2024 Rachel Carson Campus Fellows and Stanback Fellows Articles

Soundtrack Nature: Rediscovering Birdsong and Wonder

Sophie Valkenberg


It was the spring semester of my senior year at Loyola University Maryland The campus was starting to bloom. Our quad, an accredited arboretum, was spotted with pink and white blossoms and freshly green trees. I was taking five exciting classes but beginning to feel overwhelmed and burnt out. Between applying to graduate schools, job applications (in case grad school didn’t work out), writing midterm papers, and studying for exams, I felt like a machine instead of a person. I was going through the motions of day-to-day life, feeling more like an observer than a participant. Once I decided to stop staring at my laptop, I noticed that my shoulders were incredibly tense, almost touching my ears, my eyes felt like sandpaper, and my temples were throbbing. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to feel these physical manifestations of my emotions. As I slowly breathed out and opened my eyes, I saw the beautiful blue sky through the window and decided to venture outside. Read more

Sounding Orcas on Monterey Bay

Molly Herring


The waves tossed and caught our weight like a plaything. I tucked the audio recorder into my pocket and braced against the wind. My headphones slipped forward, exposing my ears and cracking open the fresh noise.

I heard the Pacific thumping against the hull, a deep bass swirling in the barrel of my eardrums. I caught the shaky woah’s of fellow white-knuckled passengers and the wooshs of Pacific white-sided dolphins, their light and melodic breaths flashing against the soundscape like fireflies.

A breezy spring day on land means heavy wind out on Monterey Bay. Our vessel bobbed along, tracing the cliff wall that drops off into an underwater canyon twice as deep – but just as grand – as its landlocked sister in Arizona. Read more

Gaming for Good: Environmental Video Games?

Jack Sanitate


Since I was little, I’ve always loved video games. There’s something magical about being transported to another world through a simple screen, a place where the problems of today don’t exist. Unfortunately, video games are also often associated with excessive violence, questionable themes, and addictive properties for younger generations. To an extent, I agreed with these points – until I attended the Congressional Reception for Capitol Hill Oceans Week (CHOW) and heard Alan Gershenfeld, Founder and President of E-Line Media, a video game development company known for creating environmental and social impact games.

One game that Gershenfeld extoled is based on the story of Kunuuksaayuka. Called Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna), it’s a puzzle and adventure creation that follows the journey of a young Iñupiat girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion. Together, they embark on a quest across Alaska to find the source of an eternal blizzard threatening their homeland. Read more

Dance and Environmental Justice

Hiwot Shaw


Inspired by Jack Sanitate’s blog post, Staging Change: Theater and the Environment? and driven by my passion for dance and environmental science, I had to write about the connection between dance and environmental justice.

Dance has the power to transform communities by drawing on narratives and evoking emotions. Kinesthetic learning, which involves physical and visual activity to process information, actually helps improve critical and analytical thinking. Dance, then, is effective in communicating complex issues, promoting the retention of knowledge, and showing that visual portrayals of narrative and emotion are as effective as written sources. Dance is not just entertainment. In its purest form dance is exploration. Dance is expression. Dance is power. Dance for me is freedom, a release—a way to escape my thoughts. The movement of the body is unending and can convey an endless number of possibilities for observers. This ancient art form is a way to tell stories, to preserve cultures, and, more recently, to spark change. Read more

The Ugly Truth Behind Beach Nourishment

Chloe Wetzler


Yet another house in Rodanthe on the Outer Banks of North Carolina has collapsed into the ocean. This is the sixth beachfront residence to topple along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore over the last four years. Because the Outer Banks are a chain of barrier islands, they are particularly vulnerable to coastal erosion, storm surge, and sea-level rise. However, such destruction is not unique to barrier islands or North Carolina. Americans experience roughly $500 million worth of losses each year due to property damage from coastal erosion. This will only continue to get worse with rising sea levels, more frequent storms, flooding events, and insurance companies pulling coverage from some affected areas. In fact, the 2024 hurricane season has already made headlines with the early arrival of Category 5 hurricane Beryl and NOAA’s National Weather Service prediction of “above-normal” hurricane activity in the Atlantic, with 4-7 major hurricanes projected. Read more

Is Solar a Farmer’s Enemy?

