by Stacey Schulte

(Mendocino College Ecology Club has been very active over the past few years with numerous ecological minded projects. I spoke to fellow student and Ecology Club President Barry Parmely about a week ago while he gave me a tour of the campus. A tour that few of us have had the opportunity to make. We spent about an hour hiking from the quad area to an area that Parmely would like to see become an ecological showplace for the college. We walked through a part of the school's 123 acres of land, most of which is below the quad and baseball field. To start the tour he showed me the recycling center which is responsible for collecting tons of paper, cans and glass that if not recycled, would be now filling our precious landfills.

While the idea of an ecological path and watershed area is still a dream, it is a dream that can come true. Other schools in our country are contributing to their community and Mendocino College is doing its part here in our area.

The following is an article by Stacey Schulte, an advocate for national ecology activism. - Editor)

Student activists are often most effective when they apply their environmentalism to "real" life beyond the classroom. While four-year institutions can provide a handy microcosm in which to test new principles, community colleges are a particularly apt gateway for introducing green techniques to the world at large. The diversity, vocational expertise, and understanding of local issues inherent at community colleges is prompting students, administrators, and faculty at these institutions to launch their own brand of environmental program.

Community colleges, for example, can excel in the field of alternative technology. The traditional vocational focus of many community colleges has evolved to include such environmental concerns as energy use and hazardous waste. As environmental studies programs blossom nationwide, community colleges are providing students with the hands-on skills they find particularly valuable. The Environmental Science program at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, CO, for example, teaches skills from assembling solar panels to converting cars to run on natural gas. Professor Scott.

Olson notes that community colleges must be particularly sensitive to job markets: "We used to have 800 people in the solar energy program, but now there are no tax incentives for solar and fewer jobs." Therefore, students now learn about water quality management, environmental compliance and other marketable environmental sciences.

Because most students attend a community college for two years or less, the administration's commitment is crucial in sustaining projects from year to year. For example, the board of trustees at Brevard Community College in Coco Beach, FL, was instrumental in creating a policy to promote a sustainable campus. Similarly, clear goals and a mission statement give continuity to the work of student groups, even though individual members of the group who do the work may come and go.

Community college students themselves bring a unique diversity of ideas and interests to environmental projects. Logan Brown, Campus Ecology's southeast organizer.

explains his work with Athens Technical Community College in Georgia:

"[Since I had] never worked with a community college before this job, my first visit to Athens Tech was nothing less than eye-opening. I was not very familiar with the problems that this student group was experiencing, i.e., age differences among students that challenged communications among interested members, day and evening child care concerns for members, and 100 percent commuter college status, to name a few. Age differences among members, however, lent itself to providing the group with a member base that brought a very wide and variegated pool of knowledge with it to every meeting.

"Also, because so many folks have children, I originally thought that this might serve to pull members' attention away from campus environmental actions and meetings because of the time demands of classes and children. I began to think differently when I saw that the campus environmental group could provide parents with access to information on water quality, pesticides in food, and lead in paint and plumbing fixtures— all topics of special interest to parents."

The best community college projects succeed by applying a principle that is universal: tap the skills and perspectives of the broadest range of your constituents. Students are always looking for new ways to make environmental issues come alive. Community colleges create innovative programs by drawing on their own inherent strengths.

If you attend a community college, we would love to hear from you. Please contact the Campus Ecology organizer in your region. On the Mendocino College Campus contact Barry Parmely or Jodiah Nelson at 468-3094 at the Ecology Club.

Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1995
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited

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Last Update: 5/21/96