On April 25, members of the Hotchkiss community rolled up their sleeves to work on outdoor service projects on campus and in neighboring towns to celebrate the School’s 24th annual Eco Day, an event that highlights Hotchkiss’s commitment to environmental stewardship.
The day kicked off with a keynote address by Sam Eaton, a freelance journalist and filmmaker, who spoke to the community during an All-School Meeting about strategies to fight climate change. Eaton’s stories and films on climate change, international development, and environmental conflict have taken him to more than two dozen countries around the world. In a special reporting project in partnership with The Nation and PBS NewsHour, with support from the Pulitzer Center, he explored whether the Amazon rainforest can be saved.
Eaton’s series focused on indigenous groups and rural communities fighting to save the Amazon rainforest from illegal loggers and lobbyists working for politicians, who want to use the land for agriculture and mining.
Scientists have warned that increasing deforestation has pushed the world’s largest remaining tropical forest dangerously close to a tipping point, Eaton said. The destruction of the Amazon would send global warming into hyperdrive, transforming a powerful carbon consumer to a net source of carbon in the atmosphere.
Creating new economic models is one approach to fighting climate change. Farmers living in the communities surrounding the Amazon are have worked to promote sustainable crops, like Brazilian nuts, which creates local jobs and helps to preserve the rainforest.
How we effectively communicate about climate change is crucial, he said.
“Right now, climate change has a deep communication problem. It's not resonating with the rest of the world,” he said.
Part of it stems from a growing disconnect between humans and the natural world.
“When there’s a drought, we can still go to the grocery store and get food,” said Eaton. To many, he said, climate change is an abstract concept.
“You are the next climate warriors, and our place in the world depends on what you do,” he told students.
In the afternoon, under picture-perfect blue skies, students, faculty, and staff members broke into small groups to work on projects ranging from ripping out invasives and transplanting raspberry bushes at Fairfield Farm to picking up trash along the roads leading to campus.
“It’s a a perfect day to do something for the environment,” said Jeffrey Zhai, an upper mid, who was lugging a garbage bag full of trash he had picked up on campus.
Trailing behind him, senior Cathy Wang chimed in: “As part of the Hotchkiss community, it's our responsibility to make a difference, and I’m really glad that I could do some work that helps out both our community and the environment.”