Grace Arenas was absolutely correct in her article “George Went Green: What Happened?” in saying that the environmental awareness movement does not appear to be receiving very much attention on campus this year. In fact, I might be tempted to go a step further and say that the “environmental awareness movement,” if one can even call it that, is practically nonexistent at WC, especially from a student perspective.
Now, don’t get me wrong: within the faculty, administration, and even the student body, there is a fair number of people putting an exceptional amount of effort and energy into creating and promoting environmental and sustainability initiatives on campus and in the larger Chestertown community.
The problem with the George Goes Green initiative, however, does not lie in the basic ideas or principles that it endeavors to promote, or in the attempts of individuals to bring these issues into the spotlight. Rather, the fact of the matter is that the message is falling largely on deaf ears, and students generally do not seem interested in getting involved. The truth is, George never made it to green.
Any Environmental Studies major, and likely anyone who is knowledgeable of the global environmental issues that plague societies around the world, knows that these issues cannot wait to be addressed. What Arenas didn’t mention is the low number of courses offered in any given semester that deal with these issues. While there are a number of courses required for the Environmental Studies major, there are not many alternatives that deal with specific recent issues or topics that would be of interest to students who want to learn about them in depth.
I argue based on these two facts that WC is not adequately preparing its students to live sustainably or to appreciate the environment as a natural resource that is quickly disappearing. Students who want to learn more in an academic setting are unable to; they are forced to find the information by themselves, as the College is not making it readily available to them. This emphasizes that the culture of WC does not value the topics in question enough.
The lack of importance given to sustainability at WC was driven home quite forcefully for me when I attempted to interview President Reiss regarding his opinions about sustainability in general and about what changes he would like to see occur here in the future. In response to an email requesting the interview, I received a reply stating that he had not, in his first four months on campus, had enough time to become acquainted with the subject matter. A second attempt to set up the same interview, stressing my desire to hear his opinions and first impressions about sustainability, received no response.
There are a number of paths that we as a community can take in order to change the perceived importance of the George Goes Green program at WC. One way would be to demand a wider variety of courses and guest lectures focusing on environmental sustainability and other related topics. Another option would be for more students to step forward and become active members or supporters of the Student Environmental Alliance (SEA), Ducks Unlimited (DU), and other environmentally focused groups or initiatives. For more information on getting involved, check out the George Goes Green website at http://georgegoesgreen.washcoll.edu/. I have taken the liberty of inventing some potential course titles that I believe could make rewarding courses and other students might be interested to see in the Course Catalogue: Sustainable Development, Agricultural Systems and Traditions, The History of Food, Alternative Waste Management (or “Garbography,” as they call it at Hobart and William Smith), The Water Pollution Solution, and US Environmental Policy.
Luckily, WC is in a period of wide-scale transition, and now is an excellent time for us to come together as a community to reshape the culture of our institution. As was emphasized by Web Editor Shane Brill in Arenas’s article, this change will only happen if the students, faculty, and staff all cooperate to create one vision together.
-Amanda Anastasia ‘13