Earth Day display promotes conservation

Kathryn McGonagle

Club plans series of presentations

One hundred gravestones lining the Esplanade today will turn Kent State into a cemetery for extinct animals the Earth will never see again.

“Earth Day isn’t once a year, it’s all year long,” said Christa Hansen, Zoology-Conservation Club president and senior zoology major, about their first campus-wide event. “We want people to be more aware of what you’re doing to harm your environment.”

The Zoology-Conservation Club decided to erect the gravestones, with funding from Undergraduate Student Government, for Earth Day in recognition of the animals that have been wiped out because of human interference.

“Living things have an inherent worth to them,” said senior zoology major Matt Eggert, the animal committee head, which is part of the Zoology-Conservation Club. “In environmental ethics, you take care of the environment because it affects everybody.”

In hopes Kent State students will be spurred to action, Hansen said the club has planned a series of lectures by Kent State professors and a Toledo zookeeper and a presentation by students from 4 to 8 p.m. in the Student Center. The topics range from conservation to extinction and global warming.

Oscar Rocha, associate professor of biological sciences, will be lecturing on the dwindling number of species that exist, also called the biodiversity crisis, and he hopes students who aren’t majoring in biology will attend and learn about how their actions have global repercussions.

Coming from Costa Rica, he said there is a sense of pride in conservation and biological diversity in his native country, but he doesn’t believe that same dedication to nature exists on Kent State’s campus.

“I feel that most people think that biological diversity that is something that is not going to affect us in any way,” Rocha said. “I’m going to try to bring some ideas to convince them that that may not be the case. We are all together in the same boat, and when the water starts getting in the boat, we’re all going to sink.”

He said all students could benefit from the lectures, even if they believe creatures like amphibians or spiders are too insignificant to impact people’s everyday lives. Ecologic systems and biodiversity all contribute to many things we take for granted, he said, like filtering water, protecting groundwater and aiding in the pollination of crops.

“We only now know like a tenth or so of the known species of animals,” Eggert said. “A lot of them are going extinct before we even discover them.”

Eggert said he doesn’t want people to be depressed by this or think that the animals are already dead and there’s nothing anyone can do. He said people can make several lifestyle choices that will save animals’ lives, the environment and ultimately humans.

“With global processes going on,” Rocha said, “our quality of life is going to be threatened in the next 80 years if we don’t do anything about it, our food production is going to go down, our water quality and the amount of water available is going to change, and if we don’t do something soon, we might be following the same path that other species are already experiencing. But the difference is that we are aware of what we are doing to other species.”

Senior biology major Steven Robbins, also a member of the Zoology-Conservation Club, said people can do simple, everyday things to stop this trend. Paying attention to what items can be recycled and recycling them is a major step, he said, that everyone can take. Palm oil, which is contained in many products like chips, cosmetics and soaps, is a large contributor to deforestation of the rainforest. Eliminating palm oil from personal consumption can make a major impact, he said.

Eggert, who stopped eating Cheez-Its when he realized there was palm oil in them, was able to find a recipe for his favorite snack that didn’t contain the harmful ingredient. Little things like that, he said, can help save the planet.

“Hopefully after (students) graduate, we have a generation of people that don’t make the bad decisions our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents made,” Eggert said. “Hopefully people are changing their habits.”

Contact the College of Arts and Sciences reporter

Kathryn McGonagle

at [email protected].