Everything’s coming up roses for Earth Week

Stacey Day

These days, some people are finding it a little harder to smile than in times past. The economy is spiraling downward, and Earth Week only reminds us of all the irreparable damage we have been and are continuing to do to our one and only home. Global average temperatures have already risen about 1.5 degrees Celsius in the past century, and everywhere both population and human consumption and waste seem to be on the rise. The rainforests will be gone in 40 years and maybe even the peninsula of Florida too, yet here at Lawrence a weeklong event of speakers, visionaries, scientists and artists have been disseminating a message primarily of hope and determination to change the future.
Starting with Andrew McCann Monday night, Green Roots orchestrated an entire week of Earth-based activities, speakers, demonstrations and performances to propagate this inspiring message of environmental hope for the future, contingent on our awareness of the present situation.
McCann, the coordinator for the Sustainable Local Foods for All Canadians program and self-described “hybrid academic/activist,” spoke to an audience of students, faculty and miscellaneous community members about the agricultural system and general crisis of healthy food both here in North America and elsewhere.
During his time on campus, McCann expressed excitement over our choice of Bon Appétit and our push for greener food here at Lawrence: “I think that’s huge – an actually sustainable combination of farm food here would be interesting, healthy, educational and delicious!”
Just prior to Andrew McCann’s speech, David Burrows conferred an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters to Virginia Purdy ’39 for all her community work raising eco-awareness. Megan Bjella ’09 accepted the award on her behalf.
Tuesday the focus switched to waste, garbage, and all other forms of trash, as evidenced by the construction of a “Mount Trashmore” in front of Youngchild Hall. Rain poured down unattractively on this huge mound of our waste, as guest speaker Annie Leonard – maker of the popular online film “the Story of Stuff,” as well as qualified research scientist in her own right – gave a presentation in the chapel on how “100 percent of our trash” could and should be recycled.
In a question and answer session in Riverview earlier in the day, Leonard explained how her original love of the environment began as a youth in Seattle, noticing that “the forest was further and further away each summer [and with it] an intense reverence I had for nature because of how the forest made me feel.”
Wednesday the weather brightened in time for the “LU TV Turn Off Event,” directed by the efforts of student volunteers, with Marissa Mastel heading the crews.
Said Mastel, “Our goal was to create a fun earth-related activity for kids in the community to come out and not sit inside just watching the TV.”
Families from around Appleton brought their children for earth-day activities aimed at getting children and their families out-of-doors, activities including SLUG garden tours, garbage toss, face painting, mural making, and ORC camping demonstrations.
Wednesday afternoon Jeffrey R. White, professor of environmental studies at Indiana University, lectured concerning “Climate Feedbacks and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Northern Peatlands: Meltdown of the Great White North.”
Following White, the Lawrence University Wind Ensemble will grace us with a concert Friday titled “Music of Sea and Sky.” Freshman horn player Emma Richart, for one, anticipates that “it should really capture the spirit of Earth Week and be totally rocking.”
These weeklong events were all sponsored by Green Roots, leading up to the traditional one day Earth-bonanza-fest-a-thon traditionally conducted by Greenfire with the help of other campus groups. Jess Vogt, a student representative on the Green Roots board, said that this weeklong extension of earth-loving is just a precursor of things to come: “We are trying to view it as more of a kickoff for an Earth-themed year, and not just a week or day. Green Roots hopes to be involved more all the time, more visibility on campus, whereas right now we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes.”
This Saturday’s continuation of festivities promises a bacchanalia of eco-friendly partying in a dramatic climax to the week. Tie-dying, face painting, live music all day long, booths and smaller events hosted by various student groups on campus, and a colossal picnic on Main Hall Green with all organic catered food are all in the plans. Be sure to stop by for the fun and picnic and party with the open-air dance on Main Hall Green that will last well into Sunday, by early estimates.