Larrabee: Student Earth Day effort a responsible demonstration

I don't know if you saw the bear fountain on Earth Day last week, but if you did, you would definitely remember it.

Last Wednesday, a group of Geneseo students involved in Geneseo Environmental Organization scattered around the village to pick up trash. Upon collecting bags of litter, a tire and even a discarded water cooler, the students arranged it all in the fountain around midnight. Two signs were erected proclaiming Earth Day and explaining that the trash had been picked up from around the area in order to raise awareness about the effects of littering on the community.

Before all of the trash could be placed, a police officer arrived on the scene and directed the students to stop what they were doing. Given the fact that a group of students were filling a Main Street icon with garbage at midnight, this seemed reasonable. But at that moment, the students were able to say something that I believe says a lot about the town we are in and even more about the power of student-led organization. When the officer ordered the project stopped, the students were able to inform him that they had permission from the town board to create their Earth Day installation in the fountain.

Before the trash was collected and the fountain filled, a letter was written to the town board which detailed the purpose and intent of the proposed project, and the proposal was approved. For that, I thank the town. To allow students to set up something so prominently placed in the middle of the street, especially something that involved filling a treasured piece of town art with trash, speaks to the fact that the town truly does care about the environment.

But even more significant than the town's permission, I feel, was the insight of students to seek that approval, to go through local governmental channels and ultimately create a display that certainly affected a great deal of passersby. Being in such a close-knit college town gives us all a great opportunity to work with the local government to effect great change on the area. GEO received many positive comments regarding the fountain display. Next year, given the town's responsiveness, the aim will be set even higher.

The message to take away from this is that if you have an idea or a cause you believe in, go for it. Petition the government, even if it is just the small town of Geneseo. If the town agreed to using the bear fountain as a stage for proclaiming the messages of Earth Day, what else can we get done?

Thank you to the town, to junior Arielle Aronoff for getting permission and coming up with the idea, and thank you to whoever decides to do something like this again.