Campus events promote sustainability

Jessica Allen

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A little more than 40 years ago, a group of environmentally conscious Northwestern community members came together to plan a year of advocacy and host one of the most well-attended events ever held at the school.

On Jan. 23, 1970, an estimated 10,000 people flooded the Technological Institute for “Project Survival: A Public Teach-Out on the Environmental Problems of Species Man.” Busloads of students came from around the Midwest for the all-night event that served 9,000 cups of coffee, according to One Book One Northwestern’s website.

“They organized the largest environmental event leading up to the very first Earth Day in 1970,” said Jeff Henderson, One Book project coordinator for Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern, which is hosting the green-themed project this year. “Crowds filled the hall to watch the speeches if they couldn’t fit in. … It was a really incredible event.”

Forty years later, the minds behind Project Survival will be brought back to campus today for “An Earth Day Forum with NU’s Pioneer Environmental Activists” in McCormick Tribune Center Forum at 4 p.m.The panel is one of several environmentally themed events planned not only for Earth Day but for the academic year after Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded” was chosen as this year’s selection for One Book One Northwestern.

Today, ISEN and One Book are bringing Jean-Michel Cousteau for a keynote address on “The Other 70%: Understanding the Earth’s Underwater Ecosystems.”

“We are expecting a completely sold-out house,” Henderson said. “We anticipate 1,000 people, probably. … If students are interested in attending they should try to show up early to get a seat.”

ISEN and One Book are also supporting the “Green Group” Open House in the McCormick Tribune Center lobby, at which student groups will showcase projects they are working on.They are also supporting “Mt. Trashmore,” a display of the waste NU produces in six hours, which for the third year in a row will be built on Lunt Hall’s lawn, Henderson said.

Other Earth Day activities include the weeklong “One Book Eco Trivia Contest” and “ASG reNUvation Day,” a day for promoting community service around Evanston. On Friday, Filipino student group Kaibigan is bringing White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford to campus to discuss the White House food garden and local food sourcing.

NU will get its own taste of on-campus food sourcing this May when students plant the first vegetables and herbs in the student-run garden “Wild Roots.”

The on-campus garden began Fall Quarter and is an environmental legacy that Henderson hopes will continue.

“The plan right now is for (the produce) to stay local and to fold them back into the local food supply-providing them to Norris and hopefully to selective dining halls,” Henderson said. “The garden’s not huge … but it’s something that we’re trying on a trial basis.”

Weinberg junior Molly Hoisington, Environmental Campus Outreach representative on the garden committee, said the purpose of the space is to teach students it’s fun and feasible to grow their own food. The garden will probably never be able to provide financial savings for the University, but gardens at home can provide environmental and fiscal benefits, Hoisington said.

“On the personal income level?” she said. “Yeah, that makes a difference.”

SESP junior Emmaline Pohnl said legacies of past environmental movements, such as Project Survival, are continually motivating.

Project Survival was planned by Northwestern Students for a Better Environment, an organization composed primarily of science and engineering students that was still young in 1970. Out of it, Students for Ecological and Environmental Development grew in the 1980s.

“It’s definitely inspirational, and it kind of shows us the potential of what we could do,” said Pohnl, SEED co-chair. “We’re a small student group and they were a small group too.”One Book has supported about 40 events this year, all which have had “fantastic” student participation, Henderson said.

“I wouldn’t say we’re seeing more interest,” he said. “We’re seeing sustained interest. … Up through Earth Day, we’ve really been blown away by the dedication and enthusiasm students have shown through the wide variety of issues.”