Hello vols and all readers! Thank you for deciding to read this week, whether it’s because you liked the pun that is my column name, or you are just really, really bored. Either way, thank you, and I hope you’ll stick with me for the next 3,500-4,000 words.

Just kidding.

I’ll start diving into the depths of some environmental issues next time, but today I wanted to explain who I am, what I want to do and why you should even bother to listen to me.

My name is Emma Heins, and I am a senior majoring in Geology and Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Political Science and a minor in Public Health. Now that’s a mouthful, so I usually tell people that I really like the earth and I really, really like talking about it.

My professional interests are primarily in water quality policy and how it relates to human health, which we’ll touch more on later. On campus, I am involved in the Green Fee Committee and the Committee on the Campus Environment, and I am the former director of the Environment and Sustainability committee within student government. I have spent a lot of time talking with students, faculty and staff about exactly how our campus is affecting the environment around us.

Now, if you’re thinking this all sounds familiar, good work! I wrote this column for a little over a year during my sophomore and junior years, but I took a break last semester while I developed my time management skills. But the important thing is that I am back now and ready to talk about all of the big and small issues that are facing the planet that we call home.

My goal for this column is wide: I want to talk about the relevant environmental issues, be it campus level or international, in a way that is accessible to everyone. That’s right! Science writing that you don’t need a B.S. to understand. If I start throwing our jargon like p-values or chemical equations, you can close right out of this tab and there are no hard feelings from me.

So often, scientists and science writers are focused on making their writing concise and intelligent sounding for the people in their field that they forget that their writing is almost incomprehensible (yeah, I’m looking at you, 26-page journal article I had to read for my 8 a.m. last semester). Climate change and conservation is arguably one of the largest threats to our society today, and if we don’t learn how to publish our information in a way that is digestible and actionable for EVERYONE, what is it even there for?

I hope to end every piece with a tangible thing that every one of us can do to make an impact, or in this case reduce our impact, on the environment around us. Doomsday scare tactics don’t work, despite what major news outlets think. They create apathy, not action.

So my task for you this week is to learn what is a scare tactic and what is just climate realism! When someone tells you a fact about climate change or pollution, ask them where they heard it. See if you can find multiple sources to confirm it. Rigorously vet something before you believe it. Someone (i.e. me) telling you that the Tennessee river has one of the highest concentrations of micro-plastics in the world isn’t a scare tactic, that is just a fact! There’s empirical research to back that up. But someone on your dorm floor telling you that climate change will kill us tomorrow with no evidence to back it up? Scare tactic.

Emma Heins is a senior majoring in Environmental Studies. She can be reached at eheins@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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