In a time where "going green" has become more of a fashion statement than an actual initiative, student run groups like the University at Buffalo Environmental Network are taking a stand and working towards a better environment for their campus and community. The UBEN is a group of networks, organizations and individuals who work towards ending injustices on the environment through education, action and change, according to their Web site. On April 16, 17 and 18, the group will come together with schools throughout Western New York to join 400 environmentally active students for Power Shift NY 2010 at UB. "[UBEN wants] to push the message that this is about students and youth who are meeting to exchange ideas and promote an environmentally conscious and environmentally sustainable future," said Kristina Blank, a sophomore environmental study major and vice president of outreach for UBEN. In March of 2009, Congress recorded the largest student environmental lobby day in history when students, including those from UBEN, gathered together in Washington D.C. during the environmental Power Shift conference. Esther Dsouza, a senior environmental design and geography major, vice president of activism for UBEN and coordinator for the summit, explains that the group felt inspired by their time in D.C. and decided to form the first NY breakout of Power Shift and the largest environmental summit that any UB club has hosted. "I went on the environmental conference [in Washington, D.C.] last year … it was empowering to see so many people who are environmentally aware and active, and it made me realize how powerful we are as a student body," Blank said. The Power Shift movement is an event for Define Our Decade, a project of the Energy Action Coalition that works with college and university students to encourage environmentally friendly changes on their campuses. "In 2010, through a set of strategically coordinated local actions, we will define our decade. We will define it with youth leadership, community empowerment, and a unified vision for the clean and just energy future we will collectively create," according to their Web Site. In collaboration with environmental organizations of other schools, UB Green, Campus Dining and Shops, and Student Life, UBEN will host panels, workshops, concerts and local environmental advocate speakers. The speakers include Lois Gibbs, an environmental activist who advocated the Love Canal cause in 1978, NY Senator Antoine Thompson, who serves on the Environmental Conservation Committee in the Senate, Walter Simpson, a past Environmental Officer at UB, and Margaret Wooster, a Buffalo native, ecological activist and author of Living Waters: Reading the Rivers of the Lower Great Lakes. UB professors Sara Metcalf of the geography department and biological sciences professor Dr. Mary Bisson will also be featured speakers during the 3-day conference. "It's going to be very educational. Many students don't read the top issues of today and we go through school taking in the information taught in classes, but we don't apply it … we're going to teach students how to put these ideas into action," Blank said. Neighboring environmental organizations will also take part in the summit, including Buffalo ReUse, Grassroots Gardens, Buffalo Car Share, the Community Foundation and PUSH Buffalo. On the first day of the conference, UBEN has scheduled a Day of Action. Blank explains that after receiving hundreds of environmental policy violations in Pennsylvania for crimes of environmental distress, the Amherst development company U.S. Energy Development Corporation has decided to move its operations and drill oil in Allegany State Park. Members of Power Shift NY and concerned community members will meet at 3:00 p.m. on April 16 outside of the corporation to peacefully protest its actions and plans to take oil from the park. "All we want to do is to let them know that it's not OK to drill in any park and there's other green measures that they should be taking," Dsouza said. To take part in what Blank describes as a perspective altering event, students can visit the Sub-Board Inc. ticket office during business hours to reserve tickets, or they can visit powershiftny.org to order tickets in advance for $15. Blank and Dsouza encourage students to purchase tickets in support of UBEN and to take the first step towards a greener planet by attending the conference. "The environment is among us – we can't segregate ourselves from the environmental issues of the day. They are an integral part of our lives, and will continue to be so in the future," Blank said. "It's up to the youth to step up to the plate and counteract that." E-mail: email@example.com
