Students want to hear more about climate change initiatives

Dal researcher Sussanne Benz reshaping the conversation around heat, while students surprised they haven’t heard more about it

Dalhousie University researchers are publishing potential solutions to climate change. The question remains, however: does the university take this seriously?

In an article published by Dal News, “From the ground up: How heat recycling could help keep Nova Scotians warmer each winter,” author Stephen Abbot discussed a study led by Dalhousie University researcher Sussanne Benz on heat recycling. This study has found that using currently available technology, heat can be drawn out from underground and used as space heating using groundwater and natural surface heat. This process is known as “heat recycling.”

What is heat recycling? 

The study found that heat recycling is carbon-free and uses fewer fossil fuels to run than non-heat recycling practices. Abbot said in his article that the study found between three-quarters to 99 per cent of research locations “were able to fulfil their heating needs with heat recycling.”

Benz explained this study helps to reframe the conversation around heat resources and hopefully provides a viable alternative to fossil fuels. However, it’s a resource she feels has been ignored until now.

“Dalhousie has a wide range of resources to put towards the research of fossil fuels. I believe they should put those resources to good use,” said first-year pharmacy student Katie Zwicker. “Dalhousie scientists should focus on a more cost-effective way to cut down on the use of fossil fuels so they can be used by the general public, not just the rich.”

Recycled heat is both a renewable and reusable resource, meaning it would be cost-effective and environmentally friendly. 

However, the switch from fossil fuels to more sustainable ones has been slow. Nova Scotia is one of the slowest provinces to shift away from fossil fuels when it comes to home heating. 36 per cent of Nova Scotian homes still use oil for heat, the second largest percentage in the country behind Prince Edward Island.

“I do think that Dalhousie’s involvement in researching fossil fuels is a great use of their knowledge. And I hope Benz’s study proves to provide an efficient and cost-effective heat source for the public,” said Zwicker.

Dalhousie researcher Sussanne Benz is trying to reshape the conversation around energy usage. Dal students want the university to take more action against climate change. (Angela Capobianco)

Students want to hear more about Dal climate research

“I feel like anytime you have a university or institution this big, it comes with a responsibility to research and work towards ensuring your institution isn’t this giant polluter,” said Marcus Puddu, a first-year student at the University of King’s College. “You have the responsibility to share in a clear, accessible manner what you’re working on and provide those opportunities to learn and hear about it.”

Puddu feels on-campus initiatives promoting climate change research and action need more promotion.

“I think it’s so often that there are so many amazing programs and initiatives that a lot of institutions have, but you just don’t hear about it. At the university I transferred from, they were so vocal about all these climate change initiatives that they had,” said Puddu. 

The annual Student Walk-Out for Climate strike was planned for Sept. 23, but was cancelled due to Hurricane Fiona. The climate strike encouraged students to take action for the environment. 

The Dalhousie Gazette spoke with two organizers with Divest Dal about the importance of Dalhousie taking climate action in a way that is consistent with their work. 

“It’s up to institutions that have the power to promote change and to actually take those steps,” said Rosie Bleyer, a fourth-year environmental science student. “It’s their moral obligation to do so for their students who are mostly young people.”

Bleyer said that while many Dal professors take climate change seriously and even support Divest Dal, the university isn’t taking action the way it should.

“Dalhousie really talks a lot about how they have LEED-certified buildings,” said Sophie Friesen. LEED is a sustainable building certification that is assigned to buildings that uphold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. “But I think it’s just so much more than what happens here.” 

Friesen explained Dal’s financial investments across the country regularly go against the standards that they hold themselves to on campus.  Students can also combat climate change by getting involved in student-run organizations such as The Loaded-Ladle Food Co-op, Your Environment Sustainability Society, or joining off-campus organizations such as the Ecology Action Centre.

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