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Earthstock 2024 Celebrates Earth Day and Beyond

Earthstock 2024 7
Earthstock 2024 7
Earthstock, Stony Brook University’s annual celebration of the environment, brought the campus community together at the April 19 Main Festival. Photos by John Griffin.

Mother Nature cooperated, and the Stony Brook University community delivered once again as Earthstock — SBU’s annual celebration of sustainability, conservation and the environment — energized the campus with a week’s worth of events, leading up to the Main Festival on Friday, April 19.

The “Celebration of Earth Day,” a campus tradition featuring a variety of programming with an Earth-friendly message, began with the first annual Global Environmental Forum, hosted April 12 by Collaborative for the Earth.

It concluded with the Main Festival as the sun broke through the clouds, allowing students, faculty, staff and others from the local community to enjoy all that the day had to offer, including a number of environmental and educational displays and exhibitors, live music, dance performances, food, and the extremely popular Rubber Duck races.

The festival also included the Green Pledge Ceremony, a showing of the documentary Turning Brown Tides Blue on how Stony Brook University scientists revived Shinnecock Bay, and a tree identification hike led by Healthier U and Stony Brook’s horticulture team, which explored the variety of tree species growing on campus.

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The Urgency of Climate Change

The Earthstock keynote address was delivered April 15 by Collaborative for the Earth Director Heather Lynch, professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution and the first Endowed Chair for Ecology and Evolution at Stony Brook’s Institute for Advanced Computational Science. Her presentation, “It Takes a Village: Saving Antarctica in the Anthropocene,” focused on how it takes a collaborative effort to make a change.

Though Lynch’s research has focused on the impacts of tourism and climate change on Antarctic penguins, her keynote speech didn’t highlight her work in Antarctica, but rather her search for an ethical framework that includes an obligation to protect the planet for future generations. Her hope is that if we can see how environmentalism fits into our conception of what it means to live ethically, we can get Americans more engaged in the urgency of climate change.

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Heather Lynch at the Global Environmental Forum April 12.

“I’m often asked ‘why should we care about penguins in Antarctica?’” said Lynch. “The answer I give is ‘I’m not asking you to care about penguins, I’m saying the research involving those penguins is giving us a window into how the ocean functions.’”

Both the Arctic and the Antarctic are rapidly warming, providing a view into what we might expect in more temperate areas. “That crystal ball is showing a future that looks grim,” Lynch said. “So the question now is ‘why don’t we care?’”

Lynch said Stony Brook is in a unique position to guide the important conversations that need to be had.

“As a country, we say we care, but our own actions don’t back that up,” said Lynch. “The attendees at the American Geophysical Union conference — the place where climate scientists around the world get together to talk about the climate crisis — contributed carbon emissions that were the equivalent of 11,000 households for an entire year during a one-week meeting in San Francisco in 2019. Even here on campus we may be part of the problem, since we don’t know how much of our endowment is currently invested in, and benefiting from, the fossil fuel industry. We shouldn’t be investing even indirectly in companies that are making the climate change crisis worse. Fully divesting our endowment from companies profiting off the climate crisis is an obvious and important step in being a leader in this space.”

Lynch said solving the climate change crisis will take a village in that it will require contributions from all fields.

“It’s all hands on deck. Besides STEM, we need philosophers and ethicists and doctors and economists and political scientists,”  she said. “Those in the arts and humanities and medicine wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as being central to solving our climate change problems, but I would argue they are absolutely essential. It’s not that we don’t know what the science says, it’s that we don’t care. On the STEM side, we can’t make heads or tails about why people don’t care. But maybe those who better understand the human condition can help us understand how we can get them to care even when doing so isn’t strictly rational in the sense of fitting neatly into their existing moral and ethical rulebooks. Truly integrating departments across campus to solve environmental problems is a big part of what I hope to achieve with the Collaborative for the Earth.”

Other highlights from Earthstock week included:

  • Ashley Schiff Preserve “Walks in the Woods,” April 15
  • Undergraduate Research Showcase, April 15
  • Society for Women in Marine Science and the Peterson Lab cutting and preparing disks for eelgrass restoration in local waters, April 15
  • Conservationist and author William Konstant discussing how his work as a primate technician at Stony Brook University in the 1980s led to a career as a wildlife biologist, April 16
  • University Libraries and the Young Investigators Review’s STEM Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, April 16
  • Environmental Careers Alumni Panel with Sustainability Studies alumni, April 17
  • David Good presentation and discussion on how environmental disruptions may affect lives in the Amazon rainforest, April 17
  • Organic Gardening event on composting, seed germination, and effective transplanting and weeding methods, April 18

View a photo gallery from the Main Festival:


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