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Ecology lecture focuses on environmentalism

Katie Staak | Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Four ecologically conscious panelists stressed the importance of adopting a green lifestyle Tuesday in an event hosted by Saint Mary’s Campus Ministry in an effort to promote environmental awareness as an important aspect of a faith-based college.

“As a people of faith we have a responsibility to our community, an environmental responsibility,” said Regina Wilson, assistant director of Campus Ministry, before introducing the panelists in the Stapleton Lounge of LeMans Hall.

The speakers ranged from Saint Mary’s faculty members to members of the Saint Joseph’s County Valley Green Party.

Tuesday’s panel, titled “What Difference Does it Make to be Green?” was split into three sections that lasted about 15 minutes each. The first speaker, biology professor Naida Lehmann, began her segment by explaining what led her to join the Saint Mary’s faculty.

“I struggled finding ways to educate the community that they need to be aware of their environmental actions,” she said.

The College has allowed her to share her research with students who will contribute to shaping the future of a world on the brink of an ecological crisis, Lehmann said. She lamented how the world views nature as an object, or something that can be controlled.

She said she hopes the future will allow for a more intertwined relationship between humans and the nature that surrounds them.

To help students understand the relationship between human actions and the ecology, Lehmann asked audience members to close their eyes and imagine a world where people are literally tied to each other – and every step a person takes affects everybody else.

“Next time you are in the dinning hall, rather than seeing individual people think they have an elastic string tied between each of them,” she said. “Every step taken either tightens or loosens the strings.”

She said humans’ smallest actions have serious repercussions on the environment.

The second part of the lecture had members of the county’s Green Party speak about their experiences working closely with the city to improve the South Bend residents’ knowledge of the environment.

Kathleen Petitjean, an occupational therapist who is running for office, encouraged students to take personal steps toward environmental friendliness because small, daily actions can add up to meaningful contributions in the long run.

Petitjean said she tries to buy locally grown produce and rides her bike for fuel efficiency purposes.

“If you change yourself people will notice and even your small efforts may make a difference,” she said.

Karl Hardy, another member of the Green Party running for public office, said he believes the world is heading towards an ecological crisis if society does not change its ways.

“Participatory democracy is a must for a ecologically sound community,” Hardy said.

He urged the students in the audience and their generation to think socially and to take steps towards making an ecological difference throughout the community and the world.

The final speaker was Director of Facilities Bill Hambling, who shared with the audience his opinions on how each building on campus is suffering from the wear it undergoes by the environment.

Hambling said Saint Mary’s is taking action to reduce this deterioration and create an ecologically sustainable campus.

Spes Unica Hall, the new academic building scheduled to be ready for the 2008-09 academic year, has many aspects that are environmentally conscious, he said. Some of the green features are the hall’s dual toilets, designated recycling areas and motion detector lights, to help conserve energy.