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Earth Days Week 2019 Reaches 700 People on the Urgency of Addressing Climate Change

Earth Days Week 2019 successfully engaged more than 700 students, faculty, staff and members of the larger community on the theme “Sounding the Alarm on Climate: Critical Actions for a Livable Planet.” Through lectures, films and other activities, participants deepened their understanding of climate change and of the actions that are necessary to help sustain a livable world.    

The Earth Days planning committee took as inspiration the 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which detailed that body’s most dire climate change findings to date. The gist of the report is simple: We have until 2030 to make “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” or the Earth will become a less habitable, more hostile environment.  

The urgency of the IPCC message inevitably led to a focus on activism during Earth Days Week this year, as highlighted by keynote speaker Tim DeChristopher, an internationally renowned climate activist who spoke on “Activism for the End Times” to a packed crowd of Advocacy Day and Earth Days participants in Vets Hall. The committee presented DeChristopher, the co-founder of Peaceful Uprising and the Climate Disobedience Center, with a Friend of the Earth Award. Following that award, Karen House, VP for Finance and Facilities, accepted a $57,000 check from the Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund Award for Salem State being the only participating school to divest before the challenge deadline of the end of 2018.  

Other highlights of the week of April 8-12 included panels on climate change research across Salem State; political solutions from the Green New Deal to carbon pricing; and efforts on campus, in the city of Salem, and in the region to address climate change. The latter panel included a passionate plea from Freshman Joey Wolongevicz, head of the Sunrise Group on campus, to his fellow students to find a way to become involved on climate change issues. 

Several dozen students from five courses participated in a poster competition on the week’s theme. This is the only judged poster competition on Salem State’s campus; the winners received cash awards during the Keynote and Award ceremony later in the week. There was also an art competition with the winner also receiving a cash award.  

Disconnected, an art installation designed specifically for Earth Days Week 2019, is on display in the library until April 29th. It addresses our culture’s love affair with plastic and petroleum-based products. The towering tree in this installation posits a question about our present?relationship with nature. The art piece was created by Art Professor Ken Reker and his students. 

Another highlight of the week was the celebration on the plaza in front of the Ellison Campus Center to highlight the new Zagster bike share hub on North Campus. Blue Cross Blue Shield, which supported the city-wide expansion of the Zagster system, provided blender bikes. Riders pedaled these stationary bikes churning a blender to create delicious smoothies. Participants also learned about the Zagster system, which offers the first two hours of every bike ride free to Salem State students, faculty and staff. 

2019 marked Salem State’s 19th annual celebration of Earth Days Week. More information is available at salemstate.edu/earthday

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Tara Gallagher
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