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Who says nothing happens on Earth Day?

April 12, 2010

Have you ever wondered what actually happens on Earth Day? So have I! For most of my life the answer has been "nothing much," but not this year. The sun is out, the environmental movement is building speed on campus, and inspiration is in the air. I am fortunate enough to be part of a group of students planning a robust array of Earth Week events, some of which I will list below:

First, on Sunday the 18th, as Aries wrote, there will be a festival of sorts on Tappan Square, with some great student bands, tabling by student environmental groups, a co-op cook-off, and more.

On Monday, anti-coal activist (though she doesn't like to be called that) Elisa Young will give a talk. It will be her second time visiting Oberlin this year, after she came during Powershift last semester and told her gripping story of how the coal industry ravaged the health of her neighbors, herself, and her community. Also, Campus Dining Services has agreed not to serve meat in one of the dining halls that day, in recognition of its harmful effects on the environment. Later that day there will be a forum hosted by the Coal Working Group on how Oberlin College can achieve its stated goal of carbon neutrality by 2025.

Tuesday will be a more chilled-out day, with the only campus activity being a nature documentary projected onto the eastern wall of Mudd Library in the evening. Also that day, a stationary bike connected to a blender will be making smoothies using not electricity, but leg power! That evening, local George Jones farm will give a class on vegetable gardening and composting basics. Wheee!

Then on Wednesday, there will be tours of Oberlin's old, trusty, controversial coal plant, which has been heating the school's buildings for over half a century. For students who oppose the use of coal, these tours are useful in showing them that the plant is probably cleaner than they thought it was and that the plant manager understands their concerns. It also brings perspective in terms of the human side of the coal industry: all the people who have worked at the plant for years and are just as economically tied to coal as many students are against it.

On Thursday, we are trying to bring Great Lakes Brewing Company for a lecture and beer tasting. Not only is free beer possibly the best way to draw a crowd of college students, Great Lakes is local--based in Cleveland--and is devoted to recycling and reusing material, notably using vegetable oil from its restaurant to power one of its delivery trucks. The same day, Campus Dining Services will have a local food day, when it will serve a greater proportion of food from local sources than its usual 30 percent. Also, anti-industrialization activist Derrick Jensen will give a talk that should be pretty dynamic.

Many other fun and educational activities are planned for the week. I'm working on getting representatives from the campaigns of Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher OC '73 and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to debate each other on Ohio energy and environmental policy. The two candidates are facing off in the Democratic primary on May 4th, and they are actually pretty distinct on environmental issues. (An aside--I was fortunate enough to interview Lee Fisher when he came to Oberlin for Power Shift. We also share an August 7th birthday. I just wish he wasn't such a fan of "clean coal.") I'm also working on arranging tours to the local landfill, which I have always had a strange desire to see.

Other activities will include an afternoon cleaning up the local river, touring an ecologically designed home, and some form of protest art that has yet to be decided. And more.

Come Earth Week, I won't be getting much homework done. But I will be learning a lot!

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