Author Reflects on Treatment of Natural Resources

On Wednesday, Feb. 16, nature writer and environmental activist Rick Bass spoke about his early introductions to a common view of the natural world as a resource to be exploited for personal gain.

Bass spoke in Daughtery-Palmer Commons (DPC) as part of the VOICES series.

Bass’ soft voice drifted over the crowded hall as he began to speak on the difficulties of being an activist and the strengths of being a writer: “you have so much power when you have a pen in your hand.”

After this brief introduction Bass read his nonfiction story “Titan.” He started with a description of his older brother, Otto, who grew up to be an investment banker while Bass became an environmental activist.

This stark difference in careers and viewpoints was a concept that Bass returned to several times during his reading.

Speaking about Otto, Bass said, “there was nothing he did not see as a commodity,” which he compared to his own “hunger for closeness and a connection.”

Bass described his yearly family vacations in which his family, whose parents had lived through the Great Depression and were very frugal, traveled to a resort hotel where they shared space with “men and women no less than corporate titans.”

He spoke about his own feelings of disconnect from these individuals and their “different types of gluttony.”

As a child he was “free to inhabit the reckless lands of [his] imagination,” and had different interests than the other resort guests.

He would explore the grounds of the resort and catch a type of frog that is now almost extinct. On this fact he said, “what other bright phenomena will vanish in our lifetime?”

During one of these yearly vacations Bass heard about an event called the Jubilee, a natural, but unusual mixing of high concentrations of salt and fresh water which stuns fish and sea life causing them to subsequently float to the surface in high numbers.

A tradition in the area, Bass and his family participated in gathering up huge numbers of stunned fish with pillowcases, baskets and buckets.

During this event, “class distinctions fell away” as staff and patrons of the hotel gathered fish together for a fish fry hosted by the hotel.

Bass said that people gathering the fish were “unwilling to stop even though the feast was waiting…[and] they had taken enough, taken more than enough.”

He said there was “too much gluttony and not enough humility.”

Bass’ experience with his family vacations, the people at the hotel and the Jubilee were influential in developing his need for connection to others and the preservation of the environment.

During the question and answer session Bass gave advice to young activists. “It’s really important to have a community of activists…you can’t do it alone.”

He ended on a somber note, “I fear we are devolving as a species…[as we become] disengaged with the natural world.”

Student attendees enjoyed Bass’ lecture. Sophomore Caroline Sellers said, “It makes you think in a different perspective about nature…I see things in more of a natural way than a commercial way.”

Sophomore Jocelyn Baltz said Bass’ writing “help[ed] me appreciate landscapes I’ve never been to.”


College Participates in National Recyclemania Competition

Over the next couple of weeks, the College will be participating in the national Recyclemania competition.

Recyclemania is a competition among colleges and universities to promote higher levels of recycling while tracking which schools recycle the highest percentage of their waste.

Held every year, the competition seems fierce as 600 schools attempt to beat out the rest of their peers by becoming the number one recycler.

This is the first time in two years that St. Mary’s will be participating. There are two different categories in which a school can participate: the competitive division, or the benchmark division.

This year, St. Mary’s will be participating in the benchmark division. “[Participating in the benchmark division] means we have to report our data, but we are not competing against other schools,” said Facilities Planner and Sustainability Coordinator Luke Mowbray.

“We can compare ourselves to others with less regulation.”

Recyclemania is just the first step to increasing the school’s recycling numbers. The College’s recycling rate from last year was around 40 percent of total waste produced.
The Sustainability Office is trying to increase this number to over 50 percent.

“This is a learning opportunity for us to see what works,” said Mowbray, “and this is a great opportunity for us to find ways to get students to recycle.”

The Sustainability Office has been working hard to organize this event and to find ways for students,
faculty, and staff to become involved with the program.

Lisa Neu ‘10, the Sustainability Fellow, has been working closely with many parts of the community to ensure success over the next few weeks.

“The most important part is to encourage students to recycle, and that is where we can get student clubs to help,” said Neu.

