Truth in (Science) Fiction

One of the many reasons I’m drawn to conservation and the world’s future is because I grew up watching The Matrix and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s taken many re-watching sessions and a little aging to understand the underlying themes behind these movies, but nonetheless, I think my way of thinking about the real world was largely shaped by a childhood full movies about alien invaders and sentinel robots and apes.

One of the many great things about science fiction is that the writers always got it right. In 1931, Huxley wrote (the mind-blowing) Brave New World and predicted antidepressants 20 years before their appearance in 1951. Debit cards were introduced by Bellamy in 1888 with his (incredibly disturbing but eye-opening) novel Looking Backward over 82 years before they were introduced in the mid-1970’s! One of my favorite books/novels that inspired change was 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clark. He predicted communication through satellite-like objects in space in 1950, then 14 years later in 1965, the first satellite was launched. In short, the future is held within science fiction. These are just three of the many examples of how fiction got it right years before many of the world’s greatest technological advances were launched into the real world.

What does this mean for our future? Well, according to the great writers and directors of science fiction, apocalypse is headed our way. Global climate change and waste production will be our demise (and space invaders, but there’s no sign of the advancement in intergalactic diplomacy happening yet). One of my favorite outcomes of the world’s carelessness on waste and climate change is Godzilla. The very first Godzilla movie in 1954 predicted a treacherous lizard-like monster created from waste dumped in the ocean who would come out of the ocean to terrorize the world. Throughout the years, Godzilla’s themes of the world’s carelessness have held through most of the 40 movies produced within the franchise. In the most recent one, the most heart-thumping quote of the year for me was Dr. Ishiro Serizawa saying “the arrogance of man is thinking nature is in our control, and not the other way around” as two nuclear-made monsters fought for supremacy and man’s destruction in his horizon. Though briefly, Pacific Rim predicted that humans terraformed an atmosphere that was viable for outer space invaders to come through and terrorize this world. Recently, Interstellar drew a world where the remainder of the world’s population is suffocating from all the unarable soil floating around in the disastrous and unpredictable climate. In this future, people of the past were uneducated, over-farmed every piece of land, and collapsed the climate with fossil fuel energy. The world in this future was hardly habitable, and people were desperate for a way out. Just to name a few other incredibly mind-blowing titles, The Postman, The Last Man on Earth, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Snowpiercer and more predict a future that’s inhabitable and no longer suited for humans. There many futures predicted, but a common theme flows through all of them: people of this century are destroying the world, and we are creating our apocalypse.

When science fiction has gotten it right so many times in the past, who’s to say this isn’t going to be our future as well? I’m not sure if I watch science fiction to motivate or depress myself anymore. I just know that it’s highly addictive, and more of our future is left to uncover in these stories. In some stories, people realize what they are doing just in time to stop the world from becoming an unpredictable wasteland. I wonder if that’s our story, or if Godzilla is just a few years away from surfacing. What story are we writing for ourselves? Are debit cards and antidepressants the only lessons we will learn from science fiction?  I don’t think it’s still time we can just sit around and wait for others to come rescue us. It’s long due time to do something before write our demise.

“In the year 9595, I’m kinda wonderin’ if man is gonna be alive

He’s taken everything this old earth can give, and he ain’t put back nothing

Now it’s been ten thousand years, man has cried a billion tears

For what, he never knew.

Now man’s reign is through, but through eternal night,

the twinkling of starlight, so very far away,

maybe it’s only yesterday.”

– Zager and Evans, “In the Year 2525.”



Yeli Garcia

Integrated Program in Sustainability Intern

Is it time yet?

