Students, faculty create new Capilano environmental coalition
// Brittney Kroiss

Reflecting the growing focus by the administration on sustainability and environmental stewardship on campus in recent years, a new group of students and faculty have come together at Capilano University to promote the cause of a sustainable and environmentally-friendly campus – and future.

Tiaré Jung is a student in the IDEA program who has taken a keen interest in food and environmental issues during her time on campus. Last semester, Tiaré began to ask instructors what could be done to grow a campus-wide environmental movement.

According to Jeanne Mikita, one Capilano’s professors that became involved with this initiative, after a Sustainable Education conference last May, a group of instructors came together to brainstorm how they could consciously incorporate the issue of sustainability into their curricula. Jung’s line of questioning served as the catalyst to move forward on a broad campaign, and instructors from the from the Biology, Geography, Outdoor Recreation Management, English, Global Stewardship, and Liberal Studies departments came forward to support the idea.

What resulted from this was “Earthworks”, a film and lecture series focused on environmental and sustainability issues with their ideas for films and guest speakers that Capilano could host on campus. The group hosting Earthworks decided to call itself the “Campus Sustainability Network”, a student, staff, and faculty coalition whose goal is to lead a variety of university-wide environmental initiatives.

“There are so many people who want to see more environmental action on this campus, but haven't found the community,” explains Jung. “I'm trying to make connections between students, different faculties, staff, and administration … EarthWorks could become the new banner for the environmental movement on campus,” she says, emphasizing that it could be a “home” for people who wish for a place for environmental activists on campus.

The Earthworks series has already had several events on campus. On Feb. 7, UBC Sociology professor Jennifer Chun, UBC English professor Chris Lee, and multimedia artist and photographer Gu Xiong were invited by the Liberal Studies Department to discuss their collaborative project entitled “Waterscapes”. The three conversed primarily about the issues surrounding the construction of the Yangtze River’s Three Gorges Dam, which is the largest public waterworks in the world.

The project, which isn’t yet operating at full capacity, has lead to “tremendous human displace and ecological destruction,” officially displacing 1.2 million people. Unofficially, it is believed to be closer to 3 million, and is projected to grow.

At the event, Jennifer Chun explained, “There is a continued displacement of people, not only of whose towns have been submerged, but an estimated 6 million who will be displaced in the future due to erosion, deforestation, and change in water levels.”

There is an entire generation of children being raised by their grandparents, while the parents go away to find work in coastal factories, because their homes and towns have been submerged in water.

Artist Gu Xiong, who grew up nearby in Chongquing, Sichuan, said that in revisiting the region, he noticed the large gap between the rich and the poor that has resulted from the industrialization and urbanization. He has made it part of his mission to use his art to create “images to carry on [the] issues”. While it is impossible to bring the Yangtze and Fraser rivers together, he says that “seeing one river makes you see another river differently”.

The Campus Invasive Plant Pull was another event that took place under the Earthworks banner, on Feb. 16. The hands-on experience started at 9:15am with an orientation and went into the afternoon. The idea for the ivy pull was suggested by Jo Ann Cook, Capilano’s groundskeeper. A similar event took place six years ago to eradicate the invasive species, and spread quickly.

“We'd like to host a film and lecture series each semester,” says Tiaré Jung. “[We are] talking about having a campus wide food event and a clothing swap where we spread awareness for food sustainability and the life-cycle of clothes. I pitched the idea to our student team to wrap the year up with a final ‘EarthTalk’ – Sustainability Education Day – a showcasing, networking, collaborating event to bring sustainability and environmental issues to the forefront.”

The most exciting part of Earthwork for Jeanne Mikita is that “faculty and students are coming from all sorts of areas who normally wouldn’t otherwise know what one another are doing.” These events give people from different areas, and are “spilling out with ideas” to come together and collaborate. She hopes that this will lead to something that will continue in upcoming semesters.

To credit students for their extracurricular participation, Mikita created the “Earthworks passport” which students can have stamped for attending an EarthWorks event. The passports encourage instructors to acknowledge and credit the students who have taken an interest in sustainability, and additionally offers a variety of prizes, including a number of related books and films that students will be eligible to win at the end of the Spring 2012 series.

Other upcoming Earthworks events include The Status of Biodiversity in British Columbia presented by Marian Adair on Feb. 29, in which Adair, an ecologist, will discuss the status and importance of biodiversity in BC; Humanity and Habitat Destruction: What It Means for Pollinators and Food Security, presented by Elizabeth Elle on Mar. 22, where Elle, also an ecologist, will talk about how habitat destruction may have adverse effects on food security. As well, a screening of the documentary Force of Nature – A David Suzuki Story will be taking place on Apr. 3.

For more information visit the Earthworks information page on Capilano’s website: 

//Brittney Kroiss, writer
//Graphics by Jason Jeon

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