Maria Ding


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Recently when gathering news about solar energy developments, I discovered that officials in Lexington, Kentucky are petitioning to stop a proposed solar farm. Mayor Linda Gorton says the city is worried about the impact of solar farms on the agriculturally-zoned land because farming is an essential part of economy of Fayette County.

I began to wonder – is solar really a farmer’s worst enemy? Are there possible compromises between sustainable energy and profitable farming?

Fortunately, the answer to the latter question is “yes.” Read more

Environmental Justice and Energy in North Carolina

Maria Ding


In my first semester at Duke, I worked on a pro-bono consulting project at the Duke Energy and Climate Club. Our team helped Bex Power, a building decarbonization start-up in the Research Triangle, to research funding opportunities and conduct customer outreach. One of our most important finds was an insufficiently known, but extremely helpful, federal program for them called The North Carolina Energy Burden and Emissions Reduction Program (EBERP). Read more

Riding the Wave of Renewable Energy

Jackson Ronald


There is something severely frigid about surfing in the Pacific Ocean of Northern California in winter. No matter the wetsuit you are wearing, your hands and face are engulfed in the icy seawater that’s so cold your hands are numb within the first ten minutes of paddling. To get out to the waves, you have to surpass the white water that pulls you back to shore and walls of crashing waves that pound you, seawater finding its way into your nose, mouth and eyes.

And yet, there is nothing more satisfying than catching a wave or riding down its face and feeling the power of the ocean push you forward. It’s exhilarating. It’s no wonder, then, that on good (and sunny) days the waves are crowded with surfers all trying to capture that power and feeling, even if just for a moment. Humanity has taken advantage of that power since the late 700s. Read more

Fireflies: Can We Save Them?

Jackson Ronald


Growing up, whenever we visited family on the East Coast, it was a guarantee that we would be greeted by fireflies (lightning bugs) at dusk. As the bright afternoon transitioned to a moodier and sometimes rainy evening with the constant din of cicadas and crickets, fields and parks would become a twinkling patchwork. the fireflies, blinking in their own Morse code, were trying to find a mate. As a kid, they were truly a magical sight, a marvel of nature. What better reason to go for night hikes and explore the beauty of nearby parks in the evening than an insect whose glowing mating ritual attracts the awe-filled attention of the human species as well as potential mates. Read more

Can Environmental Justice Exist in Puerto Rico Without Autonomy?

Emely Arredondo


I still remember my family’s first drive across Puerto Rico- a contradiction of sights. On one side, you had the other-worldly landscapes of green pastures, rich-green mountains, and the seaside view of palm trees and dazzling water against blazing heat. Across the island, past the tourist façade of San Juan, I saw another Puerto Rico: a land that has long been reeling from the effects of climate change in the aftermath of the infamous Hurricane Maria. And long before that, an island whose true needs have been neglected in the face of U.S. oversight and jurisdiction. Read more

Elk v. Industry: The Battle for Habitat in the Cascade’s Wood Pellet Zones

Rachel Weaver


The Cascades Range, or Cascades, is a majestic mountain range stretching over 700 miles from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon to Northern California, culminating at the spectacular Mount Rainier, which soars to 14,411 feet. The Cascades are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region known for its volcanic activity, with notable volcanoes including Mount St. Helens and Mount Shasta. This impressive range connects with the Sierra Nevada in California, forming the stunning Cascade-Sierra province. The Sierra Nevada is particularly famous for its granite formations and is home to Yosemite National Park, which features the iconic Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations. Shaped by numerous glacial episodes, volcanic centers, and fluvial systems, the Cascades-Sierra are a haven of rich biodiversity, hosting a delicate balance of plant and animal life in its pristine ecosystems. Read more

Pesticides in the Water?

Hiwot Shaw


After the Second World War to meet the growing food demands of an increasing population, farmers had to cultivate increasingly high-yield crops. To protect these crops from pests and prevent losses, the use of synthetic pesticides, including herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides was introduced.

