Students share views on protecting the environment at 'Eco Talks'

Sarah White | Staff Photographer Laura Coffee, marketing and outreach manager of Green Tree Cooperative Grocery, speaks about the art of presentation at the Eco Talks event sponsored by the Student Environmental Alliance in awareness of Earth Week in the Park Library auditorium on Monday.

Students took to the stage in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium on Monday night to share a variety of views on sustainability and environmental protection.

The "Eco Talks" presentation, a part of Central Michigan University's Earth Week, featured nine speakers who looked at issues of environmentalism with senior Lindsay Chestnut as the master of ceremonies for the event.

"We touched on a vast spectrum of perspectives on environmentalism tonight," the Dewitt native said. "I think we reached a lot of people and got them fired up about these issues."

Waterford senior and new Student Government Association Vice President Mariah Urueta spoke about the criminalization of environmental activism, a trend she calls the "green scare." She cited local and national examples of activists who have been charged as ecoterrorists and encouraged the audience to look closer into the issue.

Michael Fisher, a water resources technician with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, outlined possible solutions for water quality problems in the Chippewa River. Fisher said runoff from farmland drains into the north branch of the river and flows downstream, leading to potential health issues such as E. coli.

"Best management practices can reduce our impact on water quality," Fisher said. "We need to let our elected officials know that this is important to us and that having our rivers destroyed is not OK."

Several of the speakers related environmentalism to religion. Hugh Halman, a professor of philosophy and religion, drew a connection between Earth Day and The Green Man, a figure in the Abrahamic religions who represents nature and rejuvenation.

Blanchard senior Andrew Shaw talked about the idea of human stewardship for the planet found in both the Bible and secular culture.

Musical and poetic interludes were performed by students between the speeches at the event. They read poetry and played songs about the environment and the importance of conservation.

Earth Week committee member and Lake Isabella senior Sarah Fiorillo said the Earth Week events held Monday all went smoothly.

"It was interesting to hear about all these aspects of environmentalism that affect us both locally and nationally," Fiorillo said.

Other topics at the event included the processes used at the Isabella County Recycling Center, the positive effects stricter property rights could have on the environment and the benefits of new synthetic wine corks.

In the lobby of the library, environmental groups on campus set up tables and spoke with students attending the event. The groups included Take Back the Tap, Divest CMU and the Student Environmental Alliance.