April 11, 2012

Earth Week 2012: Getting hooked on sustainability

From nationally renowned author Paul Greenberg to a blender powered by a bike, this year’s Earth Week will feature a plethora of events geared toward offering something for every member of the Knox community.

Whereas past Earth Weeks have largely been organized by the Knox Advocates for Recycling and Sustainability, planning this year has been a collaboration between a variety of organizations and academic departments, according to KARES treasurer senior Elizabeth Cockrell.

“Instead of dividing things up and feeling like we have ownership, it’s creating a lot more community,” Cockrell said. “And I think … that’s really getting at what these events should be like.”

The keynote event will be a talk by Paul Greenberg, author of the bestselling book “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.” Cockrell first encountered the book while working with Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Nic Mink over the summer at the Sitka Conservation Society in Sitka, Alaska.

“I like Paul Greenberg’s book because it breaks the mold of a lot of traditional environmental and food thinking. … He’s someone that isn’t this sort of hands-off environmental thinker,” Mink said.

A Sustainability Fair featuring campus clubs and community organizations such as the Sustainable Business Center will supplement Greenberg’s talk on April 16. The Oak Room will also serve sustainably caught albacore tuna, cod and salmon that night.

“I really want this to be a celebration. I want people to have fun,” Mink said.

Senior Audrey Todd is also organizing a discussion of “Four Fish,” which is designed to expand the sense of community building beyond Knox to include students from Monmouth College.

“For sustainability to succeed, we need to have as many people involved in it as possible, even nontraditional actors,” Mink said.

Perhaps Earth Week’s most nontraditional event will be free smoothies made by a bike-powered blender and tie-dying during a concert by a Beatles cover band, which is playing as part of the Alliance for Peaceful Action’s annual symposium. Cockrell explained that the combination of activities builds off of the unofficial theme for the week: reduce, reuse, recycle and rethink.

“You get to tie-dye, but then you see that there’s the smoothies, and then you’re rethinking … what your consumption of stuff means,” she said.

Other groups involved include the Knox Democrats, which is organizing a professor panel on resource politics, and the Knox Community Garden, which is sponsoring a garden “work day.” Even the Department of English and Phi Gamma Delta have been involved.

“That’s how you change culture and context,” Mink said. “I think this speaks to the campus’ renewed commitment to environmental awareness and environmental issues, which go far beyond environmental studies.”

For those who may not consider themselves environmentalists, Mink stressed the increasing importance of sustainability at Knox, which will likely grow further next year with the creation of a Sustainability Coordinator position.

“It’s going to be a core part of our culture and … of our curriculum moving forward,” he said. “We have a progressive, visionary president that wants to make sure that we are continuing to innovate.”

In fact, plans are already in the works for next year’s Earth Week, which Mink hopes will be even bigger and better coordinated.

“This is a chance for us to really help the community and the region re-envision itself,” he said.

“It’s not something that normally happens. Why not [go]?” sophomore Emily Cooney, who has helped organize Earth Week events, said. “Take an hour out of your day.”

Schedule of events:

Monday, April 16

-Sustainability Fair: 4:30 p.m., Ford Center for the Fine Arts lobby

-Paul Greenberg: 5 p.m., Harbach Theatre

-Sustainable Seafood Dinner: 6:30-7:30 p.m., Oak Room

Tuesday, April 17

-Professor Panel on Resource Politics: 7 p.m., Alumni Room

Friday, April 20

-Skill Share: 4 p.m., Ferris Lounge

Saturday, April 21

-Bike ride around Galesburg: 11 a.m., meeting place TBD

-Work session in the Knox Community Garden: 1-3 p.m.

-Beatles cover band, tie-dye and free smoothies: 5 p.m., Seymour Lawn

Anna Meier

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