“We are trying to find ways for students to become more involved in the process.”

One of the ideas proposed was to have student volunteers go into the offices throughout campus, both faculty and staff, and recycle any old papers or office supplies.

Neu continued by saying that “this would help motivate student, staff, and faculty members to work together.”

Each week a report from St. Mary’s County sanitation workers will be sent to the College outlining how much recycling verses waste was collected.

“Weekly reports are a fantastic opportunity to show what steps can make a difference,” said Mowbray.

“We will be learning the things we ought to be doing and what works.” In the future, the Sustainability Office wants to move up into the competitive division; however problems relating to trash reporting are creating a short delay.

For the time being, the College will be learning how to better monitor the numbers while increasing both the total amount of recycling of the school and increasing community support.

However, the most important thing is “remembering to reuse over recycle,” said Mowbray.

Recyclemania will run for eight weeks starting Sunday Feb. 6 and ending Saturday, April 2.

Enviro-Ethics Lecture Pleases

On Monday Jan. 31, Andrew Terjesen lectured on magnanimity; it was a lecture proposing that human beings should take care of the environment, not because they have any obligation to or because it benefits humans to take care of it, but because they can take care of the environment and show their greatness by choosing to do so.

Terjesen was one of three philosophy candidates who spoke in the past two weeks; all are vying for an open teaching position in the philosophy department.

Terjesen’s lecture, “A Call for Magnanimity Towards the Environment,” focused on a re-evaluation of the concept of magnanimity and how it can be applied to environmental ethics; he specifically argued that care for the environment needed to be less focused on the importance of humans and benefits that can be derived from caring for the environment.

The lecture began with an introduction to debates on climate change and the uncertainty that surrounds that it. Terjesen said, “We don’t know what is going to happen…so what is our responsibility in these cases?”

He compared the problems with the relationship between interests advocating for environmental legislation and those against, such as Greenpeace versus big business, to the relationship between the environment and human beings.

In both of these cases there is one party that has much greater power to affect change; in these examples, big businesses (with more money and governmental access) and human beings.

The proposed solution in both of these cases was magnanimity. The groups who have power should recognize that they have “superiority, but [they shouldn’t] exploit it.”

Magnanimity is “about the kind of person who recognizes the position we hold could have been held by someone else” and that we personally did not accomplish the position of power that we are in.

Terjesen said that humans need to have a “sense of gratitude that you are where you are” in relation to the rest of the environment and that “morally speaking, you are a better person for not taking advantage” of that position of power.

He pointed to problems of motivating people to care about environmental issues if individuals do not see or feel effects of their actions and an individual feels that their “contribution…is not going to do anything anyway.”

In response to this and in an effort to get people to care about the environment, nature is often personified to invest interest in caring for it.

Terjesen said this anthropomorphism is only effective so far because it does not address problems with environmental systems and parts of the environment that do not feel pain or that we cannot directly see (such as soil systems or air problems).

This is why Terjesen argued for magnanimity. It is a concept that does not require us to anthropomorphize nature or to feel even connected to nature.

One simply has to realize that “the environment includes people… and you happen to be lucky enough to be the sentient one.”

The lecture was well attended by a mix of both students and faculty, all of whom had the opportunity to rate Terjesen and how well he might fit as a professor at St. Mary’s.

Junior Brendan Loughran said, “I liked that he appealed to classic examples…but also appealed to contemporary philosophers as well.”

Sybol Anderson, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, she could not speak on the lecture because she is on the search committee for a new philosophy professor, though she did describe the search and hiring process.

She said the Philosophy department was searching for how the candidates interacted with students, their fit in the department, and “competence in environmental philosophy, feminist philosophy, or both.”

This lecture was the first of three candidates who spoke in the past two weeks. Barrett Emerick presented “What are Apologies and Why do They Matter?” and Selin Gursozlu spoke on “Integrity and Moral Challenge.”

