With policy changes undoing many of the nation’s efforts to slow and prevent environmental change, activism at Knox is becoming an increasingly potent topic of discussion. While one of the main objectives of Earth Month festivities is to raise general awareness about the environment, senior Gregg Miller said there are solutions to many of the environmental issues.
“There are two things that people need to realize I think,” Miller said. “The first one is that these things are actual issues and will impact the world more greatly than people will admit. But the second thing, after people learn that bit, is that it’s not completely hopeless.”
Miller feels that bringing awareness to the issues isn’t as effective unless people are shown what they can do to do their part.
“We like to use Earth Month as a way to teach people about these solutions and teach people how they can make small, positive impacts everyday but also have fun doing it,” Miller said.
Miller mentioned that, while there are several activities scattered throughout the month, the event is most concentrated during Earth Week, which includes research presentations by Knox professors, this year’s EquiKnox Speaker as well as the annual Earth Day Festival.
Senior Hannah McCullough feels that the research presentations offer an opportunity for a role reversal, as students are able to hear from their professors instead of the other way around.
“I feel like students are always getting chances to talk about their research and doing research presentations,” McCullough said. “A lot of the time you don’t really get to see what the faculty are doing, and they’re doing a ton.”
She mentioned that the research presentations and the other events taking place are aimed at bringing awareness to environmental issues and the various ways to live more sustainably.
“I think it’s important to get the campus thinking about sustainability and environmentalism a little bit more,” she said. All of our projects and all of our workshops have a sustainability focus, so I think that Earth Month as a whole should hopefully spark people to at least be thinking about it. Even if they don’t participate, just to be more aware of their actions.”
McCullough said that this year’s EquiKnox speaker, Chad Pregracke, is a local from Moline and is the founder of the non-profit organization Living Lands and Waters. She noted that the organization focuses on cleaning up the nation’s rivers, and that they’ve collected several million pounds of garbage from the rivers thus far. Pregracke is going to be speaking about his experience growing up in the area and what motivated him to get involved with the river cleanup and restoration process.
While the events scheduled during Earth Month don’t have any direct political messages, McCullough feels that the current political climate has brought a greater importance to bringing environmental issues to light.
“It’s very difficult for people in this major and in this field of study just to be doing their work right now. I think that this is an important time to have Earth Month and to be bringing awareness of the environment,” she said.
Miller agrees, and feels that the results of environmental issues are being unfairly placed onto poorer, marginalized members of society. He noted that most of the government officials making the decisions are not the same people who are being burdened with the negative impacts of environmental issues.
“It’s becoming more important, more critical. As a lot of the progress America has made is becoming neglected or outright dismantled, it’s becoming more important that everyone does their part and does what little they can,” he said.
Aside from the speakers and the Earth Day Festival, several other events will use the skills and strengths from other clubs to showcase a wide range of ways to live more sustainably. Some of these events include a DIY bee product workshop hosted by Bee Club, a terrarium making workshop and a candle making workshop hosted by Pagan Club.
Pagan club member Nathan Kemp ‘16 mentioned that the candle making workshop aims to make use of materials that people can easily find or make themselves, rather than buying candles at a store. He noted that they will be using essential oils and various herbs that are easily accessible to most.
Kemp feels that some of the core values of members who identify as Pagan involve maintaining and celebrating the Earth. He mentioned that much of the religion revolves around worshiping nature and that many of the movements evolved with the first environmental movement. Kemp considers personal civilian action to be an integral aspect of reducing environmental damage, especially in the wake of recent political changes.
“I think it’ll definitely be something that, if people want to be pushed, it’s something that we as a society will have to make clear, because it’s not something that is going to be done on it’s own. And it won’t be done by the politicians in Washington,” Kemp said.
The Repair Fair, taking place on April 20, will consist of several individuals offering their own tips and talents for repairing damaged items. Miller cited the example of turning a ladder into a bookcase, and mentioned that the fair intends to make upcycling more accessible and doable for people who want to live more sustainably.
Miller considers a highlight of the month to be the variety of events that take place throughout. He feels that the different clubs and different individuals are able to offer a unique method of living sustainably in the hopes that those who attend are able to take something away from at least one of the events.
He noted that, while the policy changes that are taking place are an issue for environmentalism, people shouldn’t lose their motivation to contribute to environmental activism.
“People think only an act of great good can counteract an act of great evil. But I disagree, it’s the little things,” he said.