When I think of the world’s end, I don’t think of a meteor’s crash, of an outer-space invader coming down to overtake the world, or even the sun consuming the earth. I picture it much sooner than that and as a direct consequence of today’s actions. The movie Interstellar drew out that future- a future of dry, unarable land, destroyed biodiversity, and disastrous climate worldwide. This future was also strongly linked to a lack of education on the subject of sustainability by the inhabitants of the movie, which is possibly a mirror image of the world we are seeing in real life. The only difference is that we may be just in time to stop that future. In the past few weeks, I have done some research on other colleges working towards Zero Waste. Though there are very few that have actually achieved such a status, those striving for it are many! Hundreds- maybe even thousands can be found making promises of reducing their waste to zero by the years 2050, 2080, etc. It’s incredibly uplifting to know so many people are making environmentally-friendly and conscious decisions to strive for what’s better for our future. The United States prroduces 4.5 pounds of trash per person daily and represents 5% of the world’s population, but generates about 30% of all worldwide garbage. How incredibly depressing is that? However, that’s not all bad news. People in their early 20’s and 30’s is surveyed country-wide to be more environmentally conscious that all those before us (CNN News). It can possibly be a result of better education, media, or just a feeling of urgency that’s driving this change, but regardless, change is in the air. The issue of waste reduction is a matter of global disaster, and it’s not easy to change the lifestyle we’re accustomed to for the sake of the future. We do know that it is our inane responsibility to do so, but life in America moves at such a rapid pace, it’s hard to stop and think about the future when the present is moving faster than we are. With that in mind, it’s up to people who think outside of the box, people who are driven and passionate about keeping the only world we have as beautiful as it should be. Earlham is a place where such changes are welcome. I really think it’s about time we start striving for lofty goals like Zero Waste. Keep tuned for this year’s events and changes to our recycling education! In the meantime, let us know what your thoughts are on Zero Waste, and if you have any ideas on how Earlham can start making these changes.


Yeli Garcia

Integrated Program in Sustainability Intern

Integrated Programs in Sustainability 2014-2015 Annual Report

The 2014-2015 Annual Report for the Integrated Programs in Sustainability is now available.  Check it out to see what we have been up to over the past year:

Back to Basics!

Many people are taught from a young age about the three famous R’s- Reuse, Reduce, and Recycle. At some point, it becomes common knowledge, and we forget how much it matters to reduce personal waste production. In the past two years, Earlham College has made some strives to reduce campus-wide waste further than we have before: we opened a Free Store, expanded the compost programs to dorms, eliminated paper cups in the dining hall, and started a Move Out Project. However, with hundreds, even thousands, waste pounds still going into a landfill annually, we are far from achieving zero waste. Our next step? Back to basics: the three R’s.

One of the more exciting projects I have undertaken this summer while interning at the Integrated Program in Sustainability is researching and planning our first year in the national RecycleMania Tournament competition. Every year, hundreds of schools compete to out-recycle each other, reducing more waste, and coming up with creative and exciting ways to reuse materials that would otherwise go into landfills. With nine other schools in Indiana participating, Earlham joining the ranks is not only exciting, but gives us motivation to come up with more, bigger, and more innovative ways to reduce our campus waste.

To learn more about RecycleMania, visit Interested in helping plan and execute our first year participating? Apply to work or volunteer at the Integrated Program in Sustainability! We are looking for folks who are just as passionate about waste reduction as we are, and we are excited to work with more of you!

Applications are on Moodle now, under Student Employment. For questions, comments, or ideas, contact Yeli Garcia at or Lisa Butch at

Hope everyone is having an amazing and safe summer vacation!


Yeli Garcia

Integrated Program in Sustainability Intern

Learn More from What You Do

This is the seventh week that I have been working in the Sustainability Office as The Marketing and Events Specialist. Today when I came to the office to work, I was asked if I wanted to write something for our blog. I felt like it was definitely a good idea to look back and sum up what I have learned so far. To be honest, I always feel satisfied when I learn something new from my work.

The beginning of this semester, I was assigned to laminate signs for the bulletin board to publicize sustainability activities. I started by cutting nametags with the trimming machine; then I put them on different colored thick paper to represent different activities. I used glue to stick them together and trimmed again, putting a colored paper with each nametag paper into a piece of transparent plastic cover, then sending them as a whole to pass through the laminating machine. When they came out from the other side of machine, they looked so clean and neat. When they were hung up on the board, I thought they look better because they were made by me. I had so much fun that day not only because I made them look good, but also I learned a new skill: how to use the laminating machine!