Anderson said that the new Assistant Professor of Philosophy should be decided by the end of February.

College Submits Plan to Gain Climate Neutrality By 2020

With the ever-increasing threat of climate change fueled by emissions increases, environmental damage, and low use of renewable energy, St. Mary’s submitted a Climate Action Plan on Jan. 12 to achieve climate neutrality by 2020, continuing the College’s fight for campus sustainability.

Submitted to the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the Climate Action Plan is a 26-page document detailing the College’s current carbon footprint (or total greenhouse gas emissions), current methods of reducing that footprint, and further actions to be taken in the next decade to balance energy use and consumption and become more energy efficient.

The College is one of 362 higher education institutions that have submitted the plan, which includes 22 institutions from the State of Maryland.

“Students care a lot about us being a green school,” said Sustainability Fellow Lisa Neu,‘10, “even if they don’t think about it every day.”

One of the major goals detailed in the Action Plan is to promote energy efficiency on campus, enough for at least a 15 percent increase in energy efficiency by 2020.

One approach to this goal has been to replace older, more wasteful energy sources (such as the Crescent Townhouses HVAC units) with more energy-efficient ones rather than repairing them when damaged.

“By tacking on a small fee to the repair costs, we can get the renewable product that will be more beneficial in the long run,” said Luke Mowbray, the Facilities Planner and Sustainability Coordinator at St. Mary’s.

Other methods, including Neu’s outreach programs promoting energy conservation, the use of energy-efficient light bulbs on campus, and a modified summer work-week of four days, 10 hours per day as opposed to five days, eight hours per day, are also being implemented.

Becoming more energy efficient will be a more feasible method of reducing climate change on campus than funding renewable energy.

While the Action Plan promotes a five percent increase in renewable energy on campus by 2020, the high costs of solar panels and irregular winds for wind power make such methods more difficult than becoming more energy efficient.

“The sort we use is energy efficiency rather than renewable energy,” said Mowbray. “In terms of cost, we’re doing what we can do.”

This also applies to the College approaching climate neutral rather than zero-emissions status, which would be a significantly more costly and less feasible option for St. Mary’s.

By lowering the College’s carbon footprint, increasing energy efficiency, and investing in off-site renewable energy resources, St. Mary’s hopes to offset its contribution to climate change by 80 percent by 2020 as opposed to its current 60 percent.

The Climate Action Plan does not mark the first approach of St. Mary’s towards climate neutrality. In 2008, one year after being recognized as part of the EPA Green Power Partnership, the College received a grant from the State of Maryland for a pilot program promoting green building construction.

With the help of the student body, which voted to tax itself to promote its construction, Andrew J. Goodpaster Hall became the first green building on campus, receiving a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver Certification for energy-conservative productivity.

Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum are LEED’s point-based certification levels, awarded for promoting green methods during a building’s construction and operation.

Goodpaster itself saves 300,000 gallons of water annually compared to a non-green building of similar size, and uses 30 to 40 percent less energy.

The College’s Strategic Plan also promotes green construction, as all future facilities will be green buildings. This includes the Anne Arundel Hall Replacement Project, currently in its planning stages to rebuild Anne Arundel Hall as a LEED Gold-certified building by Winter 2015.

“The Administration has been extremely supportive of this [climate-neutral] objective,” said Mowbray.

One of the many groups on campus promoting the College’s climate neutrality goal is the St. Mary’s River Project, a group of student, faculty, and community volunteers promoting environmental awareness in St. Mary’s County schools.

“Even though we don’t directly use the phrase ‘carbon neutrality’ in our lessons,” said junior and SMRP president Jon Barkley, “the kids learn that by planting trees (which help take up excess carbon dioxide), conserving land, and following the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), they can have a positive effect on our planet’s future.”

Reusable To-Go Boxes Get Test Drive in Spring

This coming spring Bon Appetit plans to implement a trial reusable to-go box program, a welcome addition to college residents tired of seeing overflowing trash cans filled with Styrofoam ones.

