Penn Sustainability will host the University’s annual Earth Week from April 17 to 23.
Every year, Penn Sustainability hosts cross-disciplinary events that are open to the Penn community and focus on environmental justice, the climate, and nature.
Students, faculty, and staff can expect a community litter clean-up, yoga, talks, and panel discussions this year. The university-wide initiative is geared toward promoting both learning and active community engagement.
“We encourage schools, centers, and offices from across the University to engage in events around the environment ...We have a wide representation of groups across campus,” Noah Swistak, Sustainability Manager at Penn Sustainability, told The Daily Pennsylvanian.
Earth Week at Penn has a long history, explained Heidi Wunder, Assistant Director of Communications at Facilities and Real Estate Services.
“Penn has the legend of being the first place ever that Earth Day was celebrated in the 70s. Philadelphia was the first place to celebrate Earth Day, and a lot of it was held on campus,” Wunder said.
One of the events scheduled this year is “History Speaking: Penn, Fossil Fuel, and the History of the Future,” a talk by Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History Jared Farmer. In this talk on April 19, Farmer will draw upon his findings from an examination of the University archives.
In a statement to the DP, Farmer wrote, “The purpose of my talk is to provide a historical overview and an ethical scorecard of the relationships between Penn and fossil fuel going back to the nineteenth century.”
“I hope the Penn community will use this knowledge of its past to magnify and accelerate the University’s current action on climate,” Farmer wrote.
Another event is “Subterranean Archives: The Epistemic Violence of Henequén Haciendas and their Erasure of the Subterranean Worlds in Yucatán, Mexico,” a talk by Pablo Aguilera Del Castillo, a graduate student in anthropology. The talk will be hosted by the Penn Program in Environmental Humanities on April 19.
Castillo said that he hopes to “challenge the homogenous and flat images people have about environmentalism.”
According to Castillo, people tend to view environmentalism as a unified project. However, there are many emerging environmentalist movements from across the world with different positions and concerns.
Castillo said he also hopes to contribute to a broader discussion that challenges and moves beyond the “colonial, capitalist, and violent processes of environmentalism that defined a lot of what happened in the 70s and 80s.”
“[This talk] provides an example of how to historicize and analyze environmentalism from various perspectives,” he said.
One event that Swistak said he is looking forward to is GreenFest, a tabling festival on College Green and Locust Walk featuring environmentally-focused organizations on April 21.
The AES Corporation, a partner in Penn’s Power Purchase Agreement, will be at GreenFest to discuss Penn’s initiative to buy energy produced at a solar farm in central Pennsylvania, Swistak said. The PPA was created with the goal of making Penn a 100% carbon-neutral campus by 2042.
Nesha Subramaniam, College junior studying Environmental Studies, said it is important for students to be conscious of the environment even after Earth Week is over. She stressed that students should be more considerate of their everyday actions and consider their environmental toll on the planet.
According to Subramaniam, little things such as “recycling, turning off the lights, taking shorter showers, and choosing the stairs over the elevator” all add up.
Swistak said that one thing students can do to decrease their environmental footprint is to familiarize themselves with Penn's recycling and compost programs.
A complete schedule of events, including relevant registration information, can be found on the Penn Sustainability website.