The University of Connecticut hopes to raise awareness of environmental issues and explore the interactions between society and the natural world in this semester’s Metanoia on The Environment.
The Steering Committee on Metanoia is planning events leading up to Earth Day on April 22, according to an email by President Susan Herbst and Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Teitelbaum.
“We’ll discuss environmental issues and challenges that affect us all, as amplified by recent climate-related natural disasters, and we’ll encourage people to ‘think globally and act locally’ in order to be a part of solutions that sustain, protect and preserve natural resources,” the email said.
The committee is asking for proposals from the university community, according to the email. Proposals can be submitted from undergraduate and graduate students and include guest speakers, performances and classroom activities, according to the UConn Environment website.
Alexis Meehan, fourth-semester environmental studies major and member of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) sustainability subcommittee, said the subcommittee is currently planning a panel and art show to display the environmental justice aspect of Metanoia.
“I think it’s great that they’ve decided to shed light onto environmental issues, particularly in this political climate,” Meehan said. “I think it’s especially important to make sure they give women, children and minorities a voice in this event since they are typically disproportionately harmed by environmental issues.”
Meehan said she believes it’s important to recognize that environmental issues can often hit close to home.
“We typically think of them as being far off in other parts of the world, but sustainability and being environmentally conscious is something we can get involved in as a campus and community,” Meehan said.
The UConn Environment website says there is an “urgent need” for individuals, regions and nations to address global environmental challenges.
“Many of the grave problems facing society in the 21st century are environmental in nature, including issues of sustainability, water availability, food security, deforestation and the loss of biodiversity,” the website said.
UConn has advanced its commitment to sustainability in several ways, the email said. All of its dining halls are Green Restaurant Certified and its water reclaiming facility recycles 400,000 gallons of water a day, according to the email.
Additionally, the university has endorsed a Climate Action Plan and has a follow-up 2020 Vision Plan for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership, according to the email.
“(The plan) sets goals and milestones on the path to a carbon-neutral campus, and a follow-up 2020 Vision Plan for Campus Sustainability and Climate Leadership, which has more specific interim metrics for accelerating that journey,” the email said.
The climate action plan focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and is being tracked by an annual greenhouse gas inventory, according to the Office of Environmental Policy website.
“Significant energy efficiency measures alone over the past five years have already saved millions of dollars in energy costs and reduced UConn’s carbon footprint by nearly 20 percent, despite the continued growth of the Storrs campus,” the email said.
Fourth-semester environmental studies major Haley Sharlow said she’s glad the environment is the focus of this semester’s Metanoia because the changing environment is one of the biggest issues currently facing humanity.
“We need to start paying attention to environmental issues because we are the generation who will be dealing with them and enacting changes, so for us to have a fundamental understanding of the environment is essential,” Sharlow said.
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.