The Oberlin Review
<< Front page News December 15, 2006

Environmentalists Celebrate Semesterís Work

Several dozen College environmentalists gathered in the Adam Joseph Lewis Center atrium last Thursday for a celebration marking the College’s recent commitment to achieve climate neutrality.

The reception, which concluded a day of lectures on environmental and social issues hosted by the Environmental Policy Implementation Group, featured college senior Mika Ebbesen’s art, created from incandescent light bulbs the organization collected earlier this semester.

EPIG’s “Day that Oberlin College Went Climate Neutral” began with an afternoon lecture by environmental attorney Karen Florini, OC ’79.  The lecture was followed by a teleconference on campus environmental policies sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation.  In the early evening, filmmaker Greg Berger and scholar Kris Petersen spoke about grassroots organization in Mexico and New Orleans.

Environmental Studies Professor John Petersen participated in the teleconference and gave a summary of Oberlin’s efforts to measure and reduce its greenhouse emissions. Petersen highlighted Oberlin’s recent signature on the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, the first signature of what he hopes will be many more to come.

“I urge other campuses to look into this,” Petersen said of the commitment, which obligates the college to develop a plan for becoming climate neutral in the near future.  Oberlin was widely praised during the teleconference for its environmental policies.

At the reception ending the day, the tone of organizers was celebratory.  Student Senator and College senior Erin Morey told the group that the day’s events had been a “great collaborative effort between a lot of students.” Student Senate paid for 138 tons of carbon credits, which negate one day’s worth of carbon emissions at Oberlin.

EPIG member and College senior Morgan Pitts said in an interview with the Review after the reception that the day was “an unequivocal success...I was thrilled.” 

EPIG member and College senior Andrew deCoriolis concurred: “[The day was] a great focal point for a semester of work.”

In addition to Oberlin’s climate commitment, the reception celebrated the completion of EPIG’s Lightbulb Brigade project. The project, which started this September, asked students during door-to-door encounters in residence halls and at tables in Stevenson to exchange incandescent lightbulbs being used in their dorm rooms for more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs purchased by EPIG. Overall, EPIG estimates that it will save about 23 tons of carbon over the next year because of the initiative.

“[The savings are a] drop in the bucket, but it’s a good first step,” Pitts said at the reception.

To conclude the semester of activity, Ebbesen created two pieces of artwork, incorporating a total of 1000 bulbs collected from students. The first piece, unveiled Thursday during the reception, incorporates 500 incandescent bulbs. Ebbesen will be introducing another piece before winter break.

Ebbesen hopes her art will help people be mindful about the connection between energy use and the environment.

“My sculpture was about leaving an impression,” Ebbesen said.  “It is just about reminding them of something and making them think.”

While conceptualizing her piece, Ebbesen worked with Environmental Studies faculty and EPIG members to ensure that her art expressed the realities and urgency of the environmental movement,  “I really tried to incorporate their ideas,” she said. 

Ebbesen also remarked that the close contact with experts during the conceptualization of her piece helped her mature as an artist and an activist.  She said, “I hope other students can see this and just start thinking about their relationship to the environment.”

JoEllen Cuthbertson, costumer in the Theater and Dance department and friend of Ebbesen, said, “I think it will make people think a little about the coal issue,” referring to the sustainability and safety of coal power and the presence of coal in the installation. Cuthbertson said that when Ebbesen told her the coal used in the artwork also provided much of Oberlin’s power — as Ohio relies heavily on coal power — “That was very impacting to me; it made [the artwork] very real.”


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