Earth Day Brings Students and Local Organizations Together

A+student+presents+cupcakes+from+Midd+Cakes+to+guests+at+the+Earth+Day+event.+
A student presents cupcakes from Midd Cakes to guests at the Earth Day event.

A student presents cupcakes from Midd Cakes to guests at the Earth Day event.

JOHN SCHURER

JOHN SCHURER

A student presents cupcakes from Midd Cakes to guests at the Earth Day event.

By CHRIS GERNON

Whether it’s the small stickers under the light switches that say “Be bright and turn off the light!” or getting rid of the to-go boxes, Middlebury’s commitment to environmental sustainability is displayed often and unabashedly.

This past Sunday, Apr. 22, as a celebration of Earth Day, local clubs and organizations got the opportunity to exhibit how they’re making a difference in the fight against climate change.

The Earth Day event, which took place in Wilson Hall, was put on by the Student Government Environmental Affairs committee.

“We wanted to hold the event to showcase environmental work being done on a local, national and global scale,” said Jacob Freedman, a first-year on the Environmental Affairs committee who helped organize the event. “We also wanted the tone of the event to be one of hope and agency, a change from the negativity that often lingers in our conversations of global warming and climate change.” 

There were a wide variety of representatives from both the College and the greater Middlebury community who attended to show a commitment to environmental sustainability and an appreciation of the Earth.

Another College representative was the newly founded Middlebury Hydroponics Club named Middponics. Approved last month, the new club’s mission is to build hydroponic setups while educating the Middlebury community on sustainable growing practices. Patti Padua, the caretaker of the bihall greenhouse, has given the club space to operate out of the greenhouse.

“We grow plants without dirt,” said Will Kelley, a first-year who is the co-president of the new club. “Hydroponics uses up to 90 percent less water than traditional growing methods, and is much more spatially efficient too. Plus, it doesn’t require the use of fertilizers that can be harmful to the soil. As long as the energy used for it is well sourced, hydroponics can be incredibly sustainable as a means of food production.”

While the club is still in its beginning phase, it is currently planning on growing herbs such as basil and thyme with the hope of eventually growing produce such as lettuce to supply to the dining halls.

Another booth at the Earth Day event was run by the Otter Creek Audubon society. The society recently held both of their biannual amphibian crossing events.

On Apr. 3 and Mar. 29, herpers—people who search for amphibians and reptiles—from around Middlebury gathered on Morgan Road to monitor and protect the amphibians as they migrated from their high altitude underground burrows, where they’ve spent the winter, to lower altitude, vernal pools to breed for the spring and summer.

“Cars can do a lot of damage on those roads when the frogs and salamanders are migrating,” said Ron Payne, the president of the local chapter who attended the Earth Day event.

According to their report on Apr. 3, 21 volunteers spent 1.75 hours at the crossing and moved a total of 258 amphibians and one reptile.

The society also conducts monitoring projects, and one study used some of the society’s data to predict where birds will want to migrate based on changes in the climate. The study concluded that many bird species will be forced out of their natural habitat in order to live in a climate most conducive to that species. Other Audubon work includes projects in local schools and work days to exterminate invasive species.

Two other organizations represented at the Earth Day event—Spirit in Nature: Interfaith Path Sanctuary and Standing for the Earth—called upon members of the community and members of the college to engage their spiritual and/or religious self to join the fight against climate change.

Spirit in Nature: Interfaith Path Sanctuary is an organization that operates on land leased by the college and builds and maintains trails that allow community members to engage with nature both physically and spiritually.

Part of their mission iterates: “We hope to heal our species’ broken cultural relationship with the rest of nature. We cast our anger in spiritual and religious terms and invite the public to mindfully walk the Spirit in Nature Paths in Ripton as a practice of re-connecting with the rest of nature.”

“We want our nature paths to be a place students can go to de-stress and hang out in nature,” said Ron Slabuge, a representative at the fair.

The other faith-based organization advertised at the fair was the Addison County Interfaith Action Network (ICAN).

Their mission states: “The mission of ICAN is to be a forum in our community where spiritual, religious and ethical concerns about climate change are articulated and engaged in constructive ways that encourage understanding and strive towards solutions.”

As a way to work towards their mission after the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, ICAN started hosting a “stand up for the Earth” vigil every Saturday morning from 10:30-11a.m. in the town green triangle near the Weybridge church.

“ICAN hopes to create opportunities to allow people to be in touch with the depth dimension of their moral and ethical self in order to care about the earth,” said Reverend Daniel Cooperrider, a pastor at Weybridge Church and a member of ICAN. “Gratitude and compassion are two spiritual values we try to operate on.”

Middlebury students are actively engaged in the fight against climate change. Last Sunday was just a microcosm of what many students and local organizations do to help protect the environment at the college.

“The tone of the event hopefully inspired all who attended and showed that we are making a difference in protecting our environment,” said Jacob Freedman.

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Earth Day Brings Students and Local Organizations Together