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Happenings in the Keweenaw Peninsula

Guest Column © 2006 Rachael Sturtevant and Lynette Potvin. Photos and logo © 2006  and courtesy Michigan Tech Students for Environmental Sustainability (SfES). Published with Permission

MTU Earth Week (Mar. 27-31) events begin with film Mar. 16

By Rachael Sturtevant and Lynette Potvin

HOUGHTON -- Students for Environmental Sustainability (SfES) will present Earth Week 2006 during the week of March 27-31. Earth Week is a series of events held annually to celebrate the international Earth Day and raise awareness of environmental sustainability issues. In preparation for the Earth Week events SfES will be showing three films, free and open to the public, on Thursdays, beginning Mar. 16.

Although Earth Day has been celebrated in the U.S. since 1971 on April 22, the birthday of the founder of Arbor Day, the date has never had ties to the natural world. In contrast, the rest of the world began celebrating Earth Day in 1970 on the vernal equinox. This date marks the precise moment that spring begins in the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. At this global moment, night and day are of equal length everywhere on Earth. So Earth Day is a day of equilibrium when differences are forgotten and nature’s renewal is celebrated by all. In 2006, the international Earth Day will be on Mar. 20.

A documentary film, The Future of Food will be shown at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 16, in room G002 of the Forestry Building. Snacks will be provided. The Future of Food offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

The second Thursday film, to be shown Mar. 23 (same time and place as above), is El Dorado. This film looks into many of the same issues that are seen right here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The drama played out in Camino, a small town in the Sierra foothills of El Dorado National Forest, has been echoed across the country: Once-friendly neighbors become embroiled in hostile confrontations as workers fight to save their jobs and environmentalists fight to protect the national forests. The film takes an unusually unbiased look at four local residents, two timber workers and two environmentalists, as they try to balance the health of the El Dorado National Forest with the jobs of the workers who depend on it.

On Thursday, Mar. 30 (also at 7 p.m. in room G002 of the Forestry Building), SfES will show the film, The End of Suburbia. Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness. But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply.

Earth Week theme: "Green Building Design"

This year’s Earth Week theme at Michigan Tech is "Green Building Design." Green building is a process that focuses on two major components. It is the practice of increasing the efficiency with which buildings and their sites use and harvest energy, water and materials. Green building also practices reducing building impacts on human health and the environment, through better siting, design, construction, operation, maintenance and removal -- the complete building life cycle. SfES members have constructed a scale model green home, which will be on display in the Michigan Tech Library for Earth Week.

SfES members Marcus Lundberg and Rachael Sturtevant mix plaster for the Green Home Model to be displayed in the MTU Library for Earth Week 2006.
SfES members Marcus Lundberg and Rachael Sturtevant mix plaster to make the first floor of the Green Home Model to be displayed in the Michigan Tech library for Earth Week 2006. (Photo © 2006 and courtesy MTU Students for Environmental Sustainability. Reprinted with permission.)

SfES hopes to bring in members from the surrounding community as well as students. People of all ages are welcome! For those that must work or go to school during the day, several events of Earth Week are being held after work hours.

Presentations on porous pavement and rain gardens will be held form 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Mar. 29,  in Ballroom A of Michigan Tech's Memorial Union Building. Rain gardens are specialized gardens designed to reduce pollution runoff. Porous pavement is an innovative technology that allows direct infiltration of runoff into the soil. Among other things, porous pavement and rainwater technologies have important implications for the quality of our drinking water and for reduction of land consumption. 

A symposium will be given from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 28, in Ballroom A of the Memorial Union Building to provide information on Leadership in Environmental Energy and Design (LEED), a consulting organization that is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Other symposium topics include incorporating sustainability ethics into the business and engineering fields, Habitat for Humanity and alternative energy sources.  

Tim Wong and Katie Schalk pour plaster into the mold for the floor of the Green Home Model.
Tim Wong and Katie Schalk pour plaster into the mold for the floor of the Green Home Model to be displayed in the Michigan Tech library for Earth Week 2006. (Photo © 2006 and courtesy MTU Students for Environmental Sustainability. Reprinted with permission.)

Sustainable Building Techniques Used in Developing Countries will be the subject of a presentation during the Lunch and Learn session from 12:10 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 31. Faculty and students from MTU's Peace Corps Masters International program and MTU Engineers Without Borders will talk about their first-hand experiences.

For the Schedule of Earth Week events, visit the Environmental Sustainability Committee Web site.

Authors' notes: SfES is a subcommittee of the Environmental Sustainability Committee. Our mission is to raise awareness of and commitment to environmental sustainability on the Michigan Tech campus and in the surrounding community. For more information about Earth Week or SfES, e-mail Tim at or visit the ESC website

Editor's note: Guest authors Rachael Sturtevant and Lynette Potvin are Michigan Tech students and members of Students for Environmental Sustainability. They are active in sustainability issues on campus.

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