Earth Day events planned for Brookhaven
Dr. Konstantine Rountos, Angelina Neibel, Kerry Alongis, Dr. Kirk Lawrence and Marisol Nazario pitch in to clean up a nature trail on the St. Joseph’s College campus Monday as part of Earth Week.

Adv/Smith

Earth Day events planned for Brookhaven

Story By: TARA SMITH
4/20/2017


Earth Day isn’t technically until Saturday, but students at St. Joseph’s College have been observing it all week long. This week marked the second year Earth Week has been observed at the college, according to Dr. Kirk Lawrence, a sociology professor who also serves as the director of the college’s sustainability committee. “We used to just do an Earth Day festival with different organizations and vendors,” Lawrence said, noting that the day aligns perfectly with other spring festivities on campus. 

On Monday, a half-dozen students and faculty met up at the Clare Rose Playhouse for a cleanup of a nature trail that borders Patchogue Lake. Despite a threat of rain, the overcast sky made for ideal cleanup conditions, as they headed to the trail with gloves, leaf and trash bags and various pruning tools. “There’s only about a month left, so students are excited to get outside,” said biology professor Dr. Konstantine Rountos. “There’s always trash around campus that will likely end up in the lake or eventually the bay,” he added. As a marine ecologist, Rountos emphasizes the preservation of local waterways in all of his classes. He can usually be found down at the lake that borders campus with his students knee-deep in waders, collecting samples of fish, invertebrates and vegetation for labs he teaches. 

Rountos showed students how to clear thorny obstacles off of the trail so they may decompose along the edges. “These are the things hikers hate,” he joked. It was also an opportunity for brief lessons on why the trail tends to overgrow (to maximize sunlight) and picking large, vibrant green leaves (affectionately known as skunk cabbage, for its horrific smell). 

A lake debris cleanup is planned for tomorrow, Friday, April 21, from 1 to 2 p.m., where students will again don waders to clean out debris from the lake. Long Island is the best place Rountos can think of — as a marine scientist — since his top interest is studying human impact. “There’s a large gradient on Long Island,” he said of the differences in impact between areas in Nassau County as opposed to lesser-populated areas on the East End. 

On Tuesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone gave a lecture on Long Island water quality policy on campus. Yesterday, students and staff met up to ride their bikes to campus. “This is a commuter campus, so most students do drive. Even if it’s merely symbolic, we want to keep doing it,” Lawrence said of the second annual ride. 

Today, he will join former congressman Tim Bishop for a lecture entitled, “The Emerging Environmental Agenda of the Trump Administration,” where they will discuss policies that have been taking shape in his first 100 days. “So far, it looks like an attempt to reverse protections that have been put in place, not just over the last eight years, but the last two decades,” Lawrence said. “We’re going in the opposite direction of sustainability.”

Though he is tempted to think somewhat pessimistically, he does see an upside. “Sometimes you need drastic changes in the direction you don’t want to be going before people start getting active,” he said. “It seems like there are a lot of different movements and new energy now.”

Senior and hospitality and tourism major Marisol Nazario also joined the cleanup effort as a self-described nature lover and environmental studies minor. “[Long Island] is uniquely beautiful,” she said. “Cleaning up, recycling and reducing pollution are needed so we can continue to admire what surrounds us. It’s more important now than ever before,” she said.

Students like Nazario are the reason both Lawrence and Rountos continue teaching. “I still hold out hope that education is an important part of generating activity toward sustainability,” Lawrence said. “Students are often unaware of the complexity of the issues at hand, so [teaching] gives me an opportunity to present that information to them and hopefully, that will turn on the light.” 

Earth Week at SJC will wrap up with a cleanup of Patchogue Lake tomorrow, and a cleanup of the community garden in East Patchogue on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22. 

Not on campus? Here are some other Earth Day events around town.

Saturday, April 22

Free screening of “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” a documentary which exposes the extent of environmental degradation due to animal agriculture. South Country Library at 2:30 p.m.

Earth Day concert by The New Students at Old South Haven Presbyterian Church, 7:30 p.m. The five-piece folk group will perform original songs, some created for Earth Day. There is no entrance fee, but donations will be given to environmental initiatives.

Saturday, May 20

The annual Great Brookhaven Clean Up

It’s not too late to register for the annual May cleanup. Last year, nearly 3,300 Brookhaven residents joined over 5 million volunteers in more than 20,000 communities across America to pick up over 40 million pounds of litter, over 200 million pounds of recycling, beautify 81,000 miles of roadway, and clean up rivers, lakes and seashores in their communities.