As a recent college grad, I know how overwhelming college life can be. You have a part- or full-time job, piles of books to read, papers to write, and exams to study for. Yet when you do take a break, the issues you are studying pop up in everyday life. Maybe you learn in your Ecology class how the environment should be tied into every subject taught because it is inherently connected to everything. Then when an irreplaceable forest of Cypress trees is clear-cut by the logging industry, you know that the economics should account for the loss of the forest and its impacts, not just the profit the logging company makes. According to Darcy Stumbaugh, “Recent literature has estimated monetary annual benefits of Louisiana coastal wetlands forest at $6.7 billion per year, which is more than double the monetary benefits of the harvested timber at $3.3 billion.” You realize that the state government is not considering the loss when it allows this to take place. When Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, and Home Depot sell cypress mulch, they are not thinking of the future impact of wetland loss on their customers’ lives.
Even though you don’t have a lot a free time, you start to wonder what there is that you can do. That amazing discussion you have with your friends about the changes that need to be made in the world ends just as inconclusively as the last one. You often think that if you knew how to take the discussion to the next level, you and your friends would be a powerful enough group to successfully advocate the change you want to see.
How does social change take place? Where does one begin? Many small actions can lead up to big results. Making a couple of phone calls to your local representatives, hanging up issue posters, or sitting at a table to tell people about an important topic can all have an impact. Together, those actions add up to build a movement. A movement that can persuade decision-makers to do what’s right for the environment. For example, if President Bush allows the legislation for the Water Resources Development Act to go through without vetoing it, there will be money to begin the vital restoration of wetlands. To make that happen, there needs to be an outpouring of support from around the country.
Students have incredible power to change the world for the better. You have the skills necessary to rally those around you into making a change. You just might need a little coaching in how to use those skills. Check out our website, www.healthygulf.org. Volunteer with us, apply for an internship, become part of the movement. We can help you develop your skills so that you can get involved in the environmental issues you’re passionate about. Then you can pass them along to your friends.
If you’re a student anywhere in the Gulf states, you can join our Regional Internship Program and work in your town on important environmental issues for the Gulf. To learn more and apply, please visit www.healthygulf.org/staff/jobs.html
Students united for a healthy Gulf!
Amy Medtlie is the Outreach Associate for the Gulf Restoration Network. She recently graduated from University of Minnesota and runs the GRN’s Internship Program.