Earth Day Celebrations to Kick Off Early at Carolina

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This year’s Earth Day, April 22, is dawning more than a week early at UNC, with various groups around campus joining forces to create a schedule packed with interesting and informative environmental activities.

Events will kick off on Monday, April 14, with an environmental social justice panel sponsored by the student-run Student Environmental Affairs Committee at 7 p.m. in the Student Union. Panelists include School of Public Health associate professor of epidemiology Steven Wing, who has been actively researching justice issues related to North Carolina’s hog farm industry; Rev. Robert Campbell with the Rogers-Eubanks Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER), who fought Orange County when officials proposed a solid waste transfer site in his community; and Omega Wilson, with the West End Revitalization Association in Mebane, an organization aimed at providing environmental protection to the community.

On Wednesday, April 16, Michael Shellenberger, co-author with Ted Nordhaus of the controversial essay The Death of Environmentalism and co-founder of the New York-based think tank the Breakthrough Institute, will give a talk titled “Break Through: Overcoming the Global Warming Technology Gap,” at 7 p.m. in the Hanes Art Center. A reception will follow.

Also on April 16, members of the Student Environmental Affairs Committee will begin a “Plastic Bag Fest” in the Pit, where they will collect bags for recycling for three days.

On April 18, The 11th Hour, a feature-length documentary about the state of the global environment narrated by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, will be shown at 7 p.m. in Manning 209. A panel of experts, including Duke University professor of conservation ecology Stuart Pimm, will lead a discussion following the film. This also concludes the Plastic Bag Fest.

From 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on April 19, the N.C. Botanical Garden will give a “behind the scenes” hard hat tour of the new Visitor Education Center, which is currently under construction. The building, which was designed by Raleigh architect Frank Harmon, will be the first LEED-platinum, low-impact state building in North Carolina. Space is limited, so an RSVP is required. E-mail for more information.

Also on the morning of April 19, Students Working in the Environment for Active Transformation, or SWEAT, will host its third annual Earth Day 5K. The event starts at 9 a.m. in front of Graham Memorial and will feature free food and great prizes. Participants can run either a one mile fun run or a full five kilometers (3.2 miles). Proceeds go towards SWEAT’s summer service project, which this year will take 10 students to Bolivia.

On April 21, UNC’s Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is hosting “Our Vanishing Night” at 7:30 p.m. in its Star Theater. Participants can witness the beauty of the natural dark sky and see how light pollution dulls the stars, and take a short lighting tour of campus and downtown Chapel Hill following the star show. The local astronomy club will have telescopes set up around the Sun Dial after the tour. The event is free and open to the public.

On Earth Day, April 22, dozens of groups will set up booths and tables in Polk Place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Information from campus organizations, local and state groups will be available for interested members of the Carolina community.

That evening, the series of Earth Day events will wrap up with a cookout and a special talk given by the UNC Institute for the Environment’s special Earth Day speaker, David Orr, the Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of environmental studies and politics at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio, and a James Marsh Professor at the University of Vermont.

Before the presentation, members of the Environmental Affairs Committee, in partnership with the institute, will grill up grass-fed hamburgers and veggie burgers free for the public from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Polk Place. Orr will be in attendance to eat and chat with attendees.

Following that, Orr will give a talk at 7:30 p.m. in Carroll Hall Auditorium. This event is free and open to the public. Orr – an environmental and political scholar, teacher, writer, speaker and entrepreneur – has written five books and is the recipient of four honorary degrees and numerous other awards. In 1996, he organized the effort to design the first substantially green building on a U.S. college campus. His talk, titled “Some Like it Hot, but Lots More Don’t: The Changing Climate of US Politics,” will discuss environmental issues in the political sphere.

These events are sponsored by the Carolina Union Activities Board; Epsilon Eta, the environmental honors fraternity; the executive branch of the student government; the Institute for the Environment; Morehead Planetarium and Science Center; the N.C. Botanical Garden; the Carolina chapter of the Roosevelt Institution, a student-run policy think tank; SEAC; the Sustainability Office; Morrison Residence Hall’s Sustainable Themed Housing project; and SWEAT.