is looking to make a name for themselves this season and have fun. With an all new coaching staff and only two upperclassmen, the girls are not feeling extreme pressure from their previous performances, but are still looking forward to a successful season.

 

“My goal for this season is to make it to state as a team,” senior captain Mary Scott Wolfe said. “I’m excited to have fun with the girls and just enjoy my last season.”

 

With the help of assistant coach Laurie Wagner, coach Gray is excited for the energy and attitude the duo can bring to the program.

 

“I think it’s really exciting,” Gray said. “We are starting a whole new chapter for the program, we’re small and we’re young.”

 

Unlike most Jesuit sports, golf practices and tournaments take place off campus at Langdon Farms, and the team is not provided a bus. Displaying their dedication to the sport, each day team members drive personal cars to the course. With the lack of upperclassmen, students rely heavily on carpooling and parents for transportation, making practices truly a group effort. 

 

Each day of practice is essentially a try out. To prepare a varsity team for their upcoming tournament, every practice the girls play 9 holes while the coaches record their scores. The players with the top scores will make up the varsity team for that week’s tournament.

 

While this method may increase stress, it also ensures that the players remain at the top of their game throughout the entire season. It allows players to grow mentally and learn how to react to the challenge of the sport. 

 

With the Metro League being extremely competitive, these practices help prepare the team for the challenging tournaments they face each week and the metro and state competitions to finish the season. 

 

“Our competition in the Metro League will likely be as challenging as the state competition in May,” Gray said. 

 

Golf is an extremely independent and mentally demanding sport. Recognizing the sport can produce increased stress, Gray hopes that this year the girls can focus on having fun and improving their game. 

 

“Golf by its nature is a pretty pressure filled sport, it’s very individual, in basketball if you make a bad shot you can just run down the court, in golf if you make a bad shot you have to make another shot,” Gray said. “So I think my personal goal is to take a little bit of the pressure off the girls and say ‘let’s have fun, let’s play, and let’s get to know each other.’” 

 

Interested in watching the ladies on the links in person, keep an eye out for their schedule on jesuitportland.org. 

 

 

About the Contributor
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

Whooping Cough spreads at Jesuit

While+there+is+a+vaccine+for+Pertussis%2C+its+impact+decreases+each+year%2C+allowing+vaccinated+students+to+contract+the+illness.

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While there is a vaccine for Pertussis, its impact decreases each year, allowing vaccinated students to contract the illness.

While Coronavirus is dominating the global health scene, locally, Jesuit faced its own health scare in the last couple months with the whooping cough disease, known more formally as pertussis. With at least four confirmed cases, Jesuit saw unusually high numbers of the rare illness this season. 

Whooping cough is a highly contagious respiratory infection. The illness, rare in the United States, generally impacts less than 200,000 people each year (mayoclinic.org). 

“We’ve had whooping cough only one or two times over the last 4-5 years, so this is unusual,” Principal Hogan said.

After receiving notification of confirmed cases from the Washington County health department, school custodians spent hours deep cleaning common areas and classrooms where the students have class. Teachers are notified and instructed to be aware when one of their students is impacted, and a schoolwide email is sent out. Emails intend to protect the identity of the student while also giving enough information for others to know if they could have been exposed. 

“We ask medical professionals for the best advice,” Hogan said. “Our approach has been to send an email to alert everybody hopefully without causing panic.”

While there is a vaccination for the illness, it is not 100% effective. The vaccination, DTap for children under 7 and Tdap for older children, teens, and adults, must be obtained multiple times throughout one’s life to continue prevention of the illness. The vaccination is strongest the year it is received and faces a modest decrease in protection through the years. (Cdc.gov).

As a private school, Jesuit can ensure vaccinations are met before the beginning of a new school year. The Tdap vaccine is required by the school, meaning that the students affected had been vaccinated prior to contracting the illness. 

In the peak of flu season, many students are sick with other common illnesses. The overlap of whooping cough cases, absences due to the common cold or flu virus, and the everpresent spread of Coronavirus in the news has caused fear for many students.

