In two years, we will celebrate the 50th Earth Day. This year, however, is a special year for environmentalism at Knox. Sixty years ago, Knox officially obtained Green Oaks from Alvah Green, class of 1890. Green had allowed students to visit prior to his death in 1958. Recreation is a central part of American environmentalism and Green Oaks has embodied that notion for over 60 years now, providing a place for learning, researching and recreating.
The restoration of Green Oaks was the project of a Knox biology professor named Paul Shepard. On the third floor of Alumni Hall, over a mural of prairie named for him at Green Oaks, Shepard asks readers, “How can we become native to this land?”
Shepard believed that the post-agrarian separation from nature could stunt human development into full adulthood. Whether Shepard was right or wrong, we have been blessed with a beautiful campus and beautiful resources off campus to spend time in. We have all felt the urge to spend time outside with the change in the weather (at last).
While Knox students can never be truly native to land once held by First Nations, knowing this land is the start of becoming ‘native’ to it. Knox is a prairie college and in experiencing the prairie and the campus it has become, we can begin to understand the processes and events that have led to its appearance today.
Students for Sustainability and other clubs provided us with one excuse to get outside this past weekend and a lot of students took advantage of it. We hope that students will continue to take advantage of the warming weather and remember that books and laptops work just as well outside as inside.
At the same time, we encourage students to take some time away from their books and laptops to remember where we are. The Earth is quite clearly a unique place and Earth Day helps remind us of that. Take time to appreciate that, to smell the flowers (you can smell the magnolias from half-way across campus right now) or look up at the hawks that sometimes grace the large trees near the track. Even if you just take a few moments on the way home from class or on your way to supper, it can pay off.
In the article on the Earth Day Festival, Director of Campus Sustainability Debbie Steinberg shared some ideas on how students can improve their own sustainability. A lot of students already do many of these, but we can always learn to take better advantage of the resources we have. So, challenge yourself to make more use of them, from donating to the Share Shop or office supply share or just thinking a second before you buy yet another box from Amazon.
April 22 is one day after John Muir’s birthday. To him, despite his absolute love of the Sierra Nevada, all of the Earth was worthy of our acknowledgement and contemplation. Knox provides plenty of chances to live that out and so while you are here, please take the time and think of your temporary home and the beauty it has.