One of the most essential aspects of being an Eco Rep and an environmentalist, in general, is continually learning about the topics we are so passionate about. While much of that learning takes places on our campuses, it is also important to leave Westminster and Rider to expand our knowledge and ideas.
On Feb. 11, two of the Westminster Eco Reps visited the Green Allies Conference at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. The conference centered around generating new ideas for sustainability programs, as well as discussing some broader topics like environmental politics, international policy and effects of climate change on native peoples. Our main goal was to collect more ideas about student involvement.
At Westminster, our school is small and therefore our program is, too. Resources and the sheer number of bodies on campus are extremely limited. That being said, we were pleasantly surprised that our program was successfully enacting many of the ideas discussed, even though our population is significantly less than that of other universities. It was also reassuring to listen to representatives from other universities speak about sharing many of the same issues we face in our program.
One interesting idea came from a group of students who attend Pittsburgh University. They started a thrift store on campus, which became a perfect “home-base” for their program and a fun place to interact with students looking to donate or buy cheap clothing. While the Westminster campus might not be equipped to handle a project that extensive, we both agreed that it might be a plausible idea on the Rider campus in Lawrenceville.
The most fulfilling session was with David Radcliff, the director of the New Community Project (NCP). His presentation gave insight to the hardships of native peoples both in the United States as well as in other countries. Radcliff’s opening statement stressed how our idea of nature has changed over time.
“We make wilderness a tourism attraction rather than an all-encompassing thing,” Radcliff said.
We view national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon as nature, but we can see that beauty in our backyard. Nature is all around us.
From Radcliff’s session, we reaffirmed that tackling climate change is a key challenge of our time. NCP believes that the “changes we need to turn things around won’t come from top political or corporate leaders, but from people who care deeply for our planet and its people and its future.”
We have all seen and felt the drastic weather changes this past month. The average temperature for the month of February in New Jersey was 42 degrees. The weekend of Feb. 24 saw temperatures as high as 75 degrees. We can all recognize that climate change is a hot topic that affects the entire world.
All of the information we gathered from the Green Allies Conference reflects the idea that our education on these topics is not and cannot be confined to our campuses. We have also run many great programs and events, but there is so much room to keep doing more.
However, it’s not just the Eco Reps that play a role in all of this. Students should be learning about these topics and trying to make a difference, too. If you have ideas for programming, share it with us. Volunteer as a member of the Green Team or come to our Green Films and education events. After all, environmental issues don’t just affect environmentalists — they affect us all.
—Chelsea Simpkins and Micaela Bottari
Westminster Eco Reps
Printed in the 3/8/17 issue.