Instead of soaking in the Florida rays last week, 20 University at Buffalo students made use of their spring break by preparing lunches for the Buffalo City Mission and collecting 200 pounds of garbage throughout the Queen City. In UB's third annual Alternative Spring Break, selected students got the opportunity to give where they live and volunteer for seven local charity organizations. "It's a very traditional spring break where we live together and eat together," said Terri Budek, community engagement coordinator for the Center for Student Leadership and Community Engagement. However, the not so traditional part of ASB is that students are also volunteering together for 15 hours a day. "We're doing [work] for the Buffalo City Mission, Vive la Casa, Women and Children's Hospital, Junior Achievement, Habitat for Humanity, Buffalo ReUse and Catholic Charities," Budek said. "Most people love it, but I don't think they expect it to be as intense as it is." Budek and one other coordinator joined 18 participants and two team leaders last week to reconstruct houses, help the homeless and give back to the place they all currently call home. "We tried to get as diverse of a group as we could from different majors and different backgrounds," Budek said. "We get a lot of international students partly because they don't have anywhere to go over spring break, but also because these kind of experiences are not available in their own countries, so they want to get as much of them as they can while they're in the States." The program also attracts a number of local students, according to Budek, who believe they haven't performed enough service in their hometown. "Some volunteers who are from Buffalo didn't know these [organizations] existed, so it's an eye-opener for them, and I think once they see the need, they're very happy that they could help in their own backyard," Budek said. To make the experience as meaningful as possible, the students were given daily orientations at the organizations they would be lending their hands to, learning what resources they provide to the community and why they are needed. The group slept on mattresses in Goodyear Hall and explored the city of Buffalo during their much-needed down time. Their work was rewarded with a trip to Niagara Falls, a guided tour of City Hall, tickets to a Sabres game and a bowling and movie night. On day six of ASB, the coordinators prepared a Thanksgiving dinner for the volunteers to show their gratitude for the group's tireless efforts. David Molina, a senior biomedical sciences major, said that though he was volunteering, it was he who was thankful. "I can honestly say this was one of the best experiences I've had at UB," Molina said. "Most students in college, I feel, see the break in March as an opportunity to do things that benefit themselves and not the community in which they live in. Doing volunteer work and making a difference in the Buffalo community has really made an impact on the way I view certain aspects of life." Ankita Kale, a sophomore environmental engineering major, said seeing the way many Buffalonians live put things in perspective for everyone. "Interacting with the children, teens and refugees made us realize the conditions they come from and are currently in. Their stories [brought] tears to our eyes and made us more sensitive towards people and life," Kale said. And according to Budek, one of the most surprising things for students at the end of ASB week is always how close they get to the people they didn't know existed just days before. "When we first entered Goodyear, it seemed like The Real World [on MTV]," Kale said. "But we were all very cooperative and considerate of [each other]. We did a lot of good work and put our best efforts into whatever we did. All in all, I would say that I had the most amazing spring break, and I am thankful to the CSLCE for giving us the best days at UB and the best of friends." E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Real men wear pink. Real men have emotions. Real men respect the vagina. Keegan Burke, a sophomore social work major, and Aaron Maracle, a graduate student in the School of Social Work, both facilitated and lead a V-Men Monologues discussion. 11 men participated in the recorded discussion. According to Burke and Maracle, similar interviews were conducted over a decade ago with women and resulted in The Vagina Monologues. Jane Fischer, director of Sub-Board, Inc. Health Education, explained the true purpose of V-Men. "It is an idea-gathering session where [we gather] feedback from men, " Fischer said. "The objective was to gather male experiences, thoughts on the issue, and spawn ideas as to how they can contribute to supporting survivors and ending violence internationally. Fischer was excited for the opportunity of the V-Men Monologues, a spinoff of The Vagina Monologues. "It is a really empowering process," Fischer said. "It has grown over the past decade to over 130 countries." According to Fischer, The Vagina Monologues began as a collection of interviews from women all over the world discussing topics such as sexual expression, repression and abuse. The V-Men Monologues was a "men only" event that discussed such topics as "What it means to love/respect a woman" and "The difference between compassion and corruption." The men were asked to list the admirable characteristics of a man, a