Professors hope to advance environmentalism locally

With Earth Day upon us yet again, so too comes an ebb and flow of campus participation in the environmentally conscious holiday. Last year marked one of the biggest instances of campus participation in Earth Day with two art students creating a campaign to advertise the orange recycling dumpsters around the city and campus. While the Sikes Lake cleanup scheduled for today at noon is a fitting event for Earth Day, it certainly does not match the scope of last year’s celebration.

While it’s coming a week late for Earth Day, there will be a faculty-led panel on environmentalism April 29 as part of next week’s Celebration of Scholarship.

Assistant English professor Todd Giles said he, Rebecca Dodge, associate geoscience professor, and Lucy Schultz, assistant philosophy professor, will lead the panel that focuses on asking questions rather than traditional lecturing.

“The more I think about it the more I like this kind of approach. It’s more of a discussion than teaching,” Giles said. “My hope is it extends beyond the students and there will be faculty and staff there.”

Giles said he hopes the discussion will spur attendees to think about the direct impact they can make on a local level.

“Why, for example, do we have a dining hall that still uses styrofoam containers for takeout food? It goes beyond the students. If anything happens it’s going to come from the students and from that generation,” Giles said.

Giles said Wichita Falls is in dire need of a better recycling program, and he said the university is in a unique position to lead the charge in creating a more environmentally friendly city.

“This is the least environmentally conscious town and university I’ve ever encountered. I’ve lived in six different cities and have never been in one where recycling is so unimportant,” Giles said. “I’m thrilled to see the initiative that started with Yucus and her EURECA students, but it’s a far cry from where we should be as an institution of higher learning. A university should always be at the forefront of positive change in its community.”

Schultz, who earned her doctorate from the University of Oregon with an emphasis in environmental philosophy, will begin teaching an environmental philosophy course in spring 2016—a first for MSU.

“Environmentalism transcends politics. It doesn’t matter what your political views are. We all have bodies and we all need clean air and clear water to drink, and this is something that should unite us,” Schultz said. “Being an environmentalist should be seen as a gesture of love for humankind and a love for the earth, and a way to bring people together.”

Giles said the introduction of courses like environmental philosophy marks the beginning of new direction for the university’s academics, and hopefully that new direction will result in a more environmentally conscious campus community.

“If you’ve got people like me teaching post feminism and people like Schultz teaching environmentalism, we’re bringing something to the table that hasn’t been here before,” Giles said. “I’d like to see a campus-wide initiative in every department to not only recycle paper, but also plastics. There’s no reason every department on campus should not be heavily engaged in recycling. It’s something that should be taught in the dorms. Housing, if they haven’t done so already, should have bins on every floor. Even if it means somebody agrees to take the recycling out to the bin each week.”

Political science senior Tiernan Harris said she recycles because it is an important thing to do and one person can make an impact.

“When it comes to plastics and glass, I use the recycle bins on campus,” Harris said. “I try [going green] by monitoring my water usage and riding my bike.”

Additional reporting by Ethan Metcalf.

Related: Engage in Earth Day