I also created a hand-made poster for the Indoor Rock Climbing Competition. I learned of a surprising new place at Earlham due to making the poster: the publicity room. I drew that poster five different times. I could not arrange the words properly when writing on the real poster, so I tried to write the words on other paper before making a new one. I thought it would be super easy to do but it actually took me two hours. My hand was dyed to blue; it was funny because I went to donate blood after that. The nurse joked that I was Avatar and pretended to refuse me to donate. I learned from the poster-making that being patient is very important especially when I think something will be easy to do.

I like working in the Sustainability Office, and I do enjoy immersing myself in what I want to do. I hope I can learn more from the rest of this semester.


From Sustainability to Life Instruction

When the great ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles proposed his idea on the four fundamental, indivisible components of the world, air element, earth element, fire element and water element, the world, from observations of human beings, was defined. Though the modern science tends to use string theory or atom theory instead, the four elements idea revealed an impressive landscape portrayed by the worship and awe of nature.

People in 20st century did not obey ancestors’ “coward” mind, they interpreted the role of nature as a slave of honorable human beings. They asked for resources, energy, privileges and priorities of all animals. Then they left us, who are living in 21st century, a wounded earth. There is still an ozone hole, as large as North America Continent, in the Antarctic sky. Noteworthy average temperature increase on the surface of earth is still causing the melting of glaciers in Arctic and Antarctic.

How should we recognize the relationship between nature and human development? How should we behave to fix our ancestors’ errors? How could the idea of sustainability influence our lives?

Life itself is a circle. A circle inscribed within the animal (live creature) circle. We were born nakedly and we pass away nakedly. But during this process (our life time), we consume energy or to say we are sustained by the energy, the natural energy. We breathed with air element, survived in water element, got warm through fire element and put our foot on the solid earth element as well as got our food. Since our physical, solid bodies are formed and supported by all for elements, could we consider ourselves as a synthesized complicated creature made by four elements?

Let me put this more clearly, we are made of nature and we are part of nature. When you are throwing the food into trashcan, you actually put part of yourself in there simultaneously. When we leave the water tap open for an hour, it is the same as the same amount of blood were extracted from us. There is nothing scary and unrealistic here. We need to breathe together with our earth. Literally, together.


by Zeyang Gao

Learners, Teachers and Leaders

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John C. Maxwell.

When something in society needs fixing, one of the first answers any American citizen will give you to a solution is education. People are educated on a daily basis to influence all of their decisions ranging from the media telling them that they need more vitamin and mineral supplements to be healthier, to politicians posting their opinions and campaigns under every billboard under the sun to get people to vote for them. Education is everywhere and it is a vital component of human cultural transmission, whether it is in or out of a classroom.

The quote by Maxwell above perfectly sums up what a leader should be: not a title, but a role model. Teachers are the ultimate leaders- they are figures students will look up to, respect, and even attempt to emulate, therefore it is crucial that society has good teachers. The volunteer program I am managing this semester are The Earlham College Eco-Reps. These are a group of students interested in being learners, teachers and leaders of sustainable, “green,” and healthy living in their dorms and communities. My goals this semester for the volunteers are to get them to understand that living sustainably is ever-changing, and that there is therefore always more to know and more to improve, to want to spread everything they learn to their communities and inspire others to make more sustainable daily choices and thus lead the movement. So far, it is great to see how enthusiastic the volunteers are, and that they want to spread their knowledge and lead the movement in environmentalism and sustainability. I am confident that they will definitely inspire positive change for their peers this semester!

-Yeli G.

It’s all over….