woman, and a person he admired. Many times, they chose characteristics similarly associated with a woman. Such characteristics include being compassionate, caring and loving. In many cultures, males are taught to substitute aggressive behavior for emotions, according to V-Men presenters. This concept varies amongst cultures, but is more accepted in certain countries. "In the Congo, for example, male soldiers brutalize and rape women on a regular occasion," Maracle said. An important point covered in the presentation was that males who experience violence in their homes are ten times more likely to abuse their spouse. According to the V-Men presenters, a man who has experienced violence in his home may approach an abusive situation differently. He either knows it is wrong yet continues to do it or stands up against it because he does not want it to happen to other people. Burke and Maracle stressed that others can make a difference in so many more ways. The men that joined the V-Men discussion, for example, may give others the courage to speak out. The idea of V-Men is that anyone has the power to play a part in discontinuing the violence, and men have a significant amount of that power. "Men are a lot of the perpetrators, so they have to be part of the solution," Maracle said. "It is a very small proportion of men perpetrating that violence; [they are] giving men a bad name against women. [It is the] same crimes over and over." From attending a Vagina Monologues production at UB this upcoming weekend to hosting a V-party to purchasing a chocolate vagina, any contribution makes a difference. The funds will go to women in the Congo to help fight the violence and to further educate and promote discussion around campus. For further information, log onto www.vday.org/home.
Katie Ingraham wants to save the planet by planting a garden. Ingraham, the complex director of Creekside Village, has submitted a proposal to the Pepsi Refresh Project to create a community garden in the complex. She hopes to use the garden to educate students about environmental issues and self-sustainability. The Pepsi Refresh Project rewards innovative thinkers who want to make a difference in the world. Pepsi will reward $50,000 to the 10 project ideas with the most votes. Ingraham's proposal includes the creation of two sections within the garden — one for the residents of Creekside and another for partnered groups such as UB Green, UB Environmental Task Force and Grassroots Gardens of Buffalo. Students will be given their own plots of land that they will be responsible for weeding and watering. Educational programming and composting will also be available in the garden. Ingraham is confident that her proposal will help further UB's green initiative and inspire students to lead greener lifestyles. "Providing a community garden will open a door for our students to grow their own vegetables as well as learn valuable lessons on sustainability and green gardening that they will be able to take from here and incorporate in their lives wherever they go," Ingraham said. According to Ingraham, Creekside Village was one of the first complexes in the SUNY system to include Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified buildings. From the light bulbs to the tabletops to the recycled carpet and the refurbished furniture, everything inside and outside of the building is green. "A lot of people don't know about [the complex] because of its hidden location," Ingraham said. "Creekside is still a relatively new community, and this project could help it [to become] better known." Ingraham has noticed a trend in university gardens across the country. Many campuses are beginning to recognize how beneficial gardens are to the supplementation of food service programs. "If [campuses] have the space to do it, they should use it," Ingraham said. "It's cost-effective to grow your own [food]." When Mike Yates, the assistant complex director, was approached with the idea, he jumped on board immediately and helped generate excitement because he knew it would greatly add to an already eco-conscious campus. "Residents have approached us and are showing interest in this," Yates said. "What we're doing is extremely unique." The complex directors would be extremely grateful if the garden proposal won in the Pepsi Refresh Project contest, but they are going to continue developing the idea regardless of whether or not Pepsi awards funding. "We decided to give [the contest] a shot, but if it doesn't work out, we're still going to put in a continued effort," Yates said. Ingraham sees the potential in UB to expand its green initiative and to become an even bigger leader in the movement. "There's a lot of good that's happening now with what UB Green is doing in terms of creating a greener campus, and I hope our garden [can] be another small step in furthering that initiative," Ingraham said. The winners of the Pepsi Refresh grant are determined by votes received at www.pepsirefresh.com. The voting ends March 31. E-mail: email@example.com