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Sustaining Sustainability

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By Ben Eckstein, Energy & Sustainability Reporter


Each Tuesday evening, Darrow School’s teachers and students gather for a community dinner, followed by an all-school activity that might include a speaker, a performance, or a discussion forum. After the activity is completed, you’ll find students hanging out on the athletics fields, socializing in the Student Center, or finishing homework assignments in the computer lab.

My Tuesday evenings are dedicated to joining my fellow members of the Mountainside Chapter of the Rho Kappa Social Studies Honor Society. At each meeting, we discuss ways to promote social awareness at Darrow, and how best to inform the student body about social issues that are relevant to them. For example, Rho Kappa recently paid tribute to the 16 Weeks of Activism campaign (a global effort to promote gender equality) by doing our own “week of action,” in which we showed a movie, read quotes, and shared information about famous women. Our biggest achievement was, by far, raising $650 to send 12 girls in Afghanistan to school.

Over the last few months, we prepared and delivered a presentation at the Darrow School Fifth Annual Sustainability Symposium held on April 23. My colleagues and I were the keynote speakers, and addressed the eight Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2002.

These eight goals were set by the U.N. to address problems like hunger, inequality for women, and to ensure environmental stability. These goals are, ideally, supposed to be met by 2015, but society still has a very long way to go. My peers and I each researched one of these goals, which we creatively presented at the Symposium through a mock newsroom approach. Our “news reporters” (Rho Kappa members) interviewed car dealers about fuel-efficient hybrid cars and Darrow’s Assistant Head of School, Simon Holzapfel, who also teaches economics. The highlight of our report was an interview with Norm Nicholson, a member of Darrow School’s Class of 1953, who spoke about his firsthand work with the millennium goals as a member of the U.N. team that originally developed them.

One might wonder what sustainability has to do with women’s rights or hunger. The answer is that sustainability is about more than environmental and conservation practices, it is also about sustaining human life in practical ways. Access to healthy food and clean water ultimately impacts all human beings.

The goal that I decided to focus on was about eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, especially for those who make less than $1.25 a day. When we talk about hunger, we are actually talking about undernourishment. The Food and Agriculture Organization counts a grown person as undernourished if “his caloric intake is lower than 1,800 calories per day.”1 This issue is most prevalent in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, especially the latter. Sub-Saharan Africa has, in only 18 years, gone from 56 percent of the population in poverty to 43 percent of people in poverty. Worldwide efforts have not been sufficient to stop this global epidemic.

After Rho Kappa’s keynote address, participants in the symposium enjoyed dozens of other sessions, on topics such as summer outdoor education experiences, how to find edible plants in your backyard, sustainable landscapes and agriculture, making art from commonly discarded refuse, and much more. A popular seminar was hosted by the Flying Deer Nature Center, which is a program where young children learn about their environment and are taught different survival skills. With the instructor, we learned how to track deer in the woods, and how to identify different kinds of scat and hair.

The Sustainability Symposium was a day filled with fun activities and educational opportunities. I encourage everyone to attend the Sixth Annual Sustainability Symposium on April 22, 2014.

1Fujimori, Jessica. "The Basics of Hunger." Universities Fighting World Hunger. N.p., 5 Apr. 2012. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. http://www.universitiesfightingworldhunger.org/the-basics-of-hunger/.

Ben Eckstein lives in Canaan, NY, and is a junior at Darrow School in New Lebanon, NY (for more information, visit http://www.darrowschool.org). At Darrow, he serves as a prefect in the school's Hands-to-Work program, as an Admissions prefect, and an Art and History prefect. Ben was recently inducted into Darrow's chapter of the Rho Kappa Honors Society, which recognizes outstanding achievement in social studies. He also runs on the cross-country team and competes on the Ultimate Frisbee team. In college, Ben hopes to study the environment and outdoor education. You can reach Ben by comments to this blog or via Member Email.



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