Global pesticide production reached significant levels as worldwide pesticide production increased at a rate of about 11% per year. Today, according to a report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that examines pesticide sales and use from 2008-2012, world pesticide use nearly totaled 6 billion pounds and in the U.S. alone pesticide use exceeded 1.1 billion pounds in both 2011 and 2012. Read more

Trail Trouble: Encounters with Nature’s Invaders

Sophie Valkenberg


There is truly nothing more rejuvenating than spending time outside. I’ve always known this to be true. When I’m overwhelmed with schoolwork, or stressed about the chaotic nature of life, I know I can find solace among the trees and the little creatures that live within them. There is so much beauty in the greenery. As I take the deepest breath, I am engulfed with feelings of groundedness and oneness with the world as I smell that signature earthy scent. Almost like I’m being hugged by Mother Nature. Yet, as I sink my roots deeper into environmentalism, sometimes I find even this peaceful respite to be troubling. Read more

Why Are Drax and Wood Pellet Production in Small-town Mississippi?

Rachel Weaver


Gloster, Mississippi, a small town nestled in the southern part of the state, has become the epicenter of a growing environmental and public health crisis. The culprit? A wood pellet plant that had earned a well-deserved reputation for being a “bad neighbor.” Owned and operated by Drax, a U.K.-based energy corporation, the Gloster facility produces wood pellets that are shipped overseas to energy markets in Europe that are able to falsely claim them as a clean, renewable source. But for independent researchers and local residents, the plant also raises significant environmental justice and public health concerns here in the U.S. Read more

Wardrobe Wasteland: Plastics in Your Clothing

Jack Sanitate


The apparel (fashion) industry, particularly fast fashion, is infamously one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions. But this is just one aspect of its environmental impact. A recent study revealed that plastic pollution is also pervasive throughout the apparel industry – and the statistics are shocking. It’s estimated that in 2019, the apparel industry generated an average of 8.3 million tons (Mt) of plastic pollution, which would be about 14% of all 60 Mt of industrial plastic pollution. The highest individual countries to contribute to plastic waste globally are the U.S. (2.4 Mt), India (2.4 Mt), and China (3.2 Mt) in both primary and secondary markets. For context, primary markets refer to where new apparel is originally sold and used, while secondary markets are where some apparel is exported after its initial use – although both contribute to plastic pollution. Read more

The Ocean Comes to the Capitol

Chloe Wetzler


Every June, just before beach season, advocates for protection of the ocean and marine life flood the nation’s capital and wash across Capitol Hill hoping to get the public and policy makers to realize that the nearly three-quarters of our planet that shimmers in blue from those classic space photos is what life on Earth depends upon. Capitol Hill Ocean Week, or CHOW, is both an extended conference and advocacy days hosted by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation during Ocean Month. CHOW teems with a colorful, coral reef’s worth of policymakers, civil servants, academics, advocates, students, and practitioners in the private sector — all working on coastal, marine, and Great Lakes issues. Read more

The Offshore Technology Conference: A Platform for Greenwashing?

Hiwot Shaw


The Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) held annually in Houston, Texas is one of the biggest energy events in the state. The conference is a hub for energy professionals to meet and exchange ideas to advance scientific and technical knowledge on offshore resources and environmental issues. With over 30,000 attendants last year, this annual event has the potential to produce remarkable offshore innovations. While the OTC claims to advance environmental matters, their efforts suggest otherwise. Read more

From Pavement to Parks: Designing Cities for People and the Planet

Sophie Valkenberg


When I imagine a carbon-neutral, sustainable, zero-waste future, I picture our cities with sprawling green spaces integrated into the architecture. There, I see some moss planted on the side of a brick building to help filter and cool the air. Anywhere there isn’t a building or a walkway, I see several trees rooted or some native wildflowers blooming. I don’t see any major roads, especially not downtown, which is pedestrian-only. Instead, there’s a high-speed, solar-powered metro that runs throughout the city. The stations are efficiently placed and easily accessible. The zoning is mixed-use. No “single-family only” areas. I see high-rises with quaint coffee shops or package-free refill stores and apartments resting on top of them. People are walking around smiling, breathing in the clean, fresh air. Read more

The Sweetness of Honeybees

Caison Gray


Growing up, every fall my family and I went to the North Carolina State Fair. Even though rides and tons of food were an exciting part of the experience, I always made sure I went to the agricultural building — a large metal box the size of my elementary school.

