Year of Social Change Brings Dr. Shiva

By Clay Moran ([email protected])

Within the past decade, the global warming debate has been intensifying.  Predictions of an ice-free, summer Arctic within a decade raise numerous concerns.  While many national groups demand immediate actions, citizens cannot determine a feasible course of action.  The answer is simple:  environmental sustainability.

The decision to choose Dr. Vandana Shiva complements that notion.  Allegheny has taken numerous steps in recent years to become more eco-friendly.

“We were one of the first colleges to sign onto the planet initiative to make environmental sustainability a campus priority,” said Communication Arts Professor and co-organizer of the Year of Social Change Ishita Sinha Roy.

Allegheny’s recent sustainability initiatives consist of its recycling efforts, increased geothermal heating and environmentally-friendly renovations to buildings across campus.  While campus policies are a pivotal first step, Dr. Shiva emphasized the fact that students must make it their own responsibility to become eco-conscious citizens.

Annie Morino, ’13, who attended Dr. Shiva’s lecture, found her message very appropriate for the campus, considering the current global environment.

“Dr. Shiva’s presentation was very relevant since all issues discussed largely function in third world development factors,” she said.

Because of the urgent nature of the climate crisis, said Dr. Shiva, students must make an effort to educate themselves on how to effect change.  Programs are currently underway to further incorporate environmentally-conscious education into the curriculum.

“The dominant awareness of eco-friendliness lies within the Environmental Science department,” said Ryan Cole, ’10, an Environmental Science major. “However, there has been an increased focus on organic, local food sources in the past few years.”

Dr. Shiva effectively laid the groundwork for increased environmental awareness on campus.  Her presentation, which encompassed a breadth of topics from bioethics and biodiversity to intellectual property rights and genetic engineering of plant material, aimed to inform the campus about prevalent issues around the globe.

Visiting Assistant Communication Arts Professor Emily Yochim, one of the faculty organizers of the Year of Social Change, saw Dr. Shiva’s talk as particularly appropriate for Allegheny College.

“Her presentation harnesses the liberal arts ideal, which introduces a variety of perspectives, including women’s rights and environmental justice,” she said. “It initiates an effort towards holistic thinking.”

It is this holistic thinking that Allegheny must embellish.  According to Dr. Shiva, large-scale action begins with regional collaboration.  She encouraged the campus to take this opportunity to involve Allegheny College and the Meadville community to support local farmers and become environmentally sustainable.

Dr. Shiva cautioned that becoming environmentally sustainable may sound like a scary thing.  But she said that there is a starting point — refusing to shop at WalMart, for example.  According to Dr. Shiva, although these large corporations may advocate environmentally friendliness in the States, their operations abroad may greatly differ.

She highlighted the fact that several large corporations — WalMart, Gap, and Coca Cola, to name a few — operate their labor centers outside the States to avoid excess taxes and appropriate environmental standards.  Essentially, she explained, your dollars spent at home allow large corporations to contaminate rivers and pollute rural areas abroad.

Dr. Shiva framed this issue as the “third world countries providing for the first world countries.”  Certainly, this idea hinders the western world’s attempt at a greener earth.

Dr. Shiva argues that the youth today need to prioritize their social values based upon physical well-being.  As a result, environmental sustainability becomes the first step to improve the overall quality of life.

The Year of Social change brings four dynamic speakers to Allegheny.   The next Year of Social Change speaker will be Michael Pollan on February 25, 2010, with his speech titled “In Defense of Food:  The Omnivore’s Solution.”