Students from a class on environmental health presented four projects on issues in the environment to Representative Matt Cartwright on Friday.
Students in the ENVS-399-01 Environmental Health course were instructed to find an environmental issue they were passionate about, develop a proposed governmental solution to the problem, and then present these proposals to the Congressman, according to Dr. Robin Parsons Ertl, assistant professor of science.
“You can be as correct as you want to be,” Ertl, who instructs the class, said to the audience. “But if you don’t change public opinion, if you don’t change policy, what does it mean?”
This question was largely the inspiration behind the course, according to Ertl, whose goal was to increase the electorate’s knowledge about environmental issues.
“I think that everybody–not only students–but everybody needs some sort of background in environmental awareness,” Ertl said. “These environmental issues are becoming more and more complicated, and they don’t fit into a 30-second soundbite.”
Friday’s presentations comes after close to six months of planning between Ertl and the Congressman.
The class presented four projects on a variety of environmental issues.
Senior Nutrition and Dietetics Major Austin Fernandez urged for more attention to be paid to overpopulation. He called for increased funding in Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, citing studies that suggest higher education leads to a lower birthrate.
Junior Marketing Major Chloe Maloney spoke about pollution from farm water runoff. She encouraged the use of no-tillage farms to be incentivized through the tax code, as tilling farmlands leads to water runoff polluting local water supplies.
Peter Inirio, senior biology major, presented on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. He said that there are too many gaps in regulation, and called for the creation of another regulatory group outside of the FDA that would have exclusive rights to regulate GMO use.
Finally, Christian Rainey, senior pre-medical major, presented on fracking, calling for a uniform set of national regulations to be imposed on the fracking industry, and also for an increase in water testing in areas where fracking is common.
After the students presented, Rep. Cartwright spoke in response to the ideas presented by the class, emphasizing the difficulty of getting any of the proposals through Congress.
Cartwright congratulated the students on forming rational, well-thought out plans, stating that things are very different in the nation’s capitol.
“It’s a free-for-all in Washington,” Cartwright said. “…We get bomb-throwing and tirades.”
Cartwright, who stated that he has consistently fought for environmental protection, continued to echo the point of Congress’ difficulty with passing such policies.
“I like the idea of an agency for GMO regulation,” Cartwright said, speaking to Inirio’s presentation. “It’s a neat idea, but don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.”
Despite this, Inirio was excited to have had the opportunity to present his project before a seated Congressman.
“I thought it was an amazing opportunity to present my views regarding genetically modified organisms,” Inirio said. “When I first took the class, I wasn’t expecting it, so it came as a great shock to me. I was appreciative of it.”
Cartwright ended his talk by urging members of the audience to continue to be involved, by writing letters to their Congressmen and their Senators.
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