Environmental initiatives at Elmira College

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ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – Climate change is at the forefront of national policy, now, even local educational institutions are putting more emphasis on it. Elmira College has introduced programs and classes relating to the topic.

“We’re seeing the effects of climate change, more extreme storms come in, every year more flooding, and it’s impacting everyone’s community. You can’t avoid it,” said Trevor Browning, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science.

There’s hardly any place around the world that has not been affected by climate change and the Southern Tier is no different, as towns in the area endured extreme flooding, multiple times just in the past few months.

“There is a sense of urgency that exists and I think the students feel it. They know that this is happening, and I think this administration feels it too,” said Browning.

At Elmira College, that same urgency to address climate change has expanded the curriculum.

“The administration has definitely put greater importance on the environmental change as a whole, they’ve seen how younger people like us speak out, and place greater importance on this sort of stuff,” Joey Salerno, Elmira College Junior and VP of the environmental club.

Just in the past two years, the college has introduced a department for environmental science, an environmental science major, a sustainability minor, along with various climate-related classes. The students say they are learning about the various aspects surrounding climate change that they hadn’t even thought of before.

“We’ve learned a lot about how to get people involved in sustainability, that’s something I have never focused on before,” said Tori Egy, Elmira College Freshman.

Professors believe that educating this generation of students will frame the future and how we deal with climate change. Browning says teaching this generation of students is different than before because they already have a basic level of what climate change is.

“These students that come out of these programs are going to be way more literate than a lot of the older generations just by the fact of having it in their classroom,” said Browning.

This year the college is offering a new environmental justice course as a freshman seminar. Egy is currently taking the course and explained that they are currently designing a garden community area, and have already started planting in some areas.

Salerno, along with the rest of the environmental club at Elmira College, created an augmented reality sandbox to educate students on the movement of water on changing land surfaces. They are also volunteering with Friends of the Chemung River Valley to clean up boat launches and river access points.  Their next cleanups are on Nov. 2 and 3.

“They’re able to be a great liaison between the science that is going on now… and translating that for the policymakers,”

Elmira College will be receiving a $25,000 grant from Corning Incorporated Foundation to further its research and curriculum in climate change and sustainability.

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