The 3rd Annual Earth Day at California State University, Dominguez Hills on April 22 brought together a variety of organizations on- and off-campus to celebrate the myriad of ways that community engagement, multiculturalism, and a sense of fun can preserve the natural environment.
“Helping our community whether it’s local or global is one way we can connect with each other, and connecting with others is not only rewarding, it’s truly fun!” said Cheryl McKnight, director of the Center for Service Learning, Internships and Civic Engagement (SLICE). “Earth Day focuses on the one thing that we can all agree on: we are all citizens of the Earth, and we are all responsible for its care.”
CSU Dominguez Hills has been a local leader in sustainability research with programs that focus on the propagation of native plants, animals, and insects. Connie Vadheim, adjunct biology faculty member, oversees the university’s Saving Our Unique Native Diversity (SOUND) program. She shared her exhibit on blooming native species and discussed SOUND’s projects that include nature preserve locations on campus, a greenhouse laboratory, and the “Garden of Dreams,” a garden of native species located in the Child Development Center.
Collaborative endeavors between the university and local community were showcased at Earth Day. Ed Wallace of Midwest Landscaping in Long Beach is a member of the California Landscape Contractors Association (CLCA), an organization that has been instrumental in restoring the university’s Shinwa-En Japanese Garden. He spoke about water conservation through environmentally conscious landscaping and the use of grey water. In addition, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) program, administered through the College of Extended and International Education, showcased its native species gardening class taught by community member Reginald Fagan. Representatives of the Philosophy Club also spoke about the importance of Earth Day and offered commemorative T-shirts of their own design as a fundraiser for their organization.
Vehicular exhibits included a tide pool truck from the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, which was sponsored by an Instructionally-Related Activities grant from Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) and the Honors Program. Gary Thomas, technician, SEAmagine Hydrospace Corporation, presented an Earth Day favorite at CSU Dominguez Hills, the SEAmobile Submersible, a professional craft used extensively for underwater research and film work. Also, Robert Kalayjian of ZAP Electric Car Co. presented the Xebra Xero, a solar/electric truck.
Rod Hay, associate dean of the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, served as keynote speaker. The director of the university’s Center for Urban Environmental Research (CUER), Hay spoke about the program’s growth as an umbrella organization for all environmental projects at CSU Dominguez Hills, including the new master’s degree in environmental science, which admitted its first class last fall.
“We designed the program to be very interdisciplinary,” Hay said. “[Graduates] can work in policy, education, hard science, chemistry, and biology. We got a bunch of people with a lot of different backgrounds who are going to be very productive in different aspects of the environment.”
Hay recently submitted a proposal for a grant through the NASA Global Climate Change Initiative for Education to establish a program to instruct high school and community college faculty on how to teach about global climate change, and a study on the effects of the parasite mistletoe on trees in the Yellowstone area of California.
Hay, a professor of earth sciences, commented on the relative age of the earth at 4.5 billion years to the 11,000 years that humans have inhabited the planet and the impact of not only natural forces but human activity – for better or worse. He noted that despite the effects of population growth, industrialization, and other human factors “one of the best things that has happened to us in a long time is the environmental movement has been moving forward.”
Hay also presented the first CSU Dominguez Hills Award for Environmental Advocacy in recognition for an individual or organization that has demonstrated a commitment to sustainability within an urban environment and community education on preserving resources. Dan Trejo, assistant district manager of the Rancho Dominguez area for California Water Services, accepted the award on behalf of the company. The organization has been a longtime supporter of the university with more than $50,000 in gifts and projects including low-flow toilets and faucets throughout the campus, signage for native plant species and nature preserve areas, funding for the “Garden of Dreams,” and financial contributions to the Presidential Scholarship.
A return to the natural world of the ancestors of native peoples was a recurring theme throughout the event with an opening speech by Native American spiritual leader Jimi Castillo of the Tongva, an indigenous Southern California tribe. He was the first Native American to run for public office in the state as a Green Party of California candidate for the office of lieutenant governor.
The Keepers of Indigenous Ways, a local Tongva organization that is rebuilding a Tongva village and native species garden at Harbor Regional Park and Machado Lake in Harbor City, gave presentations of their work, provided a beading activity, and sang Tongva songs accompanied by native instruments. Other musical performances included Bill Elkwhistle Neal, a member of the Cherokee Nation, who played traditional Native American songs on his flute, and the Majikina Honryu Dance Company and musicians from the Okinawa Association of America, which performed traditional dances and songs in recognition of Japanese and Japanese American contributions to the natural landscapes of Los Angeles.
Doug Borcoman, instructional technology consultant and adjunct philosophy instructor in Instructional Technology Central (formerly the Center for Teaching and Learning), has served as master of ceremonies for Earth Day at CSU Dominguez Hills for the last three years. He says the multicultural component of the university’s celebration of the international holiday reflects the need to not only preserve all living things but to cultivate “an ethical orientation toward nature and its manifold life forms and forces.”
“It is important to teach our students alternatives to living as if the [earth] or what we call nature is merely a resource, its only value consisting of its instrumental – and often destructive – ‘usefulness,’” says Borcoman. “Beyond [merely] stewardship [of the earth] is the ideal of a deeper ethical and aesthetic appreciation, a view reflected in the deeply moving speech given by Jimi Castillo, or heard in the flute playing of Elkwhistle.”
Earth Day at CSU Dominguez Hills was sponsored by the Center for Service Learning, Internships & Civic Engagement (SLICE); DH Catering, L.A. Public Works, the department of Labor Studies/Social Justice, the Honors Program; the Philosophy Department; Golden Toros 50th Anniversary Idea Committee; the Anthropology Department; Friends of the Japanese Garden; the Center for Urban Environmental Research (CUER); Saving Our Unique Natural Diversity (SOUND); Seamagine Submersibles; Robert Kalayjian; Keepers of the Indigenous Ways; Elk Whistle; James Castillo; the Noshokai Okinawa Association of America; California Landscaping Contractors Association/Midwest Landscaping; University Advancement; the Loker Student Union; Associated Students, Inc.; University Outreach and Information Services; Campus Dining; Transportation Services; Physical Plant; PACE/Labor Studies; the University Bookstore; and Disneyland.