Harvard Celebrates Earth Day with Universitywide Events | News

Seeking to raise awareness about Harvard’s sustainability efforts, schools and programs across the University have been hosting events since Thursday to celebrate Earth Day.

Activities, which will continue through the end of the month, range from panels with Harvard affiliates working on climate and sustainability to the cleanup of the Charles River and the Earth Day Festival.

On Thursday, Harvard University’s Center for the Environment and the Vice Chancellor’s Office for Climate and Sustainability jointly hosted a virtual discussion between Harvard experts on the challenges facing environmental issues.

Kennedy School professor John P. Holdren and Divinity School residence writer Terry T. Williams discussed the intersection between social justice and environmental issues during the event.

“People in our country and around the world who have done the least to create problems with their greenhouse gas emissions have suffered the most,” Holdren said.

Vice Chancellor for Climate and Sustainability James H. Stock points to Harvard’s “very strong contribution” to fighting climate change.

“We are not on the right track as a society,” he said. “We need to do more, so that’s what Harvard did. We are improving, and we will increase our activities in climate across the board in terms of research, in terms of education, in terms of engagement and outreach.

Early Friday morning, Harvard affiliates and their families gathered along the Charles River for a river cleanup run by a number of Harvard programs, including the Office for Sustainability, and the Charles River Conservancy.

Emily Flynn-Pesquera, senior sustainability manager at Harvard Kennedy School who helped organize the event, said volunteers picked up 50 garbage bags over two hours. He described it as a “serious experience.”

Flynn-Pesquera adds that a clean-up event takes place every year for Earth Day.

“We’re trying to get Harvard to link our long-term sustainability goals with more engagement activities outside of our neighborhood,” he said.

Harvard Art Museum staff member Stephen Deane, who participated in the cleanup, said he chose to take part because he wanted to “keep what’s left of the planet in good shape” for his children.

On Friday afternoon, crowds gathered at the Science Center Plaza for the College Earth Day Festival. Some of the activities include information tables from student organizations, an electronic recycling station run by Harvard University Information Technology, and a “free bike” station that allows people to donate and pick up unwanted items. An electric shuttle bus was also parked in the square to represent Harvard’s transition to alternative energy sources.

Harvard College hosted the Earth Day Festival at the Science Center Plaza on Friday afternoon. By Christie K. Choi

Guillaume AP Bouchard ’23-’24, student coordinator in the Office for Sustainability Undergraduate Resource Efficiency Program who assists festival staff, said they hoped the event would help Harvard affiliates reflect on the environment.

“I hope people can stop by and stop for a moment to reflect on Earth Day one day a year to celebrate our Mother Earth and think about the relationship between their own health, their own well-being, and the well-being of their communities and those of the marginalized,” they said.

Michael H. Xie ’22, another festival participant, hosted a trivia on sustainability and medicine on behalf of the Green Medicine Initiative — a student organization that promotes sustainability in medicine.

Xie said that in addition to preparing trivia questions, club members also create emails for students to send to their lab managers, encouraging them to promote sustainable practices in their labs.

Anisa V. Prasad ’23, who serves on desk staff for the Harvard College Conservation Society, said that although the turnout at the event was high, it was “only one day.”

Prasad added that not many students know about conservation projects that they can participate in, and the existing projects are all organized by students.

“I want to see [Harvard] do more and manage more,” said Prasad. “We had early in my freshman year — I don’t know if they had it this year — Day of Service. We could definitely do something like that for the environment, and we didn’t.”

Harvard Undergraduate Clean Energy Group board member Emma T. Zuckerman ’24, who manages the desk for the organization, said that while she appreciates how “Harvard has really tried,” the University should be doing more for the environment.

“There is still a lot that can be done, especially with divestment from fossil fuels. They announced divestment, but they still haven’t fully divested, and that’s something that needs to be done,” he said.

However, Zuckerman said he was grateful that Harvard hosted Friday’s festival.

“I am delighted that Harvard hosted this event, and I hope they can host more such events in the future,” he added.

—Staff Writer Christie K. Choi can be reached at christie.choi@thecrimson.com.

—Staff Writer Carrie Hsu can be reached at carrie.hsu@thecrimson.com.

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