Friday, April 30, 2010

Environmental Film Festival a Success

By Colin Bennett

On April 26, just a few days after the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, Mason celebrated, in part, with an environmental film festival. Thanks largely to the help of Campus Progress four films were screened and over two dozen people attended at least one of the movies, each showcasing salient environmental issues.

The day started with Earth Days a look "back to the dawn and development of the modern environmental movement—from its post-war rustlings in the 1950s and the 1962 publication of Rachel Carson’s incendiary bestseller Silent Spring, to the first wildly successful Earth Day celebration in 1970 and the subsequent firestorm of political action." 

Earth Days, was followed by the heartbreaking film, The Garden. This movie provided an "unflinching look at the struggle between these Latino urban farmers, the City of Los Angles and a powerful developer who wants to evict them to build warehouses."

The last two movies in the series examined mountaintop removal, a hugely destructive form of coal mining that is devastating entire communities throughout Appalachia from Tennessee to Maryland. Burning the Future, examined "the explosive conflict between the coal industry and residents of West Virginia."  Deep Down: A Story From the Heart of Coal Country showcased one family's struggle as they were pressured by a coal company to sell their land so it could be destroyed for the coal underneath. Deep Down was screened through an arrangement with folks involved with making the film. Their goal is to get the movie in front of as many people as possible to showcase the devastation that is mountaintop removal.

According to Mason student Nya Jackson, "The movies really made me examine my own choices as they relate to the environment; from where my food comes from to how my electricity is produced, I'm now even more dedicated to making responsible decisions so I can do my part to protect the planet."

Another Mason student, Anthony Murray echoed Nya's sentiments, "These films did a great job of raising awareness about important environmental issues. I'm glad that so many students came out to see them; hopefully they will go back and spread the message to their friends."

Considering the success of this event, the Office of Sustainability, is planning on hosting more film screenings in the future. In the fall, they plan on hosting a series of films looking at different aspects of the climate crisis as part of their Climate Education and Outreach Campaign.

Once again, thanks goes out to Campus Progress for their help with this event. To learn more about the Office of Sustainability's effort to combat the climate crisis, please see their website at

Coca-Cola has No Place at Mason

This piece was originally published on Connect2Mason on 4/27/2010

By Jason Von Kundra

According to Killer Coke, a campaign against the Coca-Cola corporation, the company is guilty of a "gruesome cycle of murders, kidnapping, and torture," perpetrated mainly against union organizers in Columbia and other South American countries. In India, Coke has been accused of illegally siphoning from local ground water supplies, a practice Indian farmers say has caused severe droughts. What was a company like that doing at Mason's Earth Week celebration and why is Mason doing business with Coke in the first place?

The Coca-Cola corporation
makes more than just soda. Powerade, Minute Maid, Dasani (bottled water), Gold Peak tea (served in Southside), Vitaminwater and even the supposedly eco-friendly Odwalla are all made by Coke. Coca-Cola also owns 40% of Honest Tea with the option to purchase the company outright in 2011. The point is, Coke is ubiquitous, everywhere you turn there are Coke products. In fact, at Mason, Coke products are just about the only beverages you can buy.

Fortunately, people across the world are taking action against the corporate behemoth. According to the
India Resource Center, "the High Power Committee established by the state government of Kerala in India has recommended that Coca-Cola be held liable for [$ 48 million] for damages caused as a result of the company’s bottling operations in [India].", the website for the International Campaign to Hold Coca-Cola accountable, says that
over 20colleges and universities in the U.S. and U.K. have stopped doing business with the company over the last several years. In Norway, students successfully campaigned last year to get rid of Coke on their campuses. The Foundation for Student Life in Oslo made the decision not to renew Coca-Cola's exclusive contract and applies to colleges and universities across Norway.

United Students Against Sweatshops
report that, "Rutgers University, had a ten year contract with Coca-Cola that, among other things, let the company create specially designed Rutgers-themed vending machines and marketing materials. The university had received a million dollars a year in return from Coca-Cola. In May 2005 after a two year campaign around Coke's human rights abuses, Rutgers did not renew the contract and removed all Coke products from its campus." In addition to Rutgers, other schools that have removed Coke products from their campus includeBard College, Carleton College, Lake Forest College, Oberlin College, and Salem State College.

The cause of these boycotts is simple: the Coca-Cola corporation is an irresponsible company that is causing misery and suffering all over the world.

The case against
Coke goes on-and-on. A simple internet search will return dozens of accusations of Coke's wrongdoing from the alleged murders in Columbia and ground water draining in India, to its use of high-fructose corn syrup and aggressive marketing to children. Knowing this, how can Mason continue an exclusive contract with Coca-Cola? It's time for Mason students to do the right thing and demand Mason to end its relationship with Coke once and for all.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mason Wins $5000 for Environmental Protection Program

This article was originally published in Broadside, George Mason University's student newspaper on 4/26/10.

By Allison Rutledge

Just in time for Earth Day, Mason's Office of Sustainability received word that they had been awarded a $5000 grant for their Student Training for Environmental Protection program. For a week this summer college students from all over the U.S and Puerto Rico will be coming together at Prince William Forest to learn how to turn their passion for the environment into action. Colin Bennett, Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Sustainability and director of the program, submitted it to the Brighter Planet Project Fund competition at the beginning of April. The program had to compete against seven other environmental projects to see which one could receive the most votes during the 15 day voting period. Through the efforts of people across Mason reaching out to their friends and family to encourage them to vote, the resulting 2233 votes won the program $5,000 dollars. This money will help greatly with aiding the students that will require scholarships in order to attend. '

This year marks the second Student Training for Environmental Protection organized by the Office of Sustainability. According to Bennett, "This program teaches students how to become successful environmental advocates, students will leave this program with the skills and knowledge needed to lead strong and successful groups that will be able to run effective environmental campaigns on their campuses or in their communities." These skills will allow students to be part of the movement that solves climate change, environmental injustice, and economic failure.

Shelby Steinberg, senior Elementary Education major, is looking forward to the program even though she is graduating in May. "I have friends that went last year and they said it was one of the best experiences they had while at Mason. I know that they really enjoyed their time at, creating valuable relationships with other individuals of similar environmental interests and concerns. I know that the things I learn will be applicable to my future jobs and goals, as I plan on teaching the values of the environment to the students in my elementary classrooms."

In addition to the Brighter Planet grant, the Student Training for Environmental Protection is supported by the Environmental Action Group, the Mason Organic Garden Association, University Life, and Campus Progress. "We are greatly appreciative of all the people and organizations that have come together to help us make this program a reality," said Bennett. "With their help we will be able to train part of a new generation of environmental leaders. "

In addition to learning Bennett promises that students will meet awesome people, eat great food, participate in fun activities and enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Participants from last year’s program have said it was one of the most empowering experiences of their life. Environmental Science and Policy graduate student Ashley Mott, a participant in last year's program said, "If I went in with any expectations, I definitely came out of it blown away because it far exceeded any expectations I had. I learned more in a week than I have in previous years of my life. The Student Training for Environmental protection was a truly incredible experience with incredible people."

For more information about the program, contact Colin Bennett at