Portrait of an SJU Leader Pt. II

There seems to be a petition going around asking students to support bringing solar panels to our Queens campus. I spoke to Carissa Herb, environmental science major and president of the Earth Club, about why this initiative is so important, and the importance of making changes to help the Earth. Read the interview under the cut.

I’ve read through the Torch articles about this initiative. I’d like to know what you think our place is as a university and student community in this initiative? Why is it important that we take on this responsibility?

As a university, I think that we hold a lot more power in our community as a leader than we think. Surrounding households are going to see us taking sustainable efforts and respond by thinking “oh wow, this place of education thinks this is a good idea maybe I should do the same.” If we don’t take on this responsibility who will? We can’t wait for the person after us to take the extra step to clean up our mess.


What would it mean for our environment if more people undertook this initiative and got solar panels? What is the incentive?

I don’t think that solar panels will solve all of our problems, but if we can reduce our impact by even the slightest of bit why not. We already spend over 50,000 dollars on a winter festival every year and continue to host events that cost close if not more. Saint John who our university is even named after practices a mission to help the poor. Climate change effects are known and proven to affect those of lower income. This is literally our university’s mission and we’re missing it.  


Do you believe our school should look past the money involved and pay more attention to the good this would do for the environment?

I would love to say that we should ignore the money and look at the good for the world, but as much as I am a dreamer I also pay for things myself so I know what it’s like to be in control of money. I think that in the long run this will be a good thing and it makes sense. Right now it looks scary. Just like me taking out student loans to even go to St. John’s was scary, but I’m still here. I still took out the loans. The large cost has a payoff. Investing in the solar panels would be just as worth it. I think that we do have to look at the money and the good for the environment, though. If we only look at one side it’s not an educated decision. I have looked and talked to those on both sides of this spectrum. At the end of the day, it would be so easy to say no to these solar panels because it would make our life right now easier, but I’m not thinking about right now. I’m thinking about the future and what future I want to live in. I want to invest in that and that’s how I see these solar panels. An investment for a future that I actually want to be a part of.


Why should students sign this petition and share it with their friends?

As for signing the petition and sharing it with friends, it’s simple. People listen to their friends more than a stranger. Who do you go to for advice or tips? Your friends; not some random walking down the street. Plus if a friend shares it with another friend and the trend continues then the chances of the petition reach more people than I could ever dream of. Just the other day my Philosophy ethics professor said a colleague mentioned the petition to them last semester. I had never even emailed the petition to my professor nor mentioned it to him and I only sent it to one faculty member in the philosophy department. These signatures and names also help me show the school and everyone that this is something that is desired not just me saying “yea people want this” okay, but what people. That’s where the petition would come in. I would actually have a list of people and faculty that agree with what I am fighting for.


Why is our university’s plan to cut down on consumption first not enough?

We can say we need to cut down consumption until we are blue in the face, but we need a change now. Education is key. If you put giant solar panels on a building that is near a high traffic area I dare someone to ignore it and not even notice them. They won’t be able to. They’ll be forced to notice it and forced to learn that they need to conserve and if they do we would have more of a reason to install more panels on more roofs.


Why is it important that we, as students and citizens, care for this Earth?

I always find it funny when someone asks me to convince them to care about the Earth. Us living on it should be enough. We should want to protect our home. You aren’t going to go to your favorite place and destroy it so why would you do the same to Earth. Caring doesn’t even take that much effort. It’s just paying attention to litter, pollution, and carelessness. Most importantly if you pay attention to funding you’ll see that a lot of things are really corrupt and it’s all for profit, which is really unfortunate, but you’ll also feel more like a puppet than a person.


What can students do on their own to help the environment?

Helping the environment is easier than it sounds. You can first start by finding a grassroots organization that you like. I would say as local as possible. Earth Club on campus would be the most convenient if you live on campus plus it is a part of our community. Not just me wanting to promote my org. There are also larger orgs like 350NYC or grassroots alliance. The list goes on and on. There are also organizations that focus only on specific environmental topics. You just have to do research. You can cut back your single-use plastic consumption. I decided I wanted to stop using plastic when it could be avoided. So I bought a metal straw and then I got a biodegradable bamboo utensils kit. Now I have a ton of mason jars and tote bags. I almost never use plastic except for packaged products like lotion or things with stickers and I didn’t even have to go out of my way. I also stopped buying water bottles and bottled anything for that matter. I try to only buy glass or cardboard and if I can’t then I don’t buy it. Think renewable, reusable, and repurposed.  Try to find where things come from. Even your clothes are a large environmental issue. Just pay attention, really. Companies are often funding projects or other smaller industries that pollute our Earth as well. You just have to want to know the information.

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