Making a difference in the environment often begins in your own community. More than 20 students came to the San Luis Lounge (UU 221) on Tuesday night to watch an environmental documentary and participate in a discussion led by Tom Jones, dean of Architecture and Environmental Design.

The movie, “Environmental Ethics: Examining Your Connection to the Environment and Your Community,” was originally intended for an 11th-grade science curriculum, and focuses on Goldman Environmental Prize winners. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded annually to a person in each continent who has made giant strides in environmental conservation. In the film, all accomplishments began with small grassroots methods of environmentalism in each person’s community.

Winners featured each fought to conserve wildlife, forests, water, air and even minerals. A standout was Michael Werikhe, dubbed “The Rhino Man.” To save Kenya’s dwindling population of the Black Rhino, Werikhe walked over 1800 miles across Africa and Europe. Along the way, he was able to educate people about methods of conservation.

“If there is no hope for an animal so huge, strong and recognizable, there is no hope for lesser animals,” Werikhe said.

His efforts reached 50 million people and raised $1 million. Not all winners fought for such a seemingly exotic cause. Terri Swearingen, a homemaker from East Liverpool, Ohio, battled toxic waste company, WTI, when they attempted to build a toxic waste incinerator next to an elementary school within 300 feet of neighboring homes. Swearingen gained international notoriety as an activist and WTI stopped building. After the movie, Jones encouraged students to join a conversation about environmental ethics and Cal Poly.

“(Goldman Prize winners) all started in their community. In very strongly caring for your community you can get anywhere,” he said.

Jones encouraged students to approach faculty about issues on campus that may be environmentally unsound.

Students agreed that a forum needs to be created where students can communicate about such issues. January’s “Cal Poly: NEXT” program was designed to ignite conversation between students.

“It is important to create connections between decision makers and students, between clubs and clubs,” said Tylor Middlestadt, ASI president.

“It’s neat to see ‘Cal Poly: NEXT’ and the gathering of ASI clubs, especially for sustainability. The more people involved, (then) it’s louder and more heard,” said Daniel Spencer, a business marketing senior.

“Cal Poly: NEXT” and Sustainability Month continue throughout January. A Transportation and Mobility Design Workshop will be held Saturday from noon until 3 p.m. in room 220 of the University Union. The design workshop, which aims to develop improved campus mobility, will be hosted by Ofalea College of Business and The Center for Sustainability in Engineering.

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