Sustainability Conference, Pittsburgh

During fall 2011, SMU students are participating in a conference sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education in Pittsburgh.

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At the Student Summit

An update from Ashley, a sophomore flute performance and environmental studies major:

I woke up bright and early on Sunday morning to catch the 7 a.m. shuttle from the Radisson to the downtown convention center. Once we walked inside, we went through check-in and grabbed a quick breakfast before heading off to the Student Summit Community Service briefing room.

Planting daffodil bulbs

We had the option of either cleaning the riverfront or going door-to-door handing out tools to live more sustainably. The SMU delegation decided to take on the riverfront project, and Stephen, Keya, Jennifer and Leslie picked up trash while Samuel, Pamela and I planted a large bucket’s worth of daffodil bulbs.

We finished after two hours of hard work and decided to walk downtown for lunch at a famous sandwich shop. Lunch was delicious! Since the football game was later that day, we were literally surrounded in a sea of black and yellow – Steelers Nation.

After lunch, we attended the Student Summit Keynote, where environmentalist Bill McKibben spoke about his 350.org movement. Did you know that 350 ppm, or parts per million, is the maximum amount of carbon that our atmosphere can sustainably carry (without any detriments)? Unfortunately, we’re already at 393 ppm of carbon, which is why Bill had launched his 350 campaign.

Last year, our global temperature rose by one full degree. Every degree the global temperature goes up equals a 10 percent cut in grain yields. As a growing population, we cannot handle cuts in vital needs. Anyways, it’s time to stand up for a global climate change, which is what we might be doing on Tuesday (October 10) because currently, President Obama is planning on visiting Pittsburgh to talk about his jobs policy. Bill urged us to peacefully protest the Tar Sands Pipeline that would potentially stretch from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast. Tar sands mining is extremely ineffective, and we need President Obama to object to the proposal.

I attended a session on Environmental Justice, which was a subject I was not very familiar with. The university that presented gave me some really great tips on how to improve/start up an Environmental Justice program.

The last keynote speaker was very inspiring as well. Majora Carter grew up in the South Bronx area, also referred to as an economic and environmental “train wreck.” Her work involved analyzing the correlation between proximity to fossil fuels and learning disabilities. Studies had shown that there was a strong correlation between the two, which to her called for an environmental transformation. She understood that the economy directly influenced the environment and called for more community development.

It was a very moving and inspiring lecture, especially since she did her undergraduate degree in acting and her master’s in fine arts. This made me realize that it’s actually a possibility for me – I (as an arts major) could be doing this in the future.

We spent the rest of the evening exploring the Expo. I got to talk to many companies about their sustainability initiatives. I actually talked to four different water filtering/water bottle filling station companies to get a general idea of what programs were available and which ones could benefit SMU’s campus the most. All in all, a great day, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow; we are presenting our poster on E-Reps and their role on campus.

See you tomorrow!

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