SustainIU Week is put on by the Student Sustainability Council, which is a group for different environmental initiatives on campus to collaborate their efforts on campus to make real change in the IU community. SustainIU Week is an opportunity for groups from ReInvest IU to SPROUTS to plan events around a pressing topic in global to local environmental issues, this year's topic being water scarcity (check out what's going on in California if you haven't already). Some of the events included a Hunger in the US Banquet, a panel discussion on Catalyzing Sustainability through Art, Sustainability Career Panel, and Recycling Blitzes at two different resident dining halls to help inform students on how and why to recycle. While these events were informative and fun, I'm leading you up to the main attraction...
The keynote speaker was National Geographic and Extreme Ice Survey photographer, James Balog. His current project has consisted of placing time-lapse cameras around the world's melting glaciers to capture their unprecedented retreats. He spoke on Wednesday night for the Ben Brabson Commemorative lecture as well at the documentary showing, Chasing Ice, based on his work. As a representative on the Student Sustainability Council and as an intern at the Office of Sustainability, I not only got to have bagels with Balog, but Panera for lunch with this great man, reminiscent of wilderness explorers of the unknown but driven by a higher cause.
It was so inspiring to hear from a man who has dedicated his life to communicating the gravity and immensity of climate change in a format that is digestible to anyone. By documenting these visually beautiful ice structures from Greenland to Alaska, he has given life to something humans have a hard time wrapping their heads around because of our perceptions. Normally, reading about climate change in a research article seems like an abstract, far away idea based on computer models. For some, it's easier to discredit it this way. By showing the rapid pace of global glaciers melting through time-lapse, Balog is able to put a face to the facts. This is visual evidence that human activity is having an impact on the atmosphere, and in turn the rising temperatures leading to rising sea levels.
His visit to IU Bloomington was a reawakening and rejuvenation of my passions for fighting for climate justice. He expressed the importance of every individual's ability to take action, and I think that here at IU all students have a unique opportunity to leave their mark on campus, be it through volunteering at a student org garden (and getting some free produce in return!), educating themselves on IU's ability to divest from fossil fuels, recycling their plastic containers at lunch, or even participating in events like SustainIU Week.