The call for reusable to-go boxes on campus has been growing ever since their first implementation at Eckert College in 2007, according to Sustainability Coordinator Luke Mowbrey.

Prince George’s Hall Senator and member of the sustainability committee sophomore Becky White said that other colleges, such as Washington College, Frostburg, Maryland Institute of Art, Notre Dame, and John Hopkins have also implemented similar programs.

She added, “not all these schools are necessarily [ranked] ‘greener’ than us… which speaks more to the need to do it.”

The current system of disposable to-go boxes is, in contrast to the sustainability and beautification initiatives of the college, ecologically harmful and aesthetically displeasing.

Styrofoam, according to Mowbrey, is non-biodegradable and releases many toxic chemicals when it is created.

Although recycling Styrofoam is technically possible, Mowbrey said many people don’t do it because it’s difficult and cost-prohibitive.

White said that reusable to-go boxes would cut down on the significant number of these thrown away (600 boxes a day, according to her statistics), decreasing the college’s negative environmental impact along with the amount of trash present on-campus.

She added that reusable to-go boxes would also be more durable and microwave-safe. Ultimately, Debi Wright, General Manager at Bon Appetit, said that it would take about forty uses of a single reusable to-go box to “break even” environmentally, with any use after that being an “environmental plus.”

Mowbrey said that the reusable to-go boxes, if successful, could be expected to be “a wash” financially. Mowbrey also said that the cost of the initial reusable to-go boxes, which retail at around $3.75 each, will be paid for through the College’s sustainability budget.

Wright said that although reusable to-go boxes would cut down on having to buy disposable ones, other costs would arise–such as those associated with the additional chemicals and water needed to sterilize the to-go boxes when they are brought back.

Previous students in the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) as well as former sustainability fellows have campaigned for to-go boxes in years past, but according to White there is “much, much more support” from students and administration than ever before.

“SEAC has shown a lot of interest and collected a number of signatures from students,” Mowbrey said. “It was something they brought to my attention when I came in in September.”

He added that a program for reusable to-go boxes was planned last year, but that a combination of logistical details and what he termed “little kinks” derailed the plan.

White said that a major issue were technology limits on OneCard readers, readers which have since been upgraded to support an accountability system.

The current plan for the pilot program will begin early next semester, when the first 500 students to volunteer will be able to opt-in to the program.

Mowbrey said accountability for bringing back these to-go boxes would work through the OneCard system; students who had opted in to the plan would have a mark on their account designating them as part of the trial, and after taking out one reusable to-go box would be expected to bring it back to be cleaned and provided with another one.

He said that at this point there were no financial burdens to be placed on students who wanted to be part of the program or those who lost a to-go box, but that these may be implemented later depending on the results of this pilot.

Mowbrey also emphasized that the program was optional, and Styrofoam to-go boxes would still be readily available for anyone who wanted them.

Although there is expected backlash to the change, possibly similar to that upon removing trays from the Great Room last spring, most people involved with the program expect things to go well. According to White, “most schools, after doing the pilot, have been successful.”

“Tar Creek” Informed Viewers of Env. Disaster

On Wednesday Nov. 17, the film Tar Creek was screened in Cole Cinema; it told the story of a Superfund site in Picher, Oklahoma.

The site is an environmental disaster and millions of dollars of federal money have been spent to attempt to clean up the huge amounts of toxic waste left over from the lead and zinc mines there.

Kate Chandler, Associate Professor of English and Coordinator of Environmental Studies, introduced the film. She said that there is the “hope [that] we all walk away with a more informed understanding about [Superfund sites].”

There are three Superfund sites in St. Mary’s county; Chandler said, “we are not immune to this…these are places we’re not even aware of…ignorance is not bliss.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) website, Superfund is “the name given to the environmental program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites.”
The EPA works to clean up and protect the environment and public from the dangers of these sites.

The film explored the history and impact of the disaster site in Ottawa County, OK. Mining for lead and zinc began in the early 1900s; the land was stolen and bought from the Native American tribe that lived there, the Quapaws.

