By Kimberly Peterson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
s the 24th annual Earth Day Celebration approaches, the UA will have its own
party, complete with concerts, electric cars, and a lot of talkin' trash.
As an example, the University of Arizona now awaits approval on the official launching of an institute aimed at promoting research and education on global and environmental issues.
This week is noted for bringing to attention issues that many professors on this campus study every day.
Still, to some, the day is no different than any other.
Celebrating the day all week
Earth Day first began in 1970, as the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson, who suggested that the world set aside one day to discuss environmental issues.
That day was organized by then-Harvard law student Denis Hayes, who is still a driving force behind current Earth Day activities.
Beginning today, the UA Recycling Office will host various events on the Mall as part of Earth Week 1994. Each day of the week will have a different theme, said Sharon Aller, recycling coordinator.
Monday is "Monitor Your Waste" day, and the two-day garbage buildup from two students living in Coronado dormitory will be on display.
"We're going to analyze (the garbage), and make recommendations of how these people could produce less trash," Aller said.
Tuesday is "Transportation and Energy Tuesday," where alternative modes of transportation such as an electric car, a compressed natural gas vehicle and bicycles will be on display.
Wednesday and Thursday's activities focus on white paper waste reduction and over-packaging.
A "trashless lunch," with cloth napkins and silverware, will be displayed on Thursday, Aller said.
Friday is the official Earth Day, and festivities have been planned on the Mall by Students for Ecology, Peace and Justice, a student group whose aim is to increase awareness about environmental and human rights issues.
Events include a vegetarian potluck dinner, a Native American drum ceremony and several concerts, said Leila Ali-Akbarian, a biology junior and SEPAJ member.
Other groups said they are using the day to help others.
The UA Student Environmental Action Coalition plans to participate in Earth Action Day, also on Friday.
Earth Action Day is a national campaign by SEAC to help communities with local projects.
SEAC and the Big Mountain Support Group will be going to the Navajo reservation on Friday to help build "permaculture projects," said SEAC member Shane Jimerfield.
"We'll be making the agriculture more adaptive to the environment rather than changing the environment to suit the agriculture," said Jimerfield, an atmospheric sciences graduate student
One aspect of changing the agriculture will be planting drought-resistant plants, Jimerfield said.
The 1994 UA Environmental Awards will be handed out on Friday.
The awards are given to departments or offices at the UA that have made significant recycling improvements, Aller said. For instance, the Arizona Cancer Center won two years ago for converting to recycled paper in their offices and on flyers.
Aller said the UA's recycling methods compare well with other universities.
Some schools have high landfill costs or recycling mandates that force them to recycle more, Aller said. Rutgers University in New Jersey has had such a recycling program for 10 years.
Still, others like some universities in Ohio are near incinerators that burn garbage to produce energy, and do not recycle at all, she said.
Though the UA has low landfill costs and few recycling mandates, the school still recycles a good deal.
In one month, the UA recycles about 40,000 pounds of white paper, 20,000 pounds of cardboard, 400 pounds of aluminum cans and 30,000 pounds of newspaper, Aller said.
And the UA can recycle more, Aller said. Proper waste disposal is the first way to start.
The scientific approach
Every year, the UA usually ranks between 12th and 17th among the nation's universities in research expenditures in environmental sciences, said Michael Cusanovich, research vice president.
Currently, there are more than 220 faculty engaged in environmental research, he said.
One such UA scientist has been interested in environmental issues since college, and is now literally studying the earth.
Mark Brusseau, a soil and water science professor, researches the different factors that control how contaminants move through the earth.
Brusseau's work includes running chemically treated water through soil, and then analyzing the chemicals that adhere to the soil.
Brusseau, who received his undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada and doctorate from the University of Florida, said he feels progress is being made in his field and there is a demand now for people with backgrounds in environmental studies.
"I think there was one outburst of environmentalism and interest in the environment back in the late '60s and early '70s," he said. "There has been a new outburst during the past five years, and we're trying to give a strong science background to it."
It is becoming more important for individuals with different backgrounds to work together to study the environment, he said.
"The environment is such a complex system and the issues associated with environmental systems are so complex," Brusseau said. "It's important to realize that to solve problems we need to have interdisciplinary efforts."
Graduates of the soil and water science program have found positions in government research agencies, private consulting agencies and colleges, he said.
Both Brusseau and Cusanovich agree that one step in addressing issues concerning the environment is for different disciplines to work together.
"We're starting to break down the imaginary walls between engineering, physical, chemical and biological sciences," Brusseau said. "But we have a way to go to where it should be."
New institute awaits funding
The Earth and its environment will be studied in depth at the UA Institute for the Study of Planet Earth, a program awaiting approval from the Arizona Board of Regents next month.
The institute, located at 1439 E. Helen St., was created to consolidate research and instructional programs, and allow the UA to compete more effectively for research contracts and grants, Cusanovich said.
Though it is already in operation, the institute awaits official approval by the regents so it can move forward and spur more global studies on campus.
For example, global change seminars have been conducted by the institute since last fall, said Joelee Joyce, the institute's assistant director.
"We have had very positive comments from the students we have talked to," Joyce said. "People want more."
"It's a way of addressing a timely and important issue with a lot of flexibility," Cusanovich said, adding that President Clinton recently increased the national global research budget from $1.1 billion to $1.5 billion.
UA researchers working with the institute currently receive about $5 million a year from different agencies under the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a program that coordinates federal agencies that have anything to do with global environmental problems, said Lisa Graumlich, the institute's executive director.
The institute is completely funded by out-of-state money and currently receives a small budget from Cusanovich's office, she said.
Just another Earth Day
Still, despite all the activities planned, some look at the day no differently than any other.
"I think most of the students appreciate the earth and are interested in Earth Day," Ali-Akbarian said. "But there's always a skeptical minority."
Saro Hayan, a molecular and cellular biology senior, said it's just another day to him.
"I try to recycle when I have time, but I don't care as much as some people do," he said. Read Next Article