ASU Earth Month emphasizes the gravity of environmental issues

ASU Earth Month activities bring attention to the importance of environmental consciousness

In 1970, a year when Simon and Garfunkel topped the charts and a gallon of gas cost 36 cents, the world celebrated its first Earth Day

Celebrated annually on April 22, Earth Day is recognized globally with events aiming to demonstrate support for environmental sustainability movements and raise awareness of  environmental threats.

Nearly 48 years after the first Earth Day, the event has expanded to a whole month of advocacy surrounding sustainability initiatives. During the month of April, #ASUEarthMonth will take place across all four campuses and draw attention to environmental topics across a variety of disciplines. 

The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict explored the relationship between climate change and the threats of war in an event titled ‘War in a Warming World’ on April 10.

Mark Douglas, an ethicist and professor of Christian Ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary, spoke about the far-reaching effects climate change has on society at the event.

“At its most mundane levels, climate change functions as the threat exacerbator in that it makes problems more likely by creating greater levels of scarcity and uncertainty in political and natural systems,” Douglas said. 

While through modern history, economics has driven a lot of how we understand the world around us, Douglas said environmental issues will increasingly take precedence. 

“My thesis is that we are entering into a new age that I am calling 'the environmental age' where the way we understand the world around us will be significantly shaped through the lens of environmental issues,” Douglas said. 

With climate change bringing prolonged droughts, more unpredictable flooding seasons, frequent wildfires, stresses on access to clean water, the spread of disease and the displacement of people, Douglas said it is important to redirect the way conflicts are addressed.

"There have been several traditions for dealing with conflict, either on how to make conflict unnecessary, reduce the size of conflict or mitigate the effects of conflict," Douglas said. “These traditions themselves will need to change because the way they have been framed since the 16th century has been through a particular set of lenses, and with the global change, we have been seeing, those lenses themselves are changing."

Douglas emphasized the importance of these types of conversations in referencing the correlation between the conflict in Syria and drought as evidence that these problems are already happening. 

Similarly, the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability is using Earth Month as a occasion to educate the community about sustainability issues and initiatives that are becoming increasingly influential. 

There will be over 20 events on the Tempe campus alone, including film screenings, community service opportunities, along with various events across the entire ASU community.

Lauren Kuby, a councilmember for the city of Tempe and manager of community engagement and events for the Wrigley Institute, emphasized the importance of actively addressing the issues.

“We put Earth Day words into action,” Kuby said.

With the majority of the events run by students, Kuby said she is proud to be at a university where students recognize the importance of Earth Month and are consistently contributing to the culture of sustainability across campuses.

“The student body is like no other that I’ve seen before in their willingness to get down and dirty and make a difference in the community,” Kuby said.

During one of the first events of the month, students and community members gathered for the ninth annual "A" Mountain Restoration project to collect trash, paint railings and distribute fresh gravel along the trails.

Other events contextualize environmental issues in different industries.

"Sustainability and the Business of Fashion: A Conversation with Students" will take place on April 27 and feature biological science junior and fair-trade campaign co-founder, Daniella Simari.

In the event, Simari will bring her knowledge attained from the Fair-Trade Campaign national conference she attended in March to lead a discussion about fair-trade practices in the garment industry.

Read More: ASU explores sustainable fashion during Arizona Eco Fashion Week

Simari said addressing why it is important for people to consider where their clothes are coming from is tied to all three pillars of sustainability – environmental, social and economic.

“It encompasses so much of what Earth Month is all about,” Simari said.

Simari hopes that ASU students will take advantage of Earth Month events being offered across the University. 

“It is important for people to show up to these events and engage in these conversations because a lot of times after you leave the University bubble you don’t have the opportunity to learn about these important certifications and social impacts,” Simari said.

Kuby agreed about the importance of engaging in the Earth Month activities and how increased consciousness on a individual level can spark change on a much larger scale.

"When we make change at the individual level, then we can make change at the local level and the regional level and national level then eventually the global level," Kuby said. 

Editor's note: Daniella Simari is a former reporter for The State Press.


Reach the reporter at goldham@asu.edu and follow @graceoldham123 on Twitter. 

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