After most of the mining companies left, all of the waste from the huge mines remained. The mines themselves also remained and now cause sinkholes under the town. The leftover rock and waste from the mines form piles around the town.

These piles, chat piles, are saturated with lead and zinc, which leaks into the water and land in the towns. Teachers and parents noted a problem in children learning, which was a result of the high lead count in the blood and the lead stores in their bones.

High levels of lead can lead to learning and behavioral problems and brain damage especially in young children.

There were several attempts to lower the levels of these toxic chemicals in the town, such as removing dirt from yards in the town (which can hold lead and zinc) and attempting to pump the water out of the abandoned mines (the water leeches dangerous chemicals that then travel through the water system).

However, all of these techniques were largely unsuccessful, so a buyout was set up; homes and property were appraised and families were paid to leave.

Now only a few families remain in Picher; they are without police and fire protection and by the end of the year will be without water, sewer services or electricity.
The destroyed land has been given back to the Quapaw tribe, added back to their reservation.

However the tribe cannot do anything with the land besides sell the chat (the waste from the mines) for asphalt.

Even though most of the residents are gone from Picher, the problem remains. Lead and zinc are still spreading through the waterways, reaching further and further south.

Matt Myers, the director of Tar Creek, spoke after the film ended. He said, “there’s no more Superfund money…it will be about 200 years before the water is back to normal.”

For some attendees, this film was their first exposure to problems such as Superfund sites. First-year Mattie Alpert said, “I hadn’t really known much about this issue…it was really informative.”
For others, this disaster was not new. Hale and Barbara Vandermer were two retired EPA employees who attended the film.

Barbara Vandermer, who used to work on the Superfund project, said she “would have liked him [Myers] to hold the EPA’s feet to the fire more…[and] explain why this was allowed to happen.”
Hale Vandermer said, “This is one of potentially thousands of stories like this that have been hidden from the public for many years.”

Climate Change, The International Issue

While those of us here at St. Mary’s are busy writing papers, working projects, and studying for exams, our world leaders are busy at the 16th Conference of the Parties (COP16) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I would love to report that our world leaders are being super productive and that these negotiations are leading us towards a fair, ambitious, and binding international climate treaty that adequately addresses the needs of the citizens of the world, not just of the Global North.

However, that is not the case and the United States is largely to blame for this, because although China may have overtaken us as the largest carbon emitter in the world we still boast the highest per capita carbon footprint worldwide.

Furthermore, our elected officials and negotiators are actively blocking progress on both an international climate treaty and a domestic carbon bill. As a member of the Millennial Generation (the generation that is going to be responsible for cleaning up this mess) I find this unacceptable and encourage our leaders to step up, stop pandering to corporate fossil fuel interests and start protecting the future of our planet and its residents.

As anyone who has taken an environmental studies course can tell you, climate change is real, it’s already happening, and it does not respect national borders. The Maldives, a small island nation located in Asia, is purchasing land to which the nation’s 300,000 citizens can relocate because if nothing is done about climate change and sea levels continue to rise the entire country will be underwater.

Clearly the threat of climate change is not distant any longer. Yet Congressmen such as Senator James Inhofe continue to deny the validity of climate change science. As a youth leader who is working towards a clean, just energy future for the planet, I find this appalling and have a question to ask of all my Senators and Representatives.

If youth from around the world can believe in and work for a future free of fossil fuels, why can’t you at least stop taking orders from corporate polluters and acknowledge that climate change is a human issue that requires strong international action?

A Plea for Reusable To-Go Boxes

As anyone who has seen the trash cans on the Campus Center patio on a nice day knows, to-go boxes from the Great Room are used frequently at St. Mary’s. In fact, our food services company Bon Appétit estimates that between 800 and 1000 boxes are handed out on any given day during the academic year.

