Environmental Justice Issues

 

drop me in the water

Written by Liz Groth

These days we hear a lot about global warming, recycling, and clean energy sources, but just how important is it to go green? Seniors Malorie Imhoff and Amanda Janse-Vreeling both have quite a bit to say about the matter. Recently, the two St. Norbert College women participated in a TRIPS environmental issues program which took place in Watersmeet, Michigan. While on this trip, Malorie and Amanda had the opportunity to serve alongside conservationists to prevent the spread of a non-native invasive plant species called glossy buckthorn. Although the trip only lasted for a weekend, both women returned back to campus with fond memories and a much greater appreciation for the environment.

The passion and determination for environmental justice is clearly present when speaking with Malorie and Amanda. Being an environmental science major, Malorie, one of the trip’s co-leaders, was eager to talk about how environmental issues play a large role in our daily lives. She explained, “Environmental issues are some that many overlook, but have a significant hand in the quality of our drinking water, the air we breathe, and the biodiversity that surrounds us.”

 

Amanda added that environmental justice issues are important because every person should be able to enjoy the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards. She went on to say, “We need to learn how to protect the environment in order to give everyone equal use of the environment, such as clean water and clean air.” As a business major, Amanda explains that she is very interested in problems involving the relationship between bigger corporations and the environment.

 

On their trip, Malorie and Amanda worked with a team of St. Norbert students to clear the forest trails in Sylvania of invasive plant species. Since Sylvania is declared a wilderness area, they do not allow any type of machinery — not even bicycles — so this physically demanding service had to be done without the use of any power equipment. The students relied on axes, hand saws, and their own physical strength to get the job done. Malorie claims that another group of generous volunteers called the Friends of Sylvania, who she described as “a rambunctious crew of old-timers from Madison,” also inspired them to stay motivated.

 

The demanding physical labor wasn’t the only challenge students faced. The October weather brought plenty of rain and temperatures that dipped into the low 20s at night. Even these conditions couldn’t put a damper on the passionate crew who set out into the Sylvania forest day after day though. Amanda said that, “Although it rained everyday, we brought our own sunshine.”

Despite the challenges that these students faced on their environmental issues trip, both Malorie and Amanda returned to campus with a new appreciation for the environment.  Although the women knew they would get their hands a little dirty and learn more about the forest systems in the U.S. on their weekend trip, they both explained that what they gained far exceeded these expectations.

 

Malorie said, “The service was so meaningful it caused me to reevaluate our entire forest system and garner a greater appreciation for those who serve the forests, mostly voluntarily. It caused me to think more deeply about what ‘wilderness’ means, and what can be done in my daily routine to help preserve this. It also provided me with a support group of new friends who care deeply about similar issues and who will continue to be great proponents of the earth alongside me.”

 

Both women reflected on the nights they spent gathered around the campfire sharing stories and enjoying the beauty of nature. Amanda mentioned that “camping and living with the necessities really shows how to live sustainably.” She went on to explain,  “I feel responsible for creating awareness regarding environmental issues to others, along with a solution.  I hope that by creating awareness in others they will begin to recognize that it really is the little things that matter.  We can’t stand around looking at each other, waiting for revolution to start.  That change needs to begin with us, we need to be the voice for the environment.”

 

If you’re interested in learning more about their TRIPS program, visit their website. You can also learn more about environmental justice issues by visiting the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

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