Inside, there are cows that you can milk, a pig family, a few horses, gigantic pumpkins, bushels of corn, painted peppers, and honeybees. At first, this section was my favorite, not because of the honeybees, but because of the sweetness of their honey. Every time I entered this building I made a yes, beeline towards the honeybee hive on display where you could watch the bees moving around and search for the famous queen bee. Read more

Corporate Climate Emissions: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Maria Ding


I first heard the term “climate outsourcing” when I was writing a research paper back in high school. While researching global warming and its impact on international relations, I discovered that developed countries, including the United States and Japan, have outsourced more than half of their greenhouse gas emissions to the developing world. Stunned by this fact, I read more reports and found out that major corporations in the U.S. like Microsoft and Walmart have been cheating on their climate commitments by transferring their supply chains overseas. Yet they continue to advertise their carbon neutrality achievements – a behavior known as “greenwashing.” Read more

Oil or Caribou? Alaskan Tribes Struggle Over Development

Jackson Ronald


There is a long-standing struggle in Alaska. To protect lands from oil and gas development, or not? Many environmentalists and perhaps many other folks would consider this an easy answer: the US should phase out of oil completely, and protecting land with a wealth of biodiversity is an “obvious” yes. Yet not everyone sees protecting the Alaskan environment as an easy decision, especially in light of environmental justice. For Indigenous peoples in Alaska, environmental justice means protecting Indigenous ways of life, supporting food sovereignty, and ensuring all communities’ rights to healthy water, lands, and air. But it also includes economic justice and protecting tribal rights to self-determination. The difficulty stems from the history of Indigenous landowning in Alaska — the internal struggles of tribes trying to balance land protection, food sovereignty and economic development. Throughout, tribes have also had to manage external struggles growing out of outside pressure pushing for decisions one way or the other, ignoring native sovereignty altogether. Read more

Climate Change-induced Coastal Erosion Causes NC Houses to Collapse, Poses Additional Threats

Zoe Kolenovsky


A waterfront house in Rodanthe, N.C. — a coastal town located on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks — collapsed into the Atlantic Ocean the morning of May 28. The five-bedroom house built in 1970 was unoccupied at the time, and local officials closed a one-mile stretch of beach around the property for two days to remove debris.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. According to the National Park Service, last month’s collapse is the sixth such event on the barrier island in the past four years. Read more

Attacked By PFAS?

Hiwot Shaw


I was eleven years old when I played with my best friend Camille at her house completely unaware of the contamination in the area. I remember splashing in the small creek at the park, making brownies in her kitchen, and playing soccer on the sports field. She lived 15 minutes from my house, on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base (AFB) in Goldsboro, North Carolina (NC). Maybe at age eleven I didn’t need to know, but I think it is a testimony to how environmental issues garner little attention. I had a vague awareness of environmental pollution as I grew up, but environmental issues were not and are still not talked about much in North Carolina and I don’t remember news reports or articles about it in the weekly paper. Only recently, as I started digging deeper, did I realize the extent of the problem, particularly concerning PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances). Let me tell you, PFAS are BAD. Read more

The Fossil Fuel Financed Misinformation Machine

Zoe Kolenovsky


Growing up in southern Louisiana, the outsized influence fossil fuel companies had on my state’s economy was always apparent. You can’t make it half an hour down I-10 without passing at least one oil refinery, and everyone knows someone with a brother or an uncle who works on an offshore rig.

But after moving out of a state where the petroleum industry accounts for nearly a quarter of our total revenue, it soon became clear that the fossil fuel industry’s reach extended well beyond Gulf state economies. Through a slew of massive mergers and acquisitions in recent years, fossil fuel corporations have managed to consolidate their power to become billion-dollar behemoths with powerful political influence. Read more

Staging Change: Theater and the Environment?

Jack Sanitate


Growing up performing in plays and musicals, I’ve been aware of how theater can convey powerful messages by immersing audiences in stories that create empathy and understanding. Through live performances, theater transforms complex issues into relatable experiences, prompting audiences to reflect on social and political themes. This powerful art form can create awareness and a call to action. One critical topic that has been adeptly addressed in contemporary (21st Century) theater is environmental awareness. Read more

From Crops to Courts: Should Pesticides Be Immune?

