On April 17, the college hosted Cindy Adams Dunn, secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), in conjunction with a day-long conversation on climate and conservation.
Dunn gave a keynote speech on conservation and climate change in the Luparello Lecture Hall. She described the strategic initiatives that the DCNR developed for 2017, which address: climate change, forest conservation and jobs, green infrastructure and sustainability, outdoor
recreation, water and youth engagement.
Dunn directed her message towards the students in attendance and urged them to get involved with environmental issues that they encounter daily.
“It’s important to talk to adults. It’s going to be [your] generation who will make a difference,” Dunn said.
Greg Czarnecki, the DCNR’s Climate Change and Research Coordinator, spoke about the DCNR climate change mitigation and adaptation plan in response to the higher temperatures, increased precipitation, higher numbers of large storm events, decreased snow cover and hanging distributions of some plants and animals that Pennsylvania is experiencing.
Czarnecki addressed the question of what students can do on their own to reduce their carbon footprint. A few ways he mentioned were for students to monitor their energy use, eat less meat and more locally produced food, and to consider carpooling.
He also urged students to, “Vote, vote, vote. Let your voice be heard,” to influence environmental issue-related decision-making in legislation.
Earlier in the day, the Laurel Highlands Conservation Group met at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve to build new bluebird houses.
Angela Belli, director of the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, was present at both events.
She spoke to The Review about the environmental initiatives that Saint Vincent and the Nature Reserve have implemented, which include the Monastery Run Improvement Project (MRIP), the construction of two Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold-certified buildings (Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion and Fred Rogers Center) and the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve itself. She also mentioned the environment-related coursework and research opportunities currently available to students.
She commented on the mission of the Nature Reserve and its importance to the environment.
“[It is] to connect people to nature and nature recreation, and to serve as backyard conservation, which is important when you’re talking about climate change and adapting to climate change, that places like Winnie palmer and your backyard are going to be crucial to the survival of many species,” Belli said.
While the college has shown a commitment to environmental issues, Belli commented on new ideas she has for the future.
“I would like to see us retrofit old buildings to make them more sustainable,” Belli said.
In addition, Belli proposed for Saint Vincent transportation to eventually run on biodiesel instead of gasoline.
Belli is responsible for strategic partnerships, program development and outreach, and reserve landscape and infrastructure.
Matt Balas, a sophomore environmental science major, attended the lecture and commented on its importance, in his opinion.
“We are technically the generation that has the largest potential to make a difference. We’re going to be the ones who have fresh ideas,” Balas said.
Like Belli, Balas has ideas of his own for Saint Vincent’s continued commitment to environmental issues.
Balas proposed that the college should fix the “highly inefficient” heating and cooling systems in some of the dorms. He also proposed for a “crackdown” on littering across campus.