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Green Week 2009: The Ecology of Hope

Lainey S. Cronk, April 30, 2009
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Spreading bark in the park and learning about nature deficiency were highlights of Pacific Union College's second annual Green Week, celebrated on and following Earth Day in April. The week was also the keystone event of a year-long emphasis on the campus to "get out into nature, get your hands dirty," as vice president for student services Lisa Bissell Paulson explains.

Ten new trees was one success of the week, and a product of the Friday afternoon service project in the town of St. Helena. About 50 students, faculty and staff headed down to Crane Park, where they placed new bark around all of the playground equipment, washed all of the equipment, and planted the trees. Doug Wilson, student activities director and coordinator of the event, was thrilled with how the project turned out. " It was a great turnout and great event," he said. "The St. Helena people were amazed and excited by our help."

The college also brought Cheryl Charles, president of the Children & Nature Network, to present twice for Green Week. At an evening lecture on April 22, Charles presented "The Ecology of Hope: Building a Movement to Reconnect Children and Nature." She spoke on why the health of children and the health of the earth are inseparable, addressing the question of whether the absence of direct exposure to nature can harm a child's development. On Thursday morning for the all-school colloquy, her address was again on the "Ecology of Hope," this time on "Gifts of Nature in Our Everyday Lives." She addressed the need for children and future generations to engage in nature for the betterment of the individual and society.

Other elements of the busy five-day celebration included "green art" posters from an elementary school, a documentary screening of "Renewal: Story's from America's Religious-Environmental Movement," a nature walk, an unpopular plant-a-garden event, a game of searchers and chasers, and an Earth Week Fair.

The Earth Week Fair was a collection of booths and displays in and in front of the dining commons. Outside, a Solectra "Force" and two hybrid SUV's from Epps Chevrolet sat near a huge truck container full of plastic bottles - PUC fills two truckloads per week, recycling over 200,000 pounds of #1 plastic per year. Bales of recyclable white paper and cardboard were also on display.

Inside, the fair featured the Butterfly Project, an effort of the Holocaust Museum Houston to collect 1.5 million handmade butterflies to remember the 1.5 million innocent children who died in the Holocaust. At one table, college students could join 3rd-graders in making butterflies for the project. The most popular area was the silkscreen booth, where students could have t-shirts imprinted with Butterfly Project designs or "Every Day is Earth Day." There was also a green books display, Bon Appetite and College Market displays, and SIFE club providing "Klean Kanteens."

All year, "green" events from mini gardens to handmade craft events to wilderness survival have been helping people connect personally with nature and ecological awareness. "We want to encourage people to go beyond the intellectual idea that it's 'good to be green' to a personal I love to be outside!'" Paulson says. Or, as her daughter says, "Nature rocks, Mom!"

 The goal is also to pull in a wider community. "We're trying to involve all age levels," Paulson explains, "community, the elementary school, college students…" Green Week is a chance to heighten awareness for all these groups, but it is, Paulson says, "an all-year process of getting students to emotionally connect and see why, in the long run, this will make a difference."