ECOCONFERENCE GU Students Advocate Environmental Protection By Andrew Tein Special to The Hoya

Andrew Tein/The Hoya Georgetown students participate in last weekend’s ECOnference.

In the midst of anthrax scares and terrorism threats, Georgetown students joined young people from across the country this weekend in D.C. to discuss and defend a different cause – the environment.

ECOnference 2001, a national environmental conference, was held at George Washington University from Oct. 19 to 21. Over 20 students from Georgetown University’s Eco-Action joined nearly 1,500 other students from across the country for a weekend of workshops, speakers, discussion groups and political action.

“Why do we want to save and protect the environment?” Student Public Interest Research Group representative Winston Vaughan asked. “We’re doing this because it’s our world, and it’s all screwed up. From mass deforestation to air pollution, contaminated water to urban sprawl, our environment, our children’s environment, is in trouble.”

The conference was sponsored by over 50 national environmental organizations including Sierra Student Coalition, Free the Planet, ecopledge.com, public interest research groups and Greenpeace.

Renowned environmental leaders Lois Gibbs, Damu Smith and Jim Hightower also spoke at the

opening and closing ceremonies.

Sixty-four different workshops ranging from “Beyond Recycling: Zero Waste” to “Free Trade and the Environment: Global Village or Global Pillage” offered attendees an opportunity to widen their scope of environmental issues.

“There were so many great workshops and panels that people were bound to find issues they were familiar with and wanted to learn more about or ones that they were exposed to for the first time,” Eco-Action co-leader Geoff Johnson (COL ’03) said. “Most importantly, the conference focused heavily on campaigning and other strategies for solving ecological problems in social, political, media and other arenas. Over the next week or two we’ll be sorting through and teaching each other about our experiences at ECOnference.”

Eco-Action members began sharing their ECOnference experiences at their Oct. 22 meeting. Several members gave short presentations summarizing their workshop topics, allowing other members to hear about many pertinent environmental concerns.

“The fact that we had so many people attend the different panels and workshops let us become mini-experts in different fields,” Eco-Action member Leah Wu (COL ’02) said. “We now have more issues to work on.”

ECOnference 2001 marked one of several events and initiatives on Eco-Action’s fall agenda. Georgetown’s environmental group for over 10 years, Eco-Action began this semester with plans to renovate campus recycling.

The group has already inventoried recycling facilities of all dorms with hopes of providing clearly-marked sets of recycling bins for on-campus and eventually, off-campus housing.

Eco-Action’s Recycling Committee also met yesterday with Pat Dollar, the school’s recycling solid waste manager to discuss and develop several plans for achieving its recycling goals.

According to Johnson, some of the group’s other campaigns for the year include educating Georgetown students about sprawl and mass transit issues in the DC-Metro area as well as finding a way to replace Idaho-based Boise Cascade, Georgetown’s exclusive paper and office supplier, with a more environmentally friendly company.

Boise-Cascade remains one of the country’s top loggers and distributors of old growth forest products and logs and sells wood and paper products from the world’s endangered forests.

Logging old growth forests in Idaho, throughout the Pacific Northwest and in central Canada, Boise Cascade also sells wood products taken from the tropical rainforests of the Amazon and Southeast Asia.

And with more than $7 billion in annual sales, Boise Cascade is among the nation’s largest and wealthiest forest products companies.

Jennifer Krill of the Rainforest Action Network will meet with Eco-Action in late November to talk about the Boise-Cascade issue.

Eco-Action members joined fellow attendees for the ECOnference 2001 closing ceremony by the Washington monument early Sunday afternoon.

One of three guest speakers, Lois Gibbs, founder of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, implored students to remember their cause.

“As you return to your campuses,” Gibbs said, “remember that you are the ones responsible for reclaiming our democracy. Repeat with me now, `Students united, can never be defeated. Students united can never be defeated.'”

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