Given that the current boxes are made of Styrofoam, a material that is not recyclable or biodegradable, these boxes account for a significant amount of waste. If we throw out an average of 900 boxes a day, and there are 220 days in the academic year, this suggests that we as a college throw away roughly 198,000 boxes per academic year.

With each unit costing 11 cents, these 198,000 boxes also end up costing us a total of $20,899 a year. As any college student can tell you, this is a very large amount of both money and trash.

Fortunately there is a more environmentally friendly and long term cost efficient alternative: reusable to-go boxes. A group of students from a Math for Social Justice course found that Eco Clamshells may be our best alternative.

Each unit costs $3.14, but if we were to purchase 2,000 (enough for the whole student body) for $6,280 instead of constantly purchasing more Styrofoam, we would save $14,619 in up-front costs. Although reusable to go boxes would require more water and labor for washing, it is unlikely that these costs would amount to more than the amount saved.

In recent months, the level of support for a reusable to-go box program has grown significantly. On October 19, the Student Government Association passed a resolution that supports the implementation of a reusable to-go box program in the Great Room to begin by Spring 2011.

The Student Environmental Action Coalition has collected 380 petition signatures from students and faculty supporting reusable containers and has been working with the Sustainability Committee on research for the program.

In addition, we have a food service company that has been very supportive of past green initiatives in the Great Room. Bon Appetit’s company tag line is “Food services for a sustainable future,” and they have won multiple awards for their socially and environmentally sustainable food. The company has also implemented the use of reusable to-go boxes on other college campuses.

With all of this support going for us, it is clear we must work together to come up with a system that will allow the use of reusable to-go boxes to be just as convenient as the current disposable containers. Do you have any ideas on how we can best implement a reusable to-go box program in the Great Room?

If so, please contact the Sustainability Committee ( to help design and implement the best possible program.

Students Lead Way in Sustainability

While the United States Congress has yet to pass comprehensive climate change legislation and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change seems to like negotiating more than creating legally binding treaties, students have been very successful at tackling climate change on campus.

Two weeks ago in Kansas City, Missouri, I gave a presentation at the National Collegiate Honors Conference with fellow SMCM students Rachel Waldron and Jimmy Ferioli titled “Cross Currents of Environmentalism: Academics and Activism” that reminded me that colleges and universities really are being forces for change, cutting carbon, and helping to build the clean energy economy.

The American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, which commits institutions to becoming carbon neutral, has 675 signatories to date (including St. Mary’s College of Maryland). This agreement must be signed by the chancellor or president and is a very clear sign that climate change is no longer a fringe issue that only a fraction of students care about.

It’s an issue that is of enough concern to warrant institutional recognition and action. Even if colleges aren’t signatories to the PCC, chances are that they are trying to get favorable scores on the Princeton Review’s Green Rating System, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System (STARS), or the College Sustainability Report Card.

These ranking systems give positive recognition for schools that have organic farms on campus, purchase renewable energy, composting, and promote eco friendly habits such as walking, biking, and using public transit.

While this might not see substantial, according to a survey done by Princeton Review, 68 percent of prospective students prefer colleges or universities that have a commitment to sustainability. All in all, it’s clear that change is coming to the American university.

So as we watch the election results come in and we get overwhelmed with all that we are responsible for as young people (writing SMPs, finding jobs, paying student loans and getting Congress to pass a climate change bill to name just a few), it is well worth remembering that we have changed things on campus.

It was students who got the college to commit to purchasing 100 percent renewable electricity and created the Green St. Mary’s Revolving Loan Fund. Students were also responsible for bringing fair trade, organic Equal Exchange coffee to campus and starting the Campus Community Farm.

And it’s students who are taking environmental studies courses and continually thinking of ways to lower their carbon footprint, whether that means driving less frequently, eating less meat, or turning down the heat a few degrees and putting on a sweater.

Congress can get away with being ineffective because it’s not their future on the line, it’s ours and we’re stepping up to the challenge of transition off of dirty fossil fuels and toward a just, clean energy economic future.

