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Saint Mary’s hosts environmental film premiere

| Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Saint Mary’s Environmental Action Coalition (SMEAC) hosted a premiere of “Disruption” on Sunday. The environmental film, written and directed by Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott, was officially released Sunday online as an informative build-up to the upcoming People’s Climate March, SMEAC president Erin Cisneros said.

Cisneros said the viewing brought together those on campus who are, or who hope to be, active in environmental change.

“It’s kind of not actually what I expected,” Cisneros said. “It was a lot more colorful, and really informative for what’s going on. A lot of these films we watch, I feel they put the icing on top, open the people’s eyes to what’s going on, and the speakers in the film were really informative.”

SMEAC secretary Gwen Murphy said she was surprised the film approached climate and environmental awareness from a social justice perspective.

“So many times, people focus on the scientific,” Murphy said. “I think it’s a lot more powerful and will reach a lot more people this way.”

Assistant professor of Political Science and Gender & Women’s Studies Sonalini Sapra said she organized the event after receiving and email from 350.org, international environmental group, asking if she would be willing to host a screening.

While the film seeks to raise awareness of climate change and environmental justice, it also highlights the march planned for Sept. 21 and 22 in New York City, Sapra said.

“[It is] the largest action in support of political action to address global warming. It is timed to coincide with the climate summit called by Ban Ki-Moon, for world leaders in advance of the next scheduled round of climate change negotiations in 2015,” Sapra said. “The purpose of this rally and other supporting events taking place around the world is to demonstrate the magnitude of support for effective action against climate change.”

Sapra will be traveling with seven students to participate in the rally, Sapra said. Many Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students whom Sapra has spoken with recognize that climate change and environmental degradation is a pressing issue, she said.

“I’ve had students in my classes who understand that climate change is the ‘right to life’ issue of our time,” Sapra said. “I think students recognize that the impacts of climate change are disproportionately being felt by the poor and marginalized, and [they] want the U.S. to be at the forefront of modeling more sustainable behavior for the rest of the world.” The film suggested that bystanders to the environmental injustices that occur today are actually perpetrators, Cisneros said.

“When you see people neglect something, then you become the issue,” Cisneros said. “I’m hoping people just see that we care, because we have nowhere else to go.”

Sapra said Saint Mary’s should be at the forefront of sustainability initiatives as a Catholic college.

“My hope is that students find the activism they encounter at this march to be inspiring and encourages them to raise the profile of environmental [and] sustainability issues amongst the student body and administration at Saint Mary’s,” Sapra said.

Cisneros said the majority of the student body’s lack of activism was obvious in their inability to recycle properly.

“People don’t know how to recycle,” Cisneros said. “We are very individualistic as a country. We need to be aware of what’s going on. People complain about how this summer was mild, and now it’s hot, and last winter was crazy. I’m hoping that [environmental change] becomes common knowledge now.”

Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame should divest from fossil fuel companies in order to take part in environmental initiatives, Sapra said.

“I think divestment from these dirty and dangerous companies, would send a strong message and keep SMC and ND more in accordance with their Catholic social justice mission,” Sapra said.

SMEAC will discuss how to approach environmental change on campus during their first official meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on the island of Lake Marion weather permitting, or in Rainbeaux Lounge in Les Mans Hall, Cisneros said.

“We just want to be involved; we want to bring awareness to Saint Mary’s. That’s our goal this year,” Cisneros said. “We want to make a difference, and I think if we start here we can expand.”

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