“So many people are sick right now you don’t know who could have whooping cough,” senior Kenzie Gross said. “It makes it even scarier.”

Illnesses as severe as whooping cough can cause students to miss many days of school. In such an academically demanding environment, students may feel pressure to ignore signs of sickness to avoid falling behind in class. 

Senior Danny Murphy often feels unable to miss school and prioritizes his academics over his own health. 

“I wish that when I was sick I could stay home, sleep and get better without the pressure to go to school so I don’t fall behind,” Murphy said. “I think it’s an issue that leads to illness spreading much faster around Jesuit, and also makes it much harder to recover quickly.”

When illness is spreading around Jesuit, the school continues to urge students to stay home and focus on their recovery. 

“We recognize the pressure students feel, but we always tell students to follow their doctor’s orders, stay home, and we will work with you to help catch up once you are healthy,” Hogan said. 

The school has seen one other severely contagious illness 12 years ago with a case of MRSA. Though only one student was affected, the severity and possible spread of the disease sent the school into panic. Jesuit responded to this illness similarly, and focused on protecting students and staff. 

“We cleared out all the locker rooms, sprayed them, and told people if they have a cut or infection to go to their doctors and stay home,” Hogan said.

As always, it is important for students and staff to pay attention to their health and practice good hygiene habits.

About the Writer
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

Seniors named national STEM scholars

Seniors Rupert Li (left) and Soumik Chakraborty (right) were both named finalists from the Regeneron STS.

Jesuit High School

Seniors Rupert Li (left) and Soumik Chakraborty (right) were both named finalists from the Regeneron STS.

In January, seniors Rupert Li and Soumik Chakraborty were named in the top 300 finalists of the Regeneron Science Talent Search with, Li later recognized as a top 40 finalist. Both students were honored for their individual research and achievements in respective fields of math and science. 

Regeneron Science Talent Search (STS) is a national competition for seniors interested in science and mathematics. The competition, which started in 1942, is regarded as the nation’s “oldest and most prestigious science and mathematics competition.” (societyforscience.org)

Finalists for 2020 came from a pool of roughly 2000 applicants. From this 2000, 300 were chosen and from this 300, 40 finalists have been selected. On March 10, finalists will be picked from this 40 at an event in Washington DC. Finalists are chosen based on their creativity and originality of their research as well as their leadership. 

Learning of the competition from Jesuit alumni and participation in other STEM competitions, both Li and Chakraborty have long had this senior-only opportunity on their radars. During the past few years, each has been busy conducting necessary research for the extensive application process.

With Li exploring mathematic models and equations and Chakraborty examining the issue of stress through a scientific approach, both students’ research and projects were inspired and executed very differently. 

Li, who worked on a project titled “Compatible Recurrent Identities of the Sandpile Group and Maximal Stable Configurations” was introduced to the Sandpile Model through his participation in the MIT PRIMES-USA program while working with a mentor. His research, conducted over the last year, was directed at the mathematical foundation and abstract concept of the group structure of the model. 

“If you take a pile of sand and imagine what happens when you add more sand to it, eventually it will collapse,” Li said. “So you can make a model that tries to understand the behaviors of that…it’s interesting from a mathematic and worldly perspective and is historically significant in the models of natural phenomena. For example, the model can be used to study landslides.”

Chakraborty spent his time researching and developing a non-intrusive stress detector through shoes. In middle school, he realized stress was a common factor among his peers and young people in general. After reading more about the correlations between stress and its dangerous effects, Chakraborty was inspired to do something. 

“The idea is that when [people] are experiencing stress that is unhealthy or abnormal, they can get timely help,” Chakraborty said. “Knowing it was a problem and that there weren’t any non-intrusive devices out there that helped people, I wanted to develop something. Plus I wanted to develop something that wouldn’t cause pain or discomfort to a wearer, and I figured embedding something in shoes would allow it to be integrated into everyday life pretty quickly”

Alumni of the Regeneron STS have gone on to win 11 National Medals of Science, five Breakthrough Prizes, 21 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, two Fields Medals and 13 Nobel Prizes. Being recognized at this level is a high honor for both students as well as a notable reflection on Jesuit.

