Earth: You Only Get One

This year, Andover has already seen an increased focus on environmentalism and sustainability. New programs like the ECOs (Environmental Coordinating Officers), the Clutch Collaborative’s “Fall Innovent,” which featured a social entrepreneur who worked in composting, and the replacement of water fountains with water-bottle-filling “hydration stations” (funded by an Abbot Grant written by Caroline Shipley ’16) all point to further concern about climate-related problems. What Andover’s green movement is missing, however, is a “so what.” In order to engage the Andover community at large, environmental activists on campus must establish why the environment is worth caring about. Otherwise, worthwhile projects and initiatives on campus will be far less effective, simply continuing to occur in a vacuum. Furthermore, if Andover learns to care about eco-activism, it will likely take a much greater interest in such projects and initiatives, and greater participation can only serve to further current efforts. The administration does provide this “so what” backdrop to some extent. Last spring, for example, astronaut Sunita Williams spoke at All-School Meeting about her experience living in space for four months, giving the student body a unique perspective of life on Earth or “home,” as she referred to it. The Phillipian, in editorializing her presentation, however, referred to the speech as a “wasted opportunity” to “educate the student body about the very real problems that climate change poses,” further stating that it “did not address many of the goals and values associated with Earth Day.” Speakers like Williams are actually exactly what Andover needs more of. As a result of Williams’s speech, students were able to understand Andover’s various actions in response to climate change through the lens of an individual’s very compelling and personal experience. There are many existing opportunities for students to learn about the “so what.” Biology 100, a course taken by almost all Juniors, could incorporate a unit on the effects of climate change and sustainability. Environmental Ethics, an interdisciplinary course popular among students interested in sustainability, could also be made available to younger students, or clubs could post infographics and posters about Andover’s impact on the environment. There are many ways to involve students in the environment and to make them care about climate change. The environment is not some abstract notion of “Mother Earth.” We should be working to maintain our home, which is currently the only hospitable planet in our galaxy.