It has been 8 weeks of working at the Free Store, researching the ingredients of the food we are served in the cafeteria, writing blog posts, organizing a volunteer match fair and a partridge in a pear tree. This Friday will mark the end of my internship with the Sustainability Office and I can honestly say that I have grown in such a short time.  This internship eased me into what a sustainable lifestyle at Earlham constitutes. I learnt the ins and outs of our composting system, our recycling system and various projects on campus that encourage sustainable living.

I enjoyed working on the Real Food Calculator, mostly because it was an eye-opener to the efforts people are taking to ensure that the food we eat is “real food”.  The Free Store was an interesting feat. It highlighted the effects of consumerism in our society and the habit of wasting that students have developed. However, it did help be part of the campaign to reduce the waste and divert useful goods from the landfill.

Finally, my off-site placement at the Grassroots Action Resource Center was amazing. It served as my gateway to Richmond. I learnt so much about Richmond and got the opportunity to appreciate it, not as an outsider, but as a member of the community. I organized the first Volunteer Match Fair meet at the center and in turn had the opportunity to interact with the numerous non-profit organizations the city of Richmond possesses.

This internship has been entertaining as well as educating and I hope to use this opportunity to further my relationship with the people I have met during the course of the 8 weeks of work.





Cardinal Greenways Update

This past week I have been doing lots of work for the Cardinal Greenways! The Cardinal Greenways is Indiana’s longestest set of recreational trails, spanning 62 miles from Marion through Muncie to Richmond.

The Cardinal Greenways has tons of awesome events going on this summer! Reid Hospital is using the trails for their Reid Ride on July 19th. Then on the 26th is the 14th Annual Great Greenway Tour. Finally, on September 27th the Wayne County branch of the Cardinal Greenway will host its 2nd annual BikeTOURberfest.

With all of these events comes a lot of preparation. I have been helping Denise, the Wayne County Cardinal Greenways Director, prepare in a number of ways. Firstly, I drafted an application for the Whitewater Valley REMC grant to obtain funding for BikeTOURberfest. I have also been helping synthesize maintenance plans from other region trails to establish a sort of maintenance “best practice” for the Wayne County Cardinal Greenways to use to keep its trails beautiful and safe for events and daily use. Thirdly, I will be doing a bit of surveying trail users this weekend to collect data about trail use for future funding applications and event management. I have also been sitting in on various steering committee and board meetings to get a sense of what running an organization like the Cardinal Greenways entails. Whew!

Earlier this week I also attended a ribbon cutting for the new water fountain at the Union Pike trail head. The fountain has 3 spouts: one for adults, one for smaller children, and one for dogs! The funding and installation for the fountain was provided by Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Indiana American Water. The mayor and the city chamber of commerce attended the ribbon cutting to celebrate the Cardinal Greenways’ continued success. The water fountains came just in time for all of the events coming up later this summer and in the fall.



So much to do, so little time. Well how are we doing so far?

The summer is in full swing and the days are zapping by. We have collectively progressed in our different projects on and off-campus. The free store is looking good and we have sorted and laundered through 80% of all the stuff we acquired from last semester. Before you say JACK ROBINSON, the free store will be opened for the general public. Awesome!

The Real Food Calculator date entering level is finally over!! We only have the research to do and we will be one step closer to calculating how much money our college spends on real food. As the years go by, we hope to increase the percentage of our feeding funds allocated to real food purchases.

The sustainability guides for the new students orientation is being birthed as I write. In not time, the ultimate guide to living sustainably at Earlham and Richmond at large will be updated and printed for all to use.

These three projects amongst other miscellaneous items are in the works for our internship thus far.

Meanwhile, this week is a week of goodbyes for the Sustainability Office at Earlham. We say goodbye to our Boss, Sarah Waddle who is off to greener pastures. It was awesome working with you Sarah and I hope we meet in the future. If you are reading this and you know Sarah, do not hesitate to send some goodwill messages her way.

Also, David, one of my intern colleagues is off to start his official summer holiday. Au revoir David, it was fun working with you!!

Peniel Ibe