“It felt really exciting and also really inspiring that I was recognized for my research,” Chakraborty said. “It’s pretty special to be part of the Regeneron scholar community. Seeing in the past how much other Regeneron scholars have helped advance society and the contributions they’ve made, being part of that community now is pretty awesome.”

While the process prior to this has all been via submission and evaluation, top 40 finalist, Li, will attend a formal gala in Washington DC where he will present his work in a more traditional science fair setting. He will be judged face-to-face for the first time with other competitors. From this, ten finalists will be chosen. 

Li is both grateful for his achievements and excited at the possibility of being a member of the top ten.

“I was really surprised, they call you so it’s really sudden,” Li said. “It’s a great honor, and makes all the work I put into the project and math in general even more gratifying knowing someone else appreciates it. Being in the top ten would be unreal.” 

While both students have been part of other science and math competitions, the research done for Regeneron STS has been their biggest projects to date. The opportunity has allowed them both to engage deeper with their passions and learn more about their fields. 

“I definitely learned a lot about how research works and what it’s like to think about a problem that you want to solve, how to break it down into different steps and then work at one problem at a time, persevere, and then eventually get somewhere with that problem,” Chakraborty said. 

Competitors involved in Regeneron STS are competing for over 1.8 million dollars. Top 300 finalists receive $2,000 as well as $2,000 to their schools. Top 40 finalists receive $25,000 and top ten finalists’ prizes range from $40,000 to a top award of $250,000.

In November, Chakraborty was given the chance to lead a Ted talk at TedX Youth Portland where he discussed his product. During his talk, Chakraborty emphasized the untalked about epidemic of stress and encouraged youth in the community to be advocates and look for ways to use innovation to tackle health problems. In the future, he hopes to collaborate with shoe companies in order to get his product on the market.

As part of the competition criteria, both Li and Chakraborty are recognized for their leadership and dedication to areas of STEM inside and outside the classroom. 

About the Contributor
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

Should Jesuit hire a school nurse?

Should+Jesuit+hire+a+school+nurse%3F

Photo by Marcelo Leal on Unsplash

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Should Jesuit hire a school nurse?

Written by: Virginia Larner

November 2019

When it comes to availability of school nurses, Oregon has a serious shortage. The state is ranked #47 on the list by the National School Nurse Association, and students and parents are starting to wonder if they are medically safe attending schools that do not employ an on campus nurse.

Jesuit is among the majority of schools in Oregon that lack a school nurse. When students are sick at school they are sent to Mrs. Pieratt and Mrs. McQueen. They determine if the student should be sent home depending on the severity of the illness. There is also a heath room in the office where students can lie on a bed or wait in one of the five chairs.

“If the student has a fever or has vomited they are automatically sent home,” Mrs. Linda Pierrat said.

When a student is severely injured or has fainted there is another protocol. Teachers radio the office for assistance, then the Director of Security and members of the administration report to the location. They assess the injury and alert the parents as well as determine whether 9-1-1 should be called.

 

While it may be easy for any administrator to send a student home who isn’t feeling well, there are many students with more serious illnesses who may not be receiving the attention they need when there is no available school nurse. Students with type one diabetes who need to actively monitor their health might be one demographic who benefit from having an on-site nurse readily available.

Parents of students who require more extensive medical care might wonder if their children are being adequately cared for at schools where there is no nurse present. Additionally, school nurses can offer medical advice to students who are not receiving information anywhere else.

 “We definitely need a nurse,” senior Yosan Tewelde said. “The people I work with always say to go to your school nurse for more information, but what if there is no school nurse to go to?”

Tewelde, who works with Planned Parenthood, stresses how important a school nurse can be to students who need access to additional information and resources.

According to Mrs. Pieratt, Jesuit has considered hiring a school nurse in the past, however, the school still does not employ a nurse. 

The recommended student-to-nurse ratio is one nurse for every 750 students. In Oregon, the ratio is currently one nurse to every 2,600 students.  The shortage of school nurses in Oregon has been an issue for the last decade, and legislators have tried to pass bills requiring one school nurse for every 1,500 students. These bills have repeatedly failed to pass. 

