To the Editors of the Argus,
April 22nd, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day celebration.
This tradition began when Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed a teach-in for April 22, 1970, on the topic of nature and environmentalism. According to an estimate on the EPA website, some twenty million Americans participated in peaceful public demands for attention to the environment on that day—in 1970, that was ten percent of all Americans. Media coverage reached many more. Since then, Americans and (after 1990) the world celebrate the planet, and make commitments to sustainability, environmental protection, and awareness.
While the shelter-in-place instructions inhibit meaningful social gatherings like hikes and protests, they cannot stop all types of activity. For one, if you have the ability to go outside, do it! Go outside, be in nature, appreciate the gifts of this planet. This year, Earth Day offers us the unique opportunity to appreciate something that, until quarantine, was banal for most. You can take a few minutes to connect with your immediate environment by walking around your neighborhood (with the proper precautions of course), sitting under a tree, or listening to the sounds around you. Consider how the coronavirus pandemic has affected your neighborhood’s relationship with its environment, and your own.
Earth Day can still be a day of action. Many of the planned Earth Day events will no longer take place due to the closure of campus; that being said, we can still support its message by engaging in activities from our places of quarantine. Here is a list of just some of the events in Connecticut and online where you can attend, listen, and actively participate:
Action is needed at both the individual level and the University level. Though we understand that Wesleyan University has been dramatically affected by the challenges associated with the pandemic, we urge the University to uphold its commitments to sustainability efforts. Though the economic impacts of the coronavirus will necessitate financial austerity on the part of the University, this austerity must not come at the price of sustainability. Earlier this year, our class made a trip to Physical Plant’s power station. During this trip, Andrew Plotkin, Project Engineer for Physical Plant, shared with us his plan to convert Wesleyan to more efficient heat pumps, which though they still require fossil fuel power, would reduce energy demand significantly. This process would only be the first step in his multi-step program to make the university completely carbon-neutral. Mr. Plotkin was not coy about the cost, time, and labor that would be involved in this ambitious project. We are calling for his ambition to be matched by the University. Climate change is more than a financial inconvenience, it is an existential threat. If Wesleyan acts as a model for other institutions, we could effect meaningful change.
Signed, PHYS105/ENVS235 – Radical Sustainability: Levi Baruch Miles Brooks Marissa Rose Chang Alissa Dobrinsky Harper Gambill Jon Hollister Giacomo Marenco di Moriondo Samuel McCarthy Cal Mirowitz Molly Mittelbach Maggie O’Hanlon Abi Pipkin Maggie Polk Cassidy Soloff Grayson Squires Brian Stewart Shaya Tousi Olivia Weiss Joey Young