Symposium Brings Wide Spectrum of Environmental Activists to Campus

Students rode the vegetable oil-powered Solar Bus to a D.C. rally. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kunze.
Students rode the vegetable oil-powered Solar Bus to a D.C. rally. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Kunze.

During the week of Oct. 19-24, the Nitze Scholars Program presented “What Democracy Looks Like: A Symposium on Environmental Action.” The symposium was organized by students Chelsea Howard-Foley, Jennifer Kunze, Travis Lear, and Emily Saari.

The four began to organize the symposium after deciding that they wanted to help the college and the community think about environmental issues and their roles in helping to solve them in new ways.  “Emily, Chelsea, and I are very involved in the Student Environmental Action Coalition on campus and had just attended Power Shift, a national youth conference on environmental issues,” said Kunze, “and Travis is active in the administration’s Sustainability Committee.  We thought a project about this common interest would be a good fit.”

The students contacted a variety of organizations and speakers and brought together a mix of people for the symposium.  “Climate change and other environmental issues cannot be viewed as isolated problems,” saidEmily.  “Their impacts can be seen in every aspect of society, from global, political, and economic decisions to the food on your family’s dinner table.  We aim to reflect this breadth with the diversity of our guests.”

Though the first speaker, Elisa Young, arrived too late to give her scheduled Monday night talk, she held a discussion with students at breakfast the next morning. Young is a coalfield activist who founded Megis Citizens Action Now! and in 2006 received an international award from the Women of Peace Power Foundation.

On Tuesday, Oct. 20, political science professor Sahar Shafqat gave a talk entitled, “Turning the Tides: The Fisherfolk Community of Pakistan.” Her talk was followed by “Take Action,” a discussion led by Ethan Nuss, the Maryland Campaign Coordinator for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN).

Shafqat described her work in Karachi, a seaside city in Pakistan and her hometown, during her time on sabbatical. While there, she helped the fisherfolk community organize against government oppression.

“I took Politics of Protest with Sahar Shafqat last spring and thought that she would bring a great perspective to the symposium,” said Howard-Foley.

Nuss, who worked as a student Regional Director and National Campus Coordinatior for 2020 Vision before joining CCAN, encouraged students to take action on environmental issues.

He showed pictures of a mountaintop removal site and asked students to “think of that one climate system that has sustained all of human history. That’s what we stand to lose.”

“He got everyone excited about what’s happening,” said junior Danny Ruthenberg-Marshall. “He spoke about how much hope he had… and he gave examples of why that hope is justified.”

On Thursday, Oct. 22, Chris Haw lectured on, “Renewing our Minds: How the Environmental Crisis is a Cultural Crisis and How We Might Change.” Haw is a theologian and a member of

Camden Houses, a multi-house community in Camden, New Jersey, and is an adjunct professor of religious studies at Cabrini College. He spoke about faith-based environmental initiatives and explained how environmental concerns fit into his every day life in his intentional Christian Community.

On Friday, Oct. 23, St. Mary’s alum Eric Hoffman discussed, “Democratizing our Food System.” He talked about the dangers associated with genetically modified foods and passed around a piece of genetically modified corn. Most of the talk was focused on the company Monsanto and the company’s monopoly on genetically modified seeds.

Hoffman wrote his senior thesis on U.S. food aid and policy and is currently a Policy Assistant for the National Family Farm Coalition and the Community Food Security Coalition. He works on Farm to School policy and local food politics.

On Saturday, Oct 24 about 15 students took the Solar Bus, a bus powered by vegetable oil, to Washington D.C. to participate in the international day of action. After traveling to Malcom X/Meridian Hill Park for a rally that included speakers and music, students marched alongside hundreds of other protestors to the White House in pouring down rain. Over 5,200 actions occurred in different communities across the globe to raise awareness about the unsafe levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.

The symposium ended Saturday night with students watching the Pixar movie Wall-E in the Aldom Lounge.

“I think [the symposium] went really well,” said Kunze. “It felt really empowering to be part of something that big.”