One explanation of this shortage is the budget for schools. Many schools are not able to hire another employee as a school nurse. 

In some districts there are “district nurses,” who divide the days in the week between multiple public schools within a district. These nurses will spend certain days at one school and others at a different school.

School nurses are generally RNs, but there can also be instances where a person acts as the school’s nurse, but is not an official registered nurse. 

Currently, there is a push to hire nurses with specific qualifications regarding mental health, however some argue that student counselors are meant to serve this purpose. 

Jesuit does not currently employ a school nurse, however may consider this option in the future. 

About the Contributor
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

Pope Francis Synod

Pope+Francis+Synod

Pope Francis holds synod for changes in the Amazon

November 2019


Written by Virginia Larner

Oct. 6 marked the beginning of a special synod directed at making vast changes in the pan-Amazonian region of the Catholic Church. The synod, made up of selected bishops and various advisors, will conclude Oct. 27 with a closing mass lead by Pope Francis. 

A synod is a special assembly of Church clergy and other individuals in the laity to decide upon issues of administration, doctrine, and application. At the end of this three week meeting, the Pope will approve a document listing the decisions made.

The synod, which has been in preparation since its announcement in 2017, will focus on issues of protecting the environment and exploited lands, inculturation and liturgy, migration, protection of water, human trafficking, forming effective communicators, access to preists, and women’s role in the Amazonian Church. Many followers believe this synod will be the hallmark of Francis’s papacy.

“This Pope is interesting, because he tackles relevant issues that haven’t been dealt with before,” senior Peter Murphy said.

Of the 200 participants of the synod, over 145 are coming from South or Central America. With the focus being on the Amazonian region, it is important that indigenous people remain part of this discussion.

Among the issues being discussed, the access people in the Amazon have to mass and the Sacraments is a top priority. In some regions, it is common for people to have mass with a priest only once or twice a year. One proposed idea is for older, possibly married, men, already ordained as deacons in the communities to be ordained. Additionally, the idea of women being ordained as deacons has again risen as a proposal.

There is controversy surrounding this idea, as many believe this topic should be discussed at a regular synod due to the potential effects and changes to tradition it would have on the rest of the Church. 

The ordination of women has been in question for years, but many resist this idea as they argue it sways from Catholic tradition. However, there was a time when Catholic women could be deacons in the church and were included largely in the clergy. 

In areas of South and Central America it is common that women are the leaders of communities. Ordaining women in the Amazonian region would allow these leaders to include the church more regularly in their communities. 

“What happens if you’re in a position of leadership as a women [in the Church] and you do not have to report to a male at the end of the day?” Campus Ministry Director Don Clarke questioned. “How would that happen in the Church?”

Another main focus of the synod is the protection of the earth and the land in the Amazon. A key proposal includes the establishment of a “permanent observatory of human rights and protection of the Amazon” which would entail a new Church law directing the actions of Christians towards the environment. Another detail of this includes Catholic universities making a preferential option for the education of indigenous people (americamagazine.org). 

Francis has made a point of encouraging people to be more environmentally conscious. He works to spread awareness of climate change, an issue seen clearly by people living in the Amazon region. 

Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has been open to discussing more progressive ideas since he was voted into the papacy. He has spoken about topics such as gay marriage, abortion, and even possible schism. Francis is unlike many popes who came before him, and appeals to more young Catholics. 

“Young people and young adults who follow what he says are edified, meaning there is some encouragement that the pope knows who they are, and wants them to be a part of the church,” Clarke said. 

Since he began as Pope, Francis has tackled many corruption issues that also challenged previous popes. 

“One of the things that the Pope really addresses is the issue of power and how the church has used and abused power,” Clarke said. “The Pope has said we can not keep doing this.”

After the synod concludes, proponents are looking to establish a permanent organization in the Amazonian region to implement the changes made by the synod. 

The impact of this synod will be great within the Church, and the decisions made have the potential to change the way the Catholic Church operates. 

