Environmental concerns voiced in student forum

The first Student Environmental Forum was held at the College “to give students knowledge of the present climate issue and . give them a chance to talk with their peers about environmental issues and climate change,” Meagan Terry, vice president of Water Watch, said.

“My hope is that this will create awareness and change how people see our school,” Terry said. “We’re doing something good here.”

The forum, which occurred on Oct. 8 in the Brower Student Center, included student speakers from other organizations at the College such as Roots and Shoots, RISE and Amnesty International.

“Everything that is here is students’ contribution,” Terry said.

Environmental issues and the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) were discussed with the students at the forum. Students also networked with other groups “because we share similar concerns. … (This is) the first event to bring these groups together and have a group discussion,” Terry said.

ACUPCC was a major point of discussion at the forum. Last summer, College President R. Barbara Gitenstein signed the ACUPCC “as an assurance that (the College) plans to reduce and eventually eliminate the College’s global warming emissions,” and eventually make the College climate-neutral, which means there would be net zero carbon emissions from the College, according to a press release from the College.

There are several initiatives that have been suggested to Gitenstein, such as all new campus constructions being more environmentally efficient and encouraging public transportation for students by possibly implementing another bus at the College.

Gitenstein will be going over these various suggestions and make her decision on what the College can or cannot do based on the costs, Terry explained during the presentation.

Students in the audience were encouraged to voice their opinions and suggestions. Several students argued that another bus line would not encourage students to use public transportation.

Another loop bus or a bus line that shuttles between the College and Princeton would be more beneficial, Andrew Mathe, publicity coordinator for Water Watch, said.

Mathe went on to explain the current climate change and its possible effects, both on a global and local scale. According to the presentation, temperatures could rise about 1.8 to 3.5 degrees Celsius in the next century and by 2100, 1 percent to 3 percent of the New Jersey coast line could be submerged, with 6 to 9 percent vulnerable to flooding, Mathe said.

“After rhythms of nature that our ecosystem has grown accustomed to over a millennia (are altered) it’s such a stress that our ecosystem can’t adjust,” Mathe said.

“If we choose not to address it, we’ll just see more of the same if not worse,” Terry said, after referencing how there has been an unusual increase in severe storms such as category four and five hurricanes due to global warming.

“If we don’t rise to the challenge, nature’s going to whoop our ass,” Mathe said.

A discussion on Fair Trade Coffee and the newly implemented Fair Grounds in the student center was initiated by Joleen Ong, president of Amnesty International at the College.

A short film made by Ong on Fair Trade Coffee and its popularity on the campus and how it benefits both the environment and consumers was shown.

There was a presentation by Neil Hartmann, president of RISE, on TerraCycle, a company out of Princeton that “manufacture(s) affordable, potent, organic products that are not only made from waste, but are also packaged entirely in waste,” according to TerraCycle’s official Web site.

Lastly, a brief discussion on activism and how to get students motivated was held. One student in the audience pointed out that while students at the College and other American schools have little to lose by activism, many feel that they have less to gain.

“It’s just good to know what’s going on on campus,” Emily Stark, senior sociology major, said. “Like the recycling information was good because no one really pays attention to that.”

“I thought it was good because you now see that there are more student groups involved,” Jing Jing Feng, senior biology major, said. “I was happy with the turnout.”