Stuart Clarke P'19 delivered St. Andrew's annual Environmental Lecture to a packed Engelhard Hall on Friday, September 28. Clarke has served as the Executive Director of the Town Creek Foundation since 2004; the Town Creek Foundation is a philanthropic foundation that supports ecological sustainability efforts in and around Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. In his talk, he tried to give students an idea of what the actual impacts of climate change would be—large-scale human migration, changing agricultural practices, increased and intensified natural disasters—on the world that they will inherit, as well as a few examples of how students might respond to and live in such a world.
"What does it mean to make a meaningful life in a world that is two, or three, or four degrees warmer?" Clarke asked in his talk. "We can choose to do the work of helping the species to evolve into a functional relationship with its altered habitat, and this is work that will require all hands on deck. It'll require artists and writers to help better understand how and what to love, and thereby help to expand our conceptions of kin to include those species that are currently outside the margins of our attention and affection. It's work that'll require scientists and engineers to help conceive and develop and implement technologies that can extend, and align, and allocate resources to support this expanded kinship. And it's work that will require civic and cultural leaders to build and manager a social and political infrastructure to sustain a new us."
Clarke's talk, which you can watch in full on our Livestream channel, was followed on Saturday morning by the School's annual Pond Day (formerly known as "Environmental Orientation"), during which students and faculty head out into St. Andrew's 2200 acres to enjoy small group activities. This year's slate of Pond Day outings included a canoeing exploration of Noxontown Pond; trail maintenance work and hiking in the woods; road cycling in the Middletown area with Joshua Meier, Ana Ramirez, and Dave Miller (our resident faculty cyclists), a survivalist cooking lesson with Donald Duffy; building a campus obstacle course; outdoor watercoloring, sunprinting, and sketching; tai chi and meditation on the grass docks; a discussion of the play "Arcadia" by Tom Stoppard on the Garth; a catch-and-release fishing derby on the crew docks; tree planting; and lawn games (croquet, badminton, etc.) at the Lewes Farm.
"Thank you for the good start of this beautiful weekend," said Interim Director of Sustainability and environmental science teacher Peter McLean after Clarke's talk. "Your consideration of Stuart's clear and thoughtfully-stated message is appreciated. We must continue to respond intentionally to this well-substantiated and urgent challenge of climate change; there is no greater threat to us and other life on earth. Gardening, biking, hiking, planting trees, appreciating food and lessening waste, closing windows when the AC or heat is on, proper recycling, supporting renewables, turning off lights, writing our representatives, carbon offsets, driving the speed limit in fuel-efficient vehicles, voting—these are among the significant solutions available to us every day."
Following Pond Day activities, McLean kept the environmental party going with a Saturday night camp-out for students in his backyard, which borders some of St. Andrew's farm fields, and a six-mile canoe trip on the Brandywine River on Sunday afternoon. Rowers spotted woodpeckers, wrens, vultures, kingfishers, fish, turtles, impatiens, asters, goldenrod, and covered bridges, and also worked to pick up debris along the waterway. "We did our best to pick up as much trash as we could," said rower Lou Berl, "which often meant fighting a very strong current to get back upstream to pick up a few large items, like a giant plastic barrel."
"Please continue to appreciate that everyone, as an individual, is powerful," McLean noted. "As individuals or in small groups, we can make a difference; indeed, as celebrated anthropologist Margaret Mead argued, it is the only thing that ever has. Please let us all keep this in mind as we live our lives every day while thinking of the lives of our children and of future generations of all life."