“There are different times of excitement when it comes to the Church starting to move,” Clarke said. “For me I would say to people in high school this is unbelievably exciting because we’ve never really seen anything like this.”

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About the Writer
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

Is single-use plastic ruining the planet?

Is+single-use+plastic+ruining+the+planet%3F

Is single-use plastic destroying our planet?

OCTOBER 2019


Written by Virginia Larner

One million plastic bottles are purchased every minute, and by 2050 it is estimated that the amount of plastic waste in our oceans will outweigh the amount of fish. Plastic’s negative impact on our environment cannot be overlooked, and it has been left to our generation to enact change.

While some may feel that the issue is out of reach, there are personal choices we can all make to better the state of our Earth. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis emphasizes how the collective effort of many individuals can have a large impact.

“We have to think outside the box about one thing we can change in our lives, and if everyone does one thing it actually adds up to be a lot,” associate director of ecological justice and global networking Jennifer Kuenz, said.

Currently, society is seeing a large push towards reducing single-use plastics.

 “I feel like we are taking good steps towards a change,” senior Ella Howe said. “A lot of restaurants and businesses are getting rid of plastic straws, which seems like a small thing, but it does have a great impact on the Earth.”

Recently, Jesuit has evolved to better address issues of single-use plastics. The school partners with TerraCycle, an organization which deals with hard-to-recycle waste in effort to effectively recycle plastic waste. This year, the cafeteria has eliminated the access to plastic straws, the science and English departments use refillable expo-markers, recycling spaces are easily accessible around campus, the faculty lounge has reusable utensils and plates, the athletic department has QR codes to be scanned rather than printing out team rosters, and Mrs. Deklotz hands out silicone straws as advertising for prospective students.

 “As a school, I think we have done a good job limiting and dealing with plastic waste that we do create,” science teacher Kathryn Mahoney said.

Currently, one of the four universal apostolic preferences for Jesuits is “Caring for our common home.” This goal calls Jesuits to focus on our environment and protect God’s creation.

“We’re a materialistic society, but as a Jesuit school we are called to be counter cultural,” Kuenz said.

While Jesuit is taking initiative with the issue, there is always more that could be done. In the trash audits done by students, one of the largest waste contributors was plastic packaging of food. Another major producer of plastic waste are school events. Purchasing plastic goods for events may offer convenience for the purchaser; however, this convenience comes at the price of our environment’s health.

“Whoever produces [plastic goods] doesn’t have to deal with the trash, the consumer does,” Mahoney said. “The cost of the waste is not on the producer…what if we changed that?”

Much of what needs to be changed falls at the hands of political will, and environmental issues remain a large topic of discussion in the current election. While the majority of high school students can’t vote, we do have power over how we spend our money and what kinds of goods we purchase.

A goal of Kuenz for this year is creating a general policy to be in effect over what the school will bring on campus. This policy would dictate what we as a school are committed to buying or not buying. It could include everything from recyclable products to fair trade products. 

Though we continue to take steps towards eliminating plastic waste, environmental issues remain a large stressor in teenagers lives. 

“I’m pretty scared,” Howe said. “We are preparing for a future that doesn’t exist.”

 It is no secret that plastic usage has increased over time without effective recycling. The Pacific Garbage Patch taking up over 1.6 million kilometers in our ocean. 

“You go to the beach and there are little bits of plastic in the sand…when I was a kid that wasn’t there,” Mahoney said.

Some “small” personal choices everyone can make to eliminate plastic waste include: using a refillable water bottle instead of buying a plastic one, packing lunch items in reusable containers, switching out bottled soaps for bars, investing in reusable straws, having a reusable produce bag, purchasing items in bulk, and ensuring that any plastic waste is properly recycled.

 “Your generation needs to be not only aware, but active,” Mahoney said. “Awareness is one thing, but it doesn’t do anything unless you act on it.”

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About the Writer
Photo of Virginia Larner
Virginia Larner, Alumni 2017-2020

Virginia Larner is a senior at Jesuit. She has been on the journalism staff for the last three years, and the editorial board for the last two. Each year...

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