Earth Day invites students to make a difference
Upcoming Earth Day events to invite students to make a difference
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This coming Tuesday students can celebrate Earth Day in Jack Adams Hall and learn what threatens their environment and what they can do to help save it.

From 10:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., guest speakers, including student activists, professors and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, will discuss environmental problems and how the SF State community can help solve them. The quad will also feature activities and presentations from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Topics for the 39th annual Earth Day run the gamut. The environmental impact of major local events, like last year's oil spill into the San Francisco Bay and the current effort to spray urban areas to fight apple moths, will be discussed. Some presentations will focus on how students can do their part to tackle worldwide issues which include climate change and plastics proliferation.

The event will also feature speakers from disciplines other than environmental studies. The speakers will talk about how the environment affects different walks of life. Professors from American Indian studies head presentations entitled "The Effect of Nuclear Power on Native Peoples" and "Indigenous Sustainability." Environmentally sound business practices and "eco-feminism" are also on the day's schedule.

Marielle Earwood, a member of the environmental student group ECO Students and the event's main planner, said she wanted to "bring in as many important topics as possible. I tried to be all-inclusive." Part of the steering committee for SF State's Focus the Nation in January, Earwood said she modeled Earth Day's structure after the climate change teach-in that saw about 2,000 students attend.

"We're so busy. We don't have time to talk. We don't have time to connect. Our culture is wounded," said Earwood. Despite this, "so many people care. So many people want to make change, but they don't know how."

So by tapping a variety of speakers while maintaining themes of "awareness, empowerment and community," Earwood said she hopes Earth Day gives "the opportunity for people to open their minds and hearts to these important issues."

Several of the day's discussions will have themes emphasizing social justice. Joel Kassiola, dean of the college of behavioral and social sciences, will begin the morning discussing opposing viewpoints regarding social change. In the afternoon, the audience will view a student documentary on social justice and human equity. Holistic healing studies lecturer Kenn Burrows will follow the video with a presentation entitled "Beyond Sustainability — Exploring a New Environmental and Cultural Narrative."

"In some ways this is a follow-up to Focus the Nation," said Glenn Fieldman, assistant professor of environmental studies. Though she was one of the teach-in's main architects, Fieldman said she and the faculty were proud that Earwood and other environmentally conscious students put this together largely on their own. "It's much more than what's been done for Earth Day in the past. It's a much bigger deal."

Fieldman said she was pleased that Mirkarimi, who also appeared at Focus the Nation in January, will be returning to give students "a wonderful opportunity to get up close and personal with a policymaker. San Francisco's had a leadership position on city environmental politics," and appearances like these help make it more accessible to students interested in participating, she said.

Getting students involved in local environmental efforts will be another undercurrent of the day's events, Earwood said. Several of the slated topics will specifically address how students can "volunteer more time and the willingness to be more aware," she said.

One of those, called "Sustainability at the Individual Level," will stress that, while achieving sustainability in life requires active participation, each person's path may be different, said speaker Keir Johnson, humanities major. "Sustainability is a far-reaching concept," and while some people will try to reduce their material impact on the world by taking shorter showers or buying food from local farmers markets, others can "work in personal expression, like create art that doesn't even necessarily have an environmental slant," he said.

As a primary member of HERO, a group of environmentally conscious students who live in campus housing, Johnson said he will offer the student audience an opportunity "so people can experiment in living these ideas." A holistic cooperative called Eco Digs will open in University Park South in the fall, and up to 18 student "social and environmental activists" can still apply to participate after the discussion, he said.

No matter what people decide to do, actively making a difference after Earth Day is the goal. "It's not an event that people should just go to, listen to keynote speakers, agree that there are problems and then go back to life," Johnson said. "I see the environmental issues as calling for the unification of humanity...taking Earth Day beyond just a one-day event. We are the environment," he said.

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