April 21, 2010
SMU students will celebrate Earth Day 2010 on Thursday, April 22 with commemorative T-shirts and a vegetarian feast under the stars, followed by a voluntary cleanup of the Katy Trail and the “Barefoot on the Boulevard” music festival on Saturday, April 24.
SMU celebrated the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970 — like hundreds of thousands of other college students around the country — with a full day of speeches, films and exhibits that protested the country’s inattention to belching smokestacks, oil spills, filthy rivers and indiscriminate disposal of toxic chemicals. It was a time of heightened environmental and political awareness, and students were major players in the nascent “ecology” movement.
Forty years later, environmental protection is part of American life at every level and the observance of Earth Day is a celebration rather than a protest. Americans still argue over acceptable levels of environmental protection and the debate has expanded from the basic questions of clean air and water to more complicated questions surrounding climate change, biodiversity, deforestation and renewable energy. Still, changes reflected around the country and here at SMU over the past 40 years have been remarkable. Here’s a snapshot:
- The Environmental Protection Agency, created in 1970, now regulates environmental protection at every level of U.S. policy relating to natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry and international trade. SMU Environmental Engineering Professor Al Armendariz is administrator for Region 6, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico.
- Nearly one-third of municipal solid waste is recycled nationally, according to the latest EPA statistics available. SMU recycled more than 18,000 pounds of waste material last year, ranging from leftover newspapers and soda cans to clippings trimmed from trees and shrubs.
- SMU placed fifth out of 21 competing Texas universities in the “Per Capita Classic” division in the recent Recyclemania competition http://www.recyclemania.com/ beating Rice, Baylor, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Houston, the University of North Texas and Texas A&M. “It was great that the campus community responded positively to that message, but even better that they responded practically,” said Kevin Salfen, acting chair of music history in the Meadows School of the Arts, who assisted with SMU’s Recyclemania effort. “In the last week of the competition, Greek houses and apartments alone were responsible for generating about 1830 pounds of recycle-able materials.”
- Americans now build their homes and choose their appliances with an eye toward saving energy, earning currently available federal tax credits and saving on monthly utility bills. New SMU buildings, like the Lyle School of Engineering’s recently dedicated Caruth Hall, are constructed to sustainable standards established by the U.S. Green Building Council. SMU’s office of Facilities Management and Sustainability http://smu.edu/campus_planning/Sustainability.asp manages campus energy consumption, and SMU’s real-time water and electricity usage is on display at the “Building Dashboard.” http://buildingdashboard.com/clients/smu/
- Protecting the environment has grown into a significant 21st Century career path, as businesses and government agencies hire environmental engineers, water quality experts, energy management experts and urban planners to support sustainable living and development. At SMU, students are pursuing degrees http://smu.edu/sustainability/degree-programs.asp in environmental science and environmental studies through Dedman College and environmental engineering through the Lyle School of Engineering.