Sustainability & Social Justice Dinner Held on Earth Day
On April 22, Dartmouth hosted its fourth annual Sustainability and Social Justice Dinner at the Hanover Inn. The dinner brought together Dartmouth faculty, undergraduate students, and graduate students to celebrate Earth Day. Guests enjoyed a buffet of food from sustainable sources while listening to talks led by a panel of students and faculty.
Katie Gougelet ’14, an environmental studies major and biology minor, kicked off the series of speeches by recounting her experience visiting a school near a coal mining production plant in West Virginia. The school was in close proximity to the coal factory, and the harmful sooty residues of the coal factory had caused many medical issues for the children at the school. Ever since visiting the school, Gougelet has continued to worry about these children whenever she switches on a light. She has become an active advocate of sustainability, and her message for the audience was about the importance of considering the connection between cause and effect.
Mary DiGeronimo ’14, a psychology major spoke next. Similarly to Gougelet, DiGeronimo shared an experience she had while on a trip to Managua, Nicaragua with a club she began named the Norfolk Christian Missions Club. While there, DiGeronimo worked at a local trash yard. She explained that it was common for fathers to sell their daughters for prostitution in order to obtain the first pick of the trash. In response to this horrific practice, DiGeronimo’s club, alongside members from the Great Commission Resources International (GCRI) and Frontier Horizon, built a place of refuge for these mistreated girls and women. DiGernonimo emphasized the importance of community, and how people should be grateful for the communities to which they belong.
David Peart, a professor of biology, followed DiGeronimo. He shared his continuing attempts to incorporate sustainability into his daily routines. He stressed the importance of cognizance about a sustainable lifestyle and noted that a group effort must be made in order to achieve change.
Shifting topics slightly, Ma’Ko’Quah Abigail Jones ’14, a dual major in government and Native American studies, spoke about her personal experience with social justice and the effect sustainability has on humans. While sustainable practices are often for the betterment of humanity, some communities are displaced as a result. Jones’ research focuses on the protection of cultures that are already rooted in sustainable traditions, such as tribal cultures, because the environment is such an integral part of those cultures’ identities. In this way, Jones underscored the necessity of approaching sustainability from a human perspective, as well as an ecological perspective.
Terry Osborne, a professor of environmental studies, finished out the speeches with a discussion about the self, sustainability, and social justice. He asked the audience to pause and breathe mindfully while considering the ways deeper self-awareness can lead to a “just sustainability.”
The evening ended with a short discussion at individual tables about participants’ opinions regarding sustainable practices. The guests were asked by Sarah Alexander ’14, the head intern of the Sustainability Office, to brainstorm three ideas as a group that could be implemented at Dartmouth to make the community more sustainable. Each participant was also asked to write down one sustainable promise that he or she would try to keep over the next six months.
Overall, the event was thought-provoking and encouraged real consideration among participants of their own practices and how these practices are connected to issues of sustainability and social justice.
by Perry Scheetz
photo by Cedar Farwell ’17