Ben Zentner, Staff Writer

 

On Wednesday, Nov. 11 the Sierra Student Coalition assisted the Sugar Grove Nature Center by harvesting seeds from a local prairie in order to increase the biodiversity of other nearby fields.

Illinois Wesleyan University’s Peace Garden finished its final harvest of the fall a week before, on Nov. 4. But come springtime, there will be plenty of work to be done with planting the crops for next year.

These ample opportunities are a product of the recent strong push at Illinois Wesleyan University to emphasize sustainability. Students, faculty and staff have all become increasingly aware of the impact our actions can have on the environment.

Sustainability is an attempt to provide the best outcomes for human and natural environments both now and into the indefinite future. It is a term used to describe developments that meet the needs of today without compromising the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow.

Our campus has become increasingly outspoken in its mission to raise awareness about environmental problems. The phrase “environmental sustainability” was added to the IWU mission statement in the recent past and the Office of Residential Life created a specific, student-run taskforce, the Sustainability Educators, eight years ago to further accomplish that mission.

Progress continues to be made toward focusing on these issues. In the recent Student Senate election, the majority of candidates for president specifically mentioned increasing awareness for sustainability within student government in their candidacy statements. There’s even talk of adding a new Student Senate commissioner directly concerned with the subject.

The Environmental Studies department in itself has grown significantly and continues to be extremely active in its mission. Only established as a major about 10 years ago, it has flourished in a short time.

Students are incentivized to dabble in this area of study, with many general education requirements, such as physical sciences or analysis of values. This allows students to increase their awareness of our world’s predicament while continuing on their path toward graduation.

There are many organizations on campus supporting IWU’s mission to go green, including Sierra Student Coalition, the IWU Peace Garden and the Sustainability Educators. Additionally, GreeNetwork engages students and faculty together to attempt to solve IWU-specific sustainability problems.

Volunteering for these sustainability efforts allows students to make a change with their own hands, strengthening their connection with the Earth and their understanding of why we still have work to do to save it.

Even if attending environmental clubs, taking an environmental studies class or volunteering for sustainability projects is not accessible for students with busy schedules, other opportunities are available for them to broaden their horizons, no strings attached.

Now it is rare for a week to go by without an environmentally-friendly event being held. Speakers from environmental organizations like Nachusa Grasslands come frequently, and panels like the Environmental Policy Panel held in Hansen on Nov. 7 continue to make sustainability knowledge accessible to every student.

The way in which the world thinks about our environment and climate change is currently in flux. With changing domestic policy and (hopefully) changing international moods towards the topic, Illinois Wesleyan and its students must remain informed.

By acting on sustainably now, we can help preserve the future that current IWU students will experience for decades to come. The efforts of the university and the students to address the reality of our changing planet should be applauded.