Environmental awards involve students for first time in five years

The New Jersey Environmental Lobby Awards took place on Monday in the Faculty Lounge and involved students in the ceremony for the first time in five years.

Senior Christian Pons-Seres De Brouwer, junior Mathew Curreri and junior James Moorehead had posters set up outside of the lounge to demonstrate different aspects of environmental protection with which they are currently involved.

The presentations were part of a practicum class that the students are taking for environmental studies.

Marian Glenn, Ph.D., who helped set up this event, said that this is the first time in five years of hosting this lobby that students were able to be involved and she is very excited about it.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Glenn said. “An environmental lobby is a direct connection between the citizens and legislature.”

Curreri and Moorehead presented on forest regeneration at South Mountain Reservation, where both students are currently volunteering.

According to Curreri and Moorehead, the program aims to get rid of anything that threatens the life of native plants in the reservation, which includes invasive plant species and deer.

Volunteer marksmen are licensed by the state of New Jersey to hunt deer that feed on the native plants, according to Curreri and Moorehead.

“If you look at it objectively, in the long-run it is being done for the good,” Moorehead said. “It is essential to preserve the forest.”

Curreri added that there is an overpopulation of deer and it is putting the forest in an unhealthy state.

According to Curreri and Moorehead, the program is still under discussion and has a possibility of not being around for much longer.

Pons-Seres De Brouwer presented on the Rainforest Alliance Certification, with whom he will be interning with this summer.

“I am responsible to develop a bilateral strategy with the Spanish government with the objective to access the country’s Official Developmental Assistance (ODA) budget to finance the Rainforest Alliance’s programs in various countries,” Pons-Seres De Brouwer said.

Pons-Seres De Brouwer said the program also engages local communities in their efforts to create sustainable livelihoods.

According to Pons-Seres De Brouwer, the work that this program does is really developing and benefitting because of the fact that it is certified.

Pons-Seres De Brouwer added that the certification label can even be found on the Lipton tea bags.

The rest of the lobby was focused on honoring three environmentalists, Upendra Chivukula, Connie Wagner and Bill Sheehan.

Chivukula is currently serving his sixth term on the New Jersey General Assembly and he said his main research is focused on solar and renewable energy.

Wagner is the deputy speaker of the assembly, so she referred to herself as “the messenger” because she said she needs the environmentalist groups behind her.

“We need to be concerned about our environment, so our children have an environment to live in,” Wagner said.

Sheehan is a conservationist who founded the organization Hackensack Riverkeeper in 1977 and now is the executive director of the organization.

He said his main focus is to make sure people uphold the environmental protection laws, and when they do not, he takes them to court, which has happened several times.

“That’s what the courts are for,” Sheehan said. “We’ve gotten a lot of problems fixed.”

The ceremony ended with a presentation by NJEL’s annual volunteers, who informed the audience of the benefits of producing reusable grocery bags in place of standard plastic bags.

This program is called the BYOBag Group of Sustainable Princeton and they encouraged people to learn more and like their page on Facebook.

Lindsay Rittenhouse can be reached at Lindsay.rittenhouse@student.shu.edu.

Author: Lindsay Rittenhouse

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