Earth Week promotes sustainability in a modern society

This past week marked the commencement of Trinity’s first-ever Earth Week, filled with a number of environmentally friendly events and activities. Earth Week  was sponsored by Campus Planning and Sustainability Facilities Services, Students Organized for Sustainability, and Trinity University Community Gardening Club.

Beginning on Monday, April 16, highlighted events included the Trinity Trash Hill in the Northrup Parking Lot, an Earth Day Lecture, the SOS Earth Day Festival and the Art Exhibit: Exposing Connectivity Through Waste. Earth Week concludes with tomorrow and Sunday’s “Zero Waste at the Ballgame,” where there will be a student-coordinated effort to make the Trinity baseball series a “zero waste” event.

Last Tuesday David E. Shi, President Emeritus of Furman University, presented an Earth Day Lecture titled, “Taking the Long View: Adapting to a Sustainable Future.” He expressed that it was important to use Earth Day to examine where we’ve been, how far we’ve come and how much farther we need to go to become a truly sustainable society.

“It is hard to strive to live in a better world when you are paralyzed by fear,” Shi said. “This is not to make you feel guilty about the earth’s future, it is more to get you to refresh your priorities.”

He explained that today, the context of Earth Day has changed since the first one on April 22, 1970. Shi said he himself was a college freshman at the time, and the environmental pollution was widespread with thick smog, toxic chemicals, pesticides and raw sewage.

“A new generation of complicated problems has emerged that are less visible, more complex and more daunting,” Shi said. “We are now talking about adapting to realities of climate change and litigating the effects””depending on the choices we make over the next century, we have the ability to either hasten or slow these effects. We must begin challenging new realities with the impact of 7 billion people on this planet, all eager to have a higher quality of life.”

While Shi admitted “sustainability” is not a graceful or precise term, he found the word to invoke a compelling premise””that our current way of doing things is unsustainable. He reasoned that the term involves thinking and behaving with the future in mind, promoting both the health of the environment and human society.

“Think about what sustains you, what fulfills you on an individual level””is it simply air, food and shelter, or is it more than that””like the beauty of nature?” asked Shi. “We are at a critical juncture, a tipping point, and these challenges are urgent but not readily solved. Greening the world begins with greening your own worlds, and you have the power to change the world to some degree.”

Judith Norman, associate professor in the Department of Philosophy, shared her thoughts on the creation of Trinity’s first-ever Earth Week.

“I’m so excited to see an issue that really cuts across the spectrum politically,” Norman said. “Everyone unanimously sees that this is a huge problem and how public these issues are. Personally, I am interested as an academic and as a citizen.”

Norman explained she thinks the biggest environmental issue today is the outcome of the Supreme Court’s “˜Citizens United’ case in 2010, which held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting political expenditures by corporations and unions.

“That’s the worst thing that has ever happened to the planet,” said Norman. “You count on the government to regulate standards, but it is being severely compromised by unlimited corporate funds. Citizens United has blocked the ability of the government to make corporations clean up””they will pollute because they want to do things as cheaply as possible. We have got to put more regulatory peace into the government.”

Senior Jane Wilberding, an urban studies and business double major, spoke about her experience with this year’s Earth Week as a member of both SOS and TUGC.

“If anybody was wondering about the trash heaps on campus earlier in the week, we were collecting Trinity trash from everywhere except the dining hall,” Wilberding said. “Basically, every student produces a pound of trash daily, excluding food. Looking at what’s in the trash, it is probably 80 percent recyclable, and I think people who took the time to inspect it and respond to it realized how much we waste on campus.”

Wilberding added that Earth Week is a great step in the right direction for Trinity in creating increased environmental awareness.

“I think the purpose of Earth Week is to promote environmental stewardship. Even though Trinity is a small college, we have been taking a lot of initiatives to create a more green campus. We recently established an environmental studies department at Trinity, and the SOS club just got funding from ASR to work on more projects, so I think it’s a win-win for everyone,” Wilberding said.

Junior Mitch Hagney, an international environmental studies major, also commented on his involvement with Earth Week as a founder of TUGC and president-elect of SOS.

“I think we are becoming competitive with activitist universities, and we have enough students working together to focus on activist campaigns””this shows how important these issues are,” Hagney said. “To me, the creation of Earth Week [at Trinity] shows that environmentalism is a core concern and issue, and it is a testament to student interest that this is happening for the first time ever.”

Hagney expressed that Earth Week is intended to make students aware of the small ways to be more sustainable, and to make individuals more environmentally responsible.