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Students take environmental action
April 25, 2012
For some it was concern about polluted oceans, for others, global warming, and for still others an interest in healthy and sustainable food sources.
Members of CCRI’s Students for Environmental Action Club have come together for a variety of reasons and have accomplished a surprising amount in only two semesters. The goal of the organization is to demonstrate steps that can be taken on an individual or community level to address environmental problems that can seem too big to fix.
“We’re bringing a Rhode Island perspective on sustainability here to CCRI,” said Club President Greg Sankey Jr.
The club has grown to more than 30 members in less than one academic year and recently hosted a four-day sustainability conference at the Flanagan Campus in Lincoln. The conference, “Healthy Planet, Healthy People,” brought together speakers and representatives from local and national conservation, agricultural, and environmental advocacy groups, with the goal of demonstrating how individuals and local communities can have a more positive impact on the environment.
Students for Environmental Action will further demonstrate its message of sustainability by planting a community garden at the Flanagan Campus using permaculture techniques, which more closely mimic natural ecosystems.
The club was dormant in the Fall 2011 semester when Sankey and his friend and fellow student Daniel Rao decided to restart it, inspired by some of the topics in CCRI Biology Professor Luis Malaret’s class.
“The reason I joined was that I knew that as an individual I couldn’t do much, but joining with a group of people is the best way to make an impact on the environment,” Rao said.
Malaret has served as the club’s adviser since it was formed. He said that Sankey and Rao did an excellent job of recruiting over the summer and ensuring that the club will continue on.
“I gave them encouragement but they were already moving and the group just took off,” Malaret said.
He added, “In the years I’ve been here I certainly haven’t seen anything like the enthusiasm and the action that this group has carried out.”
Given the interest in sustainability that the club has inspired, Malaret will be offering a course called Man and the Environment next fall (the name of which he would like to change to “Humans and the Environment”) about the ecological impact of humans.
One of the Students for Environmental Action Club’s new members is Scott Alves, who has been attending CCRI part-time for three years and immediately joined the club when it was restarted.
“I’ve always been interested in the environment, and when I came here and found out about this club I got into it again,” he said. “I feel more like an environmentalist than ever before.”
Alves is a dedicated surfer who became concerned about the state of the world’s oceans when he noticed a surprising amount of litter at Rhode Island’s otherwise beautiful surf spots.
“I love the environment and I surf a lot so I love the ocean too,” he said. “Every environmental issue affects the health of the ocean.”
Alves said he hopes to eventually study environmental sociology or oceanography.
Club member Becky Short said she is most concerned about healthy, sustainable food and the surprising amount of carcinogens and other pollutants that can be found on supermarket shelves.
“A lot of it relates to the food industry in general,” she said. “It’s about how the decisions we make affect our health.”
Short said it is not just food but many other consumer products that have questionable ingredients. To demonstrate an alternative, she brought homemade lotion made from all organic materials to the “Healthy Planet, Healthy People” conference.
This variety of interests makes for an interesting club that discusses many different topics.
“What I like about our club is that everyone brings a different passion to it,” said club member Alejandro Tobon. “Everyone here is a piece of the puzzle.”
Tobon is an Eagle Scout who learned his passion for the environment from the Boy Scouts and from his parents, who were each raised on a farm.
“Whether you care about the planet or not, it still affects you,” he said. “Nature feeds us and we feed nature in return.”
If you are interested in participating in ordonating to the Students for Environmental Action Club’s activities, including its garden project, contact a club member.