William & Mary Earth Week: Origins

May 18, 2013

This year, William & Mary’s annual Earth Week event was centered around the theme of Origins. Said Blair Doucette, one of the event’s planners, “The week will be all about knowing the origins of our lifestyles, from the food we eat to the power we use, allowing us to make conscientious decisions every day.” The event began on Sunday, April 14th, and culminated in a campus-wide celebration on the Crim Dell Meadow on Saturday, April 20th.

The events throughout the week drew attendance from William & Mary students, faculty, staff and community members. On Monday, The Swem Reading Group met to discuss The Forest Unseen, in which author David George Haskell recounts the year he spent in intense observation of a one-square-meter patch of old-growth forest. In his book, Haskell, a biologist, delves into the natural history of the forest he observes, and even the origins of the materials (two golf balls, for example) that tarnish its pristine wilderness.


On Tuesday, students explored the origins of their favorite study aid – caffeine – with a Fair Trade Coffee Event at Greenberry’s in Swem Library. Greenberry’s, based in Charlottesville, is a new addition to William & Mary, and a number of their coffee selections are organic and fair trade.


Through tours of the Millington Greenhouses and the College Woods, students had the opportunity to learn more about the natural history of our College and its environment.



A screening of the movie Switch: To a Smarter Energy Future taught attendees more about the origins of their energy sources, and a gardening day on Thursday gave volunteers the opportunity to dig their hands into the soil that some of their food comes from.


Saturday’s celebration, organized through a partnership between the sustainability community and AMP, was an unprecedented success. The Crim Dell meadow was flooded all day with students, faculty, staff and community members who gathered to hear live music, eat a vegetarian feast prepared by W&M Dining, and listen to Taylor Reveley read Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax.



With the theme of Origins, Earth Week provides an opportunity to reflect on the “origins” of Earth Day itself. The first Earth Day was held on April 22nd, 1970. Earth Day was founded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after he witnessed the 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. He took notes from the anti-war movement that was sweeping the nation’s college campuses, and strove to harness that energy and direct it towards an increased awareness of our nation’s environmental challenges. His idea was for a “national teach-in on the environment,” which he organized with a national staff of 85 people. On April 22nd, rallies erupted in major cities across the United States. Earth Day events included speeches, performances, and protests, and managed to unite Americans across political barriers in a common cause: the promotion of a healthy, sustainable environment.

William & Mary’s Earth Week celebration is a worthwhile tribute to the history of Earth Day. By holding events, screenings, and tours throughout the week, designed not only to celebrate but to educate, we hearken back to the origins of Earth Day as a national “teach-in.” The crowds on the Crim Dell Meadow on Saturday are evidence that the environmental movement is still succeeding in bridging differences and uniting diverse groups in a common cause.

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