By Jillian Waterhouse, Staff Writer —
Across the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus, students geared up to celebrate Earth Day on Thursday, April 22. Though events were limited in attendance this year due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, students were invited to participate in a variety of activities hosted outdoors on Chamberlain Field. Opportunities for engagement from the UTC Office of Sustainability included a clothing swap and donation, a sustainable lightbulb swap and free registration for an educational event hosted by Green Spaces, a local, environmentally conscious nonprofit organization.
In addition to official campus events for Earth Day, some students took initiative to raise awareness for environmentalism themselves. Joslyn Primicias, a second-year environmental science student, hosted an informational tabling event in collaboration with the Honors College. At her booth, aptly titled “We HONOR Our Earth,” Primicias offered information on sustainable living and environmental justice, as well as a giveaway of multi-use daily products and a raffle. Visitors to the booth were able to learn how they could make an individual difference in the environment of their own communities, how they could take steps towards living a more sustainable lifestyle and how they could contribute to the fight against environmental injustice.
Though the term has been in use since the 1980s, many are still unfamiliar with what environmental injustice really means. Environmental injustice refers to the concept that communities of color are more likely to suffer harsher impacts of climate change and pollution than majority white communities, as an impact of structural problems like systemic racism. As a result, health issues may arise more frequently in communities impacted most directly by the climate crisis, due to a lack of necessities such as clean water, air and safe housing.
While certain demographics are bound to experience damages caused by climate change at higher rates than others, effects of climate change are becoming more prevalent overall. In the Southeast region of the U.S., observable effects of climate change already include a rising sea level and extreme heat waves. If nothing is done to address the largest contributors to climate change, such as greenhouse gas emissions, lack of adequate public transportation and mass overconsumption, effects will only become more devastating. Primicias spoke about the importance of learning more about climate change and environmental injustice in hopes of further minimizing the damage. Earth Day serves as a great opportunity to spread the word.
“The value in Earth Day is paying respect and homage to our home planet and recognizing our role as creatures on Earth,” Primicias said. “The dominion of humans over Earth has exponentially grown too far.”
Outside of her affiliations with the Honors College, Primicias is involved with the Wildlife Zoology Club, an official campus chapter of The Wildlife Society, and Sunrise Chattanooga. As a local hub of the national Sunrise Movement, Sunrise Chattanooga seeks to slow the impacts of climate change through grassroots activism. Interested students may learn more about the Sunrise Movement by following the Chattanooga Hub on social media, @sunrisechatt.