Prof ponders Earth’s future

Nick Smith-Sebasto, class of ’86, urged his audience to “stop the insanity” in a lecture titled, “Land Grab and Garbage Barge: Lessons for Sustainability and Ideas for the 21st Century.”

The seminar was held by the College’s biology department on Sept. 23.

In a PowerPoint presentation, Smith-Sebasto said the insanity he refers to is the world’s apparent disregard for the environment.

Smith-Sebasto’s main concern was increasing vegetation area. He said it takes 500 years for topsoil to be created, but it is often quickly paved over. According to Smith-Sebasto, paving trucks are the weapons of mass destruction commonly searched for, which prompted laughter from the audience.

He showed a picture of mountains and compared it to a photo of a city.

“We are going to achieve build-out,” he said, which means not having enough available land to make changes to the landscape and architecture. “We have to do things to not harm the Earth,” he said.

Smith-Sebasto explained how the College could use compost to minimize negative effects on the Earth. By mixing food scraps in a bio-mixer with wood chips, which provide carbon for the food to break down, the resulting compost can be used as fertilizer after three days.

According to Smith-Sebasto, this will decrease the use of landfills and increase vegetation areas.

He said Montclair State University has integrated this bio-mixer into the campus as a way to promote green initiatives.

Smith-Sebasto said he is hoping for a new paradigm for the 21st century to help nature recover. He read a series of quotes from scientists on the state of the world today.

“‘Humans have changed ecosystems rapidly,'” he read. “‘The degradation of ecosystems could grow significantly worse in this century.'” He said this destruction will occur in students’ lifetimes.

Alexandra Pastino, junior biology major, said she came to the lecture to gain perspective for research she is doing this semester.

“My research is ecological in its basis dealing with living organisms,” Pastino said. She is researching the sex pheromones of crayfish. According to her, the seminar was relevant to her research because she was able to see how habitat can impact an entire species.

Smith-Sebasto is an associate professor in the department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Montclair State University. He holds a doctorate in environmental communication, education and interpretation from Ohio State University.