Sophie Valkenberg


“Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should not be called ‘insecticides’ but ‘biocides.’” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Rachel Carson stood firmly in her belief based in science that something built to kill one thing will never target just that one thing. A prime example of this is the case of Johnson v. Monsanto Company (now Bayer). Read more

Rough Seas for a Chumash Marine Area

Chloe Wetzler


No one said addressing climate change would be easy. In fact, it’s widely recognized that there is no silver bullet that can magically erase decades of greenhouse gas emissions or immediately restore degraded habitats. However, there are some solid solutions that if we mobilize quickly and systematically enough should be able to make substantial improvements for the health of our planet. But how should we proceed when different – but equally commendable climate goals – are at odds with one another? One example of this is occurring right now off the coast of central California. Read more

Book Review: A Promise of Hope – Finding the Naturalist in Us All

Emely Arredondo


Now, twenty-years-old, and halfway through my college career, eco-anxiety is something I know well—and frankly something many young people of my generation (the infamous Gen Z) have felt deeply one time or another in their lives. There is one incident of eco-anxiety that stands out vividly in mind, one that I interestingly rarely mention when talking about my environmental awakening.

So here goes… one night as I was sitting in my bedroom, in the summer of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, I stumbled across a news article on waste, specifically plastic pollution. Then sixteen years old, a series of questions ran rampant in my head: Why is no one talking about this? Read more

Echoes of “Silent Spring”: How the Wood Pellet Industry Will Silence Birds

Rachel Weaver


I first read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring while sitting on my porch in the evenings after school, surrounded by the vibrant calls of Carolina Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, and American Goldfinches visiting my nearby bird feeders. As I turned the pages, I was transported into a world where the beauty of those same melodies was under grave threat. Carson’s vivid warnings about the dangers of man-made pesticides like DDT to ecological health revealed a hidden menace that had been weakening the eggshells of eagles and osprey and leading to drastic population declines. Read more

The British Are Coming! The Invasion of California’s Forests?

Jackson Ronald


In the midst of wildfires, drought, infestations and wild storms, California’s forests face yet another incursion, one that perhaps is not all that new: British expansion. The world’s largest wood pellet producer, Drax, a United Kingdom energy corporation, is attempting to expand the industry into California. Under the cover of a non-profit group called Golden State Natural Resources, Drax is covertly making deceiving permit applications and drumming up public support for two proposed pellet mills in Lassen and Tuolumne counties. Read more

Super Spring in California?

Molly Herring


“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

A year ago, I traded the Blue Ridge for the Santa Cruz mountains, thunderstorms for summer fog, and barbecue for breakfast burritos. Don’t get me wrong, I have fallen in love with the wild wonder of northern (some may protest, north-central) California, but I am still getting used to the brazen drama of this sunny state.

If I aim my headlights south to Big Sur’s famous Bixby Creek Bridge, I can perch on the shoulder of a sheer cliff face and train borrowed binoculars on the Pacific horizon to spot sea lions, otters, and migrating gray whales. A cruise northeast through honey desert hills ferries me and the bighorn sheep to El Capitán in Yosemite Valley. Four miles uphill from my house, I can hike trails through ancient redwoods, counting off the curious, bright yellow banana slugs by the dozen. Read more

A Suburban Wilderness Dams, Spillways, Gathering Places, and Decay

Ben Pluska


When I think of suburbia, I imagine decay. In reading much of Rachel Carson’s writing, I can feel the tension she maintains in balancing optimism and grief for the natural environment. Throughout her body of work, she grapples with her concern for pesticides, ecological degradation, and loss of natural splendor. But in her concern, she also asks us to imagine a world of optimisms among the decay. What is worth saving? What is worth remaining curious about? And how can we maintain such curiosity?

I think about Rachel Carson’s ethic of curiosity in the context of Southern suburbia and my upbringing within it. In a landscape that seeks to exile, curate, and dominate nature, how can we maintain our sense of wonder and hopefulness for an environmental future that is sustainable, just, and ecologically minded? Read more

Can We Save the Mississippi?

Emma Brentjens


The coastal United States has faced increasing threats due to climate change, with sea level rise, intense storms, and flooding battering the coastline. Louisiana is on the frontline of these threats. Since the 1930s, the state has lost almost 2,000 square miles of land. Some areas on the state’s coast are already grappling with the question of continuing to restore the land or retreat to avoid greater risks. Now, the impacts of sea level rise have reached freshwater systems as a mass of saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico travels up the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi River is the largest river in the country by volume and has the largest drainage basin, which covers 41% of the contiguous U.S. and extends slightly into Canada. Read more

Rachel Carson Writes, a War Against Nature is a War Against Ourselves

Molly Herring


In order for me to write poetry that isn’t political
I must listen to the birds
and in order to hear the birds
the warplanes must be silent.
– Marwan Makhoul, Palestinian Poet

