On Dec. 6, students, professors and community members gathered in Norman Smith Hall for a Growing Students Sustainability meeting and dinner at the University of Maine. Linda Silka, a senior fellow for the George Mitchell Center, and Tim Wearing, a professor of economics at UMaine, planned and hosted the gathering to bring about a discussion of how UMaine could become more environmentally friendly. The meeting explored positive steps the community at UMaine could take to engage in climate action.
The event was well attended, with almost no room for seating as the event commenced.
Wearing started off the event with a general introduction, stating how he wanted to encourage sustainability, especially at UMaine. Wearing reflected on his college experiences with environmental activism and then went on to congratulate multiple student leaders for their work in environmentalism and sustainability.
Some students who received congratulations were Sydney Abromovich, the president of UMaine’s Green Team and Dalton Bouchless from the Sustainability and Environmental Activism Division (S.E.A.D). The UMaine Green Team is a community of UMaine students who meet in order to organize events and discuss issues related to the preservation of the local, state and international environment. S.E.A.D is a representative board whose purpose is to be the voice of the students, to allow members of the UMaine community to discuss environmental and sustainability issues and to empower students by connecting them with resources to improve and inform activism efforts. UMaine also recognized alumna Aubrey Cross who was congratulated for her sustainability work with UMaine Dining.
After award acknowledgments, the focus of the event began to shift. Wearing asked the audience about how UMaine should go about becoming more sustainable and encouraged discussion on the issue of how both state and local agencies can discuss and address environmental issues. Wearing encouraged group discussion, noting that the premise of the event was to promote discussion about issues concerning the community. Once community members had the opportunity to discuss these issues, they were then encouraged to engage with the larger group about the topics, issues and solutions that they had discussed. These were then compiled into a list by Wearing.
Benjamin Hacker, a third-year forestry student, was one of the first to speak. Hacker suggested that the university should become an ecovillage and that people should grow food for the University. This idea of becoming self-sustainable and self-dependent for some of the resources required to run the university would create a much smaller environmental impact and would allow UMaine to take more steps towards sustainability.
Others, including Ambromovich and Peter O’Brien, suggested ideas like investing in solar panels and creating a student board to discuss and decide on environmental and sustainability-related issues. They noted that having a board that discusses environmental and sustainability-related issues that is not apart of S.E.A.D would help the university to outline the goals that the student community hopes to reach.
Dan Dixon, UMaine’s Director of Sustainability, also spoke at the event and advocated for the university to completely divest from fossil fuels.
The very first Growing Student Sustainability event brought forward a very important conversation about climate change, sustainability and how the university can do better. The group hopes to meet again every semester in order to sustain the conversation about environmental and sustainability issues.