“What California does, the country follows.”— Interview with the EAC

Liam Kirkpatrick ’17, Peter Schmidt ’17

The Environmental Action Committee is a student organization which aims to improve Thacher’s overall sustainability through a variety of environmental initiatives. The EAC is one of the largest and most wide-reaching clubs, and actively works to protect and improve Thacher’s environment. Headed by Liam Kirkpatrick ‘17 and Peter Schmidt ‘17, the EAC will undoubtedly be a valuable leader for the Thacher community.

How would you describe the current state of California’s environment and resources?

Liam:  Right now, the biggest issue California is facing is water, with the drought as well as high demands on water placed by agriculture. However, I think there are some good aspects to sustainability in California. California is undoubtedly not just a leader within the United States, but a global leader in sustainability issues. For example, California’s climate change laws are the most stringent in the world.

Peter: There’s a saying that goes,“What California does, the country follows.” The big argument against most legislation around environmental issues is that it will affect the economy of the state, causing companies to leave. But companies have shown to conform to California’s environmental restrictions because California is the ninth largest economy in the world, and it can’t just be ignored. In terms of the drought, it’s really nice to see water companies placing these mandatory restrictions on residential and commercial water use, but the sad truth is that because California produces such a huge portion of the country’s fruits and vegetables, California still needs to use that water. Essentially, agriculture is putting such a big toll on water in California that using less water at home won’t go towards fixing the drought. I think that is the biggest environmental danger to California.

How does the Environmental Action Committee plan to improve Thacher’s overall sustainability?

Peter: In the years the EAC’s been here, we’ve made some huge leaps and bounds. The school has identified that it has several problems, and we’ve found that student involvement is a nice way to move forward. One of the single most important things that students could and should be doing every day is using the tri-bin system. That means composting, recycling, and giving the right food to the pigs. Also, watching water usage is important to sustainability. In a larger scale, the EAC gets to be involved in a lot of complex decisions. We have seats in the Sustainability Council, which allows us to talk about the water use in the fields, as well as other issues. In addition, the EAC specifically has a lot of great student-run initiatives.

Liam: This year, one of the items we’re targeting is waste, specifically resource reduction around campus and with students. For example, food waste in the dining hall is going to be a big priority for us, as will be students’ water and electricity usage. Another priority for us is student involvement. We think that the biggest contribution we can make to the school as EAC heads is inspiring younger generations of Thacher students to get involved.

Why did you decide to join the EAC?

Peter: Ever since I was little, I’ve always had a very close connection with the outdoors, especially through my Brazilian heritage. My grandmother lived in a rural jungle region, and as I’ve gotten older, that place has been completely destroyed. It was turned into a beach strip over the course of my childhood. There were no houses or commercial developments around when I was a kid, and now the whole area is developed. My interest in the outdoors, whether it be camping or hiking, has led me to ask the questions: Why do I get to enjoy this? Why do other people not get to enjoy this? What will keep this environment safe? Once I came to Thacher, I became more and more interested in the environment. I suppose my involvement with the EAC came from a place of love for the outdoors and a desire to protect it.

Liam: Much like Peter, I think my passion for sustainability issues stems from a love of the outdoors. I think camping and being in the outdoors really relates to the true frailty of this planet. If you’re drinking from a polluted lake, you feel that in a way when you’re outdoors that we rarely experience in the rest of our lives. Being outdoors removes that insulating barrier, the “out of sight, out of mind” filter that we usually place between us and the consequences of our actions . Having the outdoor experience at Thacher and beyond, drove home to me the importance of sustainability issues. That has led me, from the start of my freshman year, to become involved in sustainability with the EAC.

What are some ways that Thacher students can get involved with the EAC?

Peter: We have a lot of programs, so whether it be planting for dorm gardens, xeriscaping events, taking the pigs to slaughter, there are all sorts of ways you can get involved. You can reach out to any subcommittee head for more information, and we would really love to have all of the volunteers that we can. Send anyone in the EAC an e-mail, and ask them how you can get involved. We’d love to have as many people on board as possible.

Liam: We work as hard as we can to have a wide range of activities, everything from the human rights side of environmental issues to hands-on feeding pigs, there’s something there for everyone. Stay tuned to announcements, and come on out!

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