I Heard a Caged Bird Sing

Two summers ago, I navigated a rocky street in Ramallah, a city in the West Bank of Palestine. A local led me and a dozen other UNC students through the neighborhoods in the early light, pointing out brick apartment buildings housing multiple generations of refugees. I looked up through stacks of balconies and clothes hanging to dry in the salty Mediterranean air and spotted two Palestinian children sitting with their legs threaded through the balcony railings. They watched us, kicking their bare feet in the air and singing like birds, taking turns shoving their fists into a shared bag of snacks. The little girl saw me looking and grinned, then dropped one of her treats onto my head, chortling like a warbler. Read more

Maryland or Massachusetts: Who’s Better at PFAS Regulation?

Suzanna Schofield


Last year while taking a class at MIT on water, health, and the environment, I produced a water vulnerability map of Massachusetts along with my group. We looked at such variables as sole source aquifers, hurricane inundation zones, superfund sites, social vulnerability, and military bases. Using these factors, we identified six municipalities that were considered the most vulnerable.

Shocking and unknown to me, PFAS were found in the water at Wellesley College. In May and July 2021, Wellesley conducted its first tests for six per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in its campus drinking water wells. Read more

Fracking in Rural Pennsylvania

Caroline Bower


This winter, I travelled north, past Harrisburg and State College, up Route 13, to Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. It holds Williamsport, one of the few metropolitan areas nestled in the rural valleys of the northeastern Pennsylvania Allegheny Mountains. Once the “lumber capital of the world,” today Lycoming has fallen victim to the fracking epidemic because it positioned over a very large, very significant natural gas deposit, the Marcellus Shale.

Although not from Lycoming County, I have fond memories of spending my summers at my grandfather’s hunting cabin. But every year, I’ve seen continuous fleets of massive tanker trucks travelling up and down the interstates, vast cleared acres of forest, and eerie flares on the mountaintops in the distance. Read more

Rachel Carson and the Case for Hibernation

Molly Herring


In a “just not quite fatal” winter, Rachel Carson recommends we divert our efforts of mastery from nature to ourselves.

“Where does Goldilocks go when it’s cold?”

I watched my grandpa set down the white painter’s bucket full of fish food, eager to plunge my 7-ish-year-old hands inside. The pellets smelled earthy and comforting, like the tool shed where we hang snake skins. I grabbed a grubby fistful and scattered them across the pond like rain.

It was February in Appalachia, and the ground was a soggy cocktail of frosty mud and orange earthworms. I dangled my feet over the edge of the dock and peered into the pond that sits cradled in the valley of my grandparents farm. I watched for Goldilocks, the bright yellow carpenter fish that had somehow managed to outlive two golden retrievers and a couple of mountain mutts. Read more

“To Be, Rather Than to Seem:” False Promises of Sustainability

Ben Pluska


Driving up the last swell of mountain on Highway 421 towards Boone, North Carolina, a wind turbine pierces the horizon. The turbine is surrounded by sloping hills of trees and foliage that blanket your vision. This small corner of the Appalachian Mountains is charmed by its idyllic image comprised of a thriving forest and rural Appalachian life.

The Broyhill Wind turbine installed on ASU’s campus is 153 feet tall. Photo: Appalachian State University

The surrounding mountains also cradle Appalachian State University (ASU), a public educational institution that is part of the UNC System. ASU enrolls approximately 20,000 students in a town with a total residential population of 19,000 people. Read more

Joining the “No-Buy Challenge”

Valeria Obregon


From billboards to ads in our social media feeds to influencers advertising new products and more, we are constantly surrounded by advertising. Yet, there is a disconnect between the desire to buy and use these material goods and knowing what goes into the production process behind the glitter and the fate of our purchase once we discard it. This disconnect is what makes consumerism thrive. According to Parcel Path, Amazon delivers 3.5 million packages daily in the United States alone. That means more than a billion packages annually. Capitalist consumer culture flourishes on rapidly changing trends that are not intended to benefit the consumer, but instead to fill the pockets of huge companies. Read more

Are You Afraid to Ask?

