SMC Earth Week events encourage activism

Determined to study law at Yale University, Van Jones refused to accept failure, even after scoring a 42 percent on his practice LSAT exam. Rather than wallowing in defeat, he made it his primary goal to keep trying. He ended up scoring in the 96th percentile. Jones is now a globally recognized environmental advocate, whose current missions are to give back to his community, and to help build a clean-energy economy for the future.

Illustrating that it is possible to overcome adversity to a full crowd of eager Santa Monica College students, Jones gave his “Green Jobs and Beyond” lecture last Tuesday as part of the Earth Week celebration.

“They make it so hard for you—with all that student debt, and you can’t get the classes you want,” Jones said of the difficulties of obtaining a college degree.

However, as a man from a small town, Jones reassured the audience that “anyone can make it if they’re willing to work hard and pay the cost.”

“I wasn’t born at Yale Law,” Jones said at the start of his lecture. “In fact, I didn’t see an Ivy League until I was 20.”

Before attending Yale, Jones went to college near his hometown of Jackson, Tenn. at the University of Tennessee.

Jones has since used his degrees and position in society in an effort to deter troubled youths from being sent to prison. He helped close three youth prisons, and created the Oakland Green Jobs Corps, which seeks to combat poverty by taking young adults off the streets and placing them into training programs for “green” jobs, such as installing solar panels.

“Everything good for the environment is a job,” said Jones. “Kids who need second chances are just thrown away.”

Jones was not the only community activist praised during Earth Week at SMC. On Wednesday, SMC grounds supervisor Tom Corpus was honored for his work on campus, including the implementation of “Green Zones.”

These zones refer to a new system in which only manpowered or battery-powered equipment can be used, and “organic integrated pest management” is applied, SMC public information officer Bruce Smith explained in an e-mail.

Earth Week enabled students to participate in events promoting sustainability, including a beach cleanup with Heal the Bay.

“Students should get active in their community,” said Genevieve Bertone, SMC’s director of sustainability and EcoAction Club adviser. “This not only makes a huge difference, but it will also help them make friends, build their resume, and sharpen skills like public speaking, report-writing, and project management.”

Though Earth Week is over, its events have left SMC students with strategies for living sustainably. On campus, students can join the EcoAction Club and the Recycling Club. They can also volunteer at the Center for Environmental Studies, and other non-profit organizations in Santa Monica such as Heal the Bay and Sustainable Works.

“Pay attention to the amount of waste that is generated every day,” said Bertone. “When we throw resources away, there really is no ‘away.’ It ends up at the primary Los Angeles Landfill in Puente Hills, which is scheduled to close in 2013.”

To help reduce one’s ecological footprint, Bertone suggests eating lower on the food chain, taking alternative transportation at least once a week, and conserving recourses by simply consuming less—less water, less energy, and less chemicals.

“Earth Day should be every day,” said Bertone.