Beginning on Monday April 22, Geneseo students celebrated Earth Week, which included events sponsored by Sustainability Commission, Geneseo Environmental Organization, EcoHouse and Student Association.
The week began with Meatless Monday, which encouraged students to cut back on their meat consumption. Students also attended a documentary screening of Edible City, which addressed how citizens can play a role in transforming the American food system.
On Tuesday April 23, EcoHouse hosted a panel about the relationship between social justice and environmental sustainability as a contribution to Earth Week.
Panelists included associate professor and Chair of Anthropology Rose-Marie Chierici, Director of College Union and Activities Chip Matthews, associate professor of history Jordan Kleiman, associate professor of English Ken Cooper and associate professor and Chair of Studio Art Dan DeZarn.
“As an artist you’re a maker or a material consumer,” DeZarn said. “There are all of these opportunities to make decisions about sustainability. Through the years I’ve started thinking really hard about these decisions and it has gotten to a point where these types of questions permeate about every action I make.”
“I never really recognized ecology as a type of politics,” Cooper said. “I came to realize that criticism and ecology had a lot in common. I began to understand that I possessed this ability to impose on these discussions outside of my field.”
According to Kleiman, there is a “tremendous overlap between the environmentalist and sustainability part and community development in low-income areas, in urban areas and in rural areas.”
Matthews said his interest in climate change stems from his youth.
“I am an avid backpacker. The ability to see stars here and the stars in the Adirondacks is dramatically different,” he said. “The urban sprawl affects not only consumerism but also our ability to see the night sky.”
“We have the luxury of being able to talk about shopping and locally-grown gardens,” Chierici said. “However, the people I work with [in Haiti] are concerned with surviving, where their next meal is going to come from, how they will provide health care and education to their children. I see several different definitions of sustainability.”
On Wednesday April 24, students participated in a dumpster dive to determine which residence halls and academic buildings do the worst recycling jobs.
According to GEO member and resident assistant of EcoHouse sophomore Jessica Kroenert, Genesee Hall is the least successful at recycling, with 83.3 percent of its trash composed of recyclables. She said Welles Hall was the worst academic building with 41.7 percent of its trash composed of recyclables.
Keynote speaker, author and farmer Shannon Hayes then addressed students in a lecture titled “Unraveling Consumerism,” which focused on the history of negative impacts the consumer culture has on both the economic and psychological conditions of Americans.
“Producers and consumers didn’t become different sets of people until the Industrial Revolution of this country,” Hayes said. “Essentially, America decided that it needed to industrialize and modernize our farming techniques to become efficient and feed the entire world.”
According to Hayes, consumerism creates a divide between “mind” workers and “body” workers.
“Thinkers, writers, actors and politicians worked with their minds and bodies and contributed to the well-being of their household in some way,” Hayes said.
Hayes connected her ideas about excessive consumerism to her ideas about leading a healthy life.
“One out of every four American adults is suffering from a chronic, diagnosable mental disorder,” Hayes said.
Despite this fact, Hayes said that this is “the most exciting time to be on the planet.”
“As a nation we are finally being pushed to truly become a beautiful society, to become a beneficent species on the planet,” she said.
Earth Week will also include a Thursday April 25 screening of the documentary Tapped and a Friday April 26 Carbon-Free Concert.