For most people, Earth Day is a day-long celebration of the natural world. For Carleton students, however, it is a weeklong event, filled with various festivities to increase the average student’s awareness of a variety of issues related to the Earth.
Earth Week 2011, planned mainly by the Sustainability Assistants (STA) kicked off this year with a dinner and discussion at WHOA house on Monday, April 18. Martha Larson, Carleton’s Manager of Campus Energy and Sustainability, and Aaron Swoboda, an ENTS and Economics professor, led the discussion about Carleton’s Climate Action Plan, which commits Carleton to developing a carbon-neutral campus by 2050.
Following Monday’s kickoff event, Tuesday afternoon yielded the Turbine Trot, a 5k run to the Carleton wind turbine. Although sleet and snow caused a slight drop in attendance, the dinner and discussion that followed the event were nevertheless well-attended. At Farm House that night, Swoboda and Dan Hernandez, a biology professor, discussed the question “What is nature worth?” with a group of interested students.
Later, University of Utah political science professor Daniel McCool also delivered a talk entitled, “River Republic: The Rise and Fall of America’s Rivers.” The “River Republic,” a specific term that McCoy coined to describe the modern river restoration movement. The talk was was fairly well-attended and lasted approximately an hour.
Earth Week continued with two more events on Wednesday night. First, “Tapped,” a documentary about the bottled water industry, was shown at 7:00 PM in Leighton. The bottled water industry is one of the least-regulated in the nation, and the movie discusses how many bottled water companies simply rebottle tap water and sell it at higher prices – including Aquafina and Dasani, the two brands that are currently sold in Carleton vending machines. This process wastes both excess water and energy, and is particularly wasteful because most water bottles end up in landfills, where they cannot decompose.
In addition to the film, the Student Organization for the Protection of the Environment (SOPE) also hosted “Bring a Friend” night, for members to bring friends and learn about environmentalism at Carleton. Another film, “Green Fire,” about the life of conservationist Aldo Leopold, was also shown the following night.
Unfortunately, the final event of the week – the Earth Day carnival – was slightly dampened due to the steady rain that fell on Friday; as a result, it was moved from the Bald Spot, where it is traditionally held, to the Cassat basement. Students could still enjoy popsicles, tie-dye t-shirts, plant flowers in small containers and sign a pledge to protect the Earth. In addition, Carleton’s chapter of the “Take Back the Tap” campaign hosted a booth encouraging students to move away from expensive, bottled water and towards tap water. Despite the dreary skies, about fifty students showed up to enjoy the carnival.
The weather “put a damper” on the festivities, noted STA Libby Nachman ‘12, but despite the rain, sleet and snow that plagued Northfield last week, many of the events were well-attended, particularly the dinners and movie screenings.
“A lot of my job is about education and awareness of environmental issues,” Nachman said. Earth Week, she said, is crucial: not only does it provide a “good venue for more awareness and education,” but it allows Carleton students to access information about all different kinds of environmental problems – an important resource in this environmentally-conscious age.