Valeria Obregon


If you are involved in environmental activism on a college campus, you will soon realize that you can’t do it alone. Asking for help can be scary and nerve-racking, especially when you don’t know where to go, or have been faced with getting a “No!” in the past. Though people’s willingness to help is out of your control, here are a few strategies to strengthen your ask, to increase your chances of getting a “Yes!”

As the president and founder of SLU Close the Loop, a club at St. Lawrence University dedicated to fostering and promoting exchange and swap culture to reduce waste on campus, I want to share my successful experience of performing an ask to the President’s Office and other senior staff. I hope my story will inspire you and help you get the “Yes!” from your school’s administration that you are looking for. Read more

An Island Out of Time – Tom Horton’s Classic, A Climate Change Reminder

Nathan Villiger


When Tom Horton traded his Baltimore row home for an old fisherman’s house on Smith Island, he did so not intending to write a book but rather because Horton “… liked to muck around in the marshes of my native Chesapeake.” Despite his original plans, less than a decade later Horton would publish an account of his family’s time on Smith Island, titled An Island Out of Time: A Memoir of Smith Island in the Chesapeake. The title originally referred to Smith Island’s unique culture, reminiscent of early tidewater settlements that have all but disappeared from Maryland’s mainland; today it has a much more relevant second meaning. Read more

Climate Footprint Labels: Eco-Conscious Trend or Greenwashing Target?

Karina Marinovich


As 2024 begins, trend forecasters are predicting what the new kale or hoverboard will be this year. 2024’s emerging trends range from declining fertility rates to the revamping of in-person retail shopping. Perhaps the hardest trend to ignore is rising global temperatures. Environmental consciousness is increasingly present in the public discourse, and the market has to respond accordingly. Consumer preferences are evolving around buzzwords like “upcycled” and “microplastics” as being green becomes more and more virtuous. Read more

Proposed LNG Terminal Brings More Environmental Injustice to Chester, PA

Caroline Bower


For decades, Chester, Pennsylvania has faced environmental injustices from the laundry list of polluters that plague the town. It is located just 15 miles south of Philadelphia and is home to over 43,000 residents, 65% percent of whom are African-Americans. At 25%, the poverty rate there is three times the national average.

Chester is considered a low-income city within the more affluent, mostly white Delaware County. There is a disproportionate number of industrial polluting facilities there, including the state’s largest trash incinerator, the nation’s largest medical waste storage facility, and a large-scale sewage and sludge treatment facility, among other numerous waste processing plants, oil refineries, and industrial manufacturing centers. Read more


Salvatore Cottone


In this era of heightened environmental awareness, the term “greenwashing” frequently makes headlines, spotlighting companies that overstress their eco-friendly efforts. However, there’s a less discussed but equally critical counterpart: “green hushing.” This term came to my attention during a global sustainability class I took this semester, which explored the intricate challenges corporations face in attaining sustainability objectives. Read more

COP 28 and Campus Engagement

Chrishma D. Perera


The Conference of Parties (COP) takes place every year, with the participation of individuals and groups representing countries worldwide. The main purpose of COP is to agree on ways to address the climate crisis and associated challenges. This year COP 28 was held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) from November 30th to December 12th with the participation of more than 70,000 delegates. Here, I aim to outline the significant landmarks of COP 28 for the campus community and youth. Read more

The Next Frontier of Greenwashing: Petrochemical PR

Sophia Donskoi


With a growing industry, we can expect to see more chatter about petrochemicals, but what are they, and why does how the industry communicates?

In the evolving landscape of global energy consumption, oil companies are adapting their strategies as the world shifts towards renewable energy sources. Recently, fossil fuel companies have told their shareholders that as society moves away from oil and gas, they will keep profits up by investing in petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are expected to account for nearly 30 percent of oil demand by 2030. Petrochemicals are nearly ubiquitous in everyday life, but most consumers are unaware that their favorite products are made from or contain them. Read more

Greenwashing Garbage: Turning Trash into Profits

Ben Pluska


The Green for Life (GFL) Environmental Holdings Facility is located in the small predominately Black and working-class community of Snow Hill nestled in the Coastal Plains Region of North Carolina just a few miles west of the county seat of Sampson County, Clinton, NC. Snow Hill is comprised of 20 households scattered among fields of corn and soy right off NC Highway 24. The residents of Snow Hill have family roots that span generations. And as their lives became entrenched in the rural southern landscape by way of their ancestral history, so did the landfill in their back yards. Read more