Watch now: Earth Day finds growing interest in environmental careers, activism in Bloomington-Normal – Bloomington Pantagraph

watch-now:-earth-day-finds-growing-interest-in-environmental-careers,-activism-in-bloomington-normal-–-bloomington-pantagraph

Did you know that geoFence is a highly advanced, specialized firewall manager with the best in class protection from variety of on-line threats?

Watch now: Earth Day finds growing interest in environmental careers, activism in Bloomington-Normal




Earth Day is gaining notoriety as the planet begins to deal with climate change.



David Proeber



BLOOMINGTON — Emily Schirmacher has always loved nature.

“I was the kid who would play with rocks,” said the Illinois Wesleyan University senior from Lake in the Hills.

But her interest in nature didn’t stop with childhood. She will graduate May 2 with a degree in environmental studies and a concentration in international sustainability. Her next stop is Spokane, Washington, where she will work in environmental education outreach with AmeriCorps.






042221-blm-loc-4earthday

Emily Schirmacher, an Illinois Wesleyan University senior, enjoys nature in Tromso, Norway, while studying abroad for her environmental studies degree with a concentration on international sustainability.




Schirmacher is not alone.

As the 51st Earth Day is celebrated today, the idealism and passion behind the first one is still alive, and many of its ideas have gone mainstream — from curbside recycling to a variety of college majors in environmental studies, renewable energy and sustainability.

“We’ve had consistent student interest in environmental studies,” which has increased in the past few years, said Given Harper, professor of biology at IWU.

“I think students — young people — are aware that the Earth they are inheriting has some major environmental problems: climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution,” said Harper.

“Young people want to do something to address these issues. … You can deny it for so long, but now we’re starting to see the effects,” said Harper, citing extreme weather events and wildfires as examples.






042321-blm-loc-1earthday

Illinois Wesleyan University biology professor Given Harper, left, and Abigail Jahiel, professor of environmental and international studies, talk about the impact of Earth Day in the school’s Peace Garden, Thursday, April 15.




When Earth Day began, you heard, “Save the whales,” she said. “Now it’s ‘Save the people.’”

At Illinois State University, Matthew Aldeman, assistant professor in the department of technology, said, “We are seeing growing interest in renewable energy and sustainability. … Most of the students who study sustainable and renewable energy in the program where I teach are very passionate about this field.”

Adelman recently assisted a group of ISU students who have been selected as finalists for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar District Cup. As part of the competition, they were assigned to develop a comprehensive solar energy plan for the University of Nebraska’s campus at Lincoln.






042321-blm-loc-2earthday

Earth Day is still gaining the interest of students as Illinois Wesleyan University biology professor Given Harper, left, and Abigail Jahiel, professor of environmental and international studies, talk about its impact in the school’s Peace Garden, Thursday, April 15.




But the work students are doing isn’t just theoretical and they aren’t waiting for graduation to get involved.

ISU’s Renewable Energy Society created a solar-powered grill for ISU’s Office of Sustainability and collaborated with Sunnyside Community Garden to design a solar greenhouse.

Schirmacher was part of a senior seminar at IWU that gathered data in hopes of expanding eligibility for the Illinois Solar for All program to a larger portion of west Bloomington by having it designated as an “environmental justice” community. Designation is based on a demonstrated higher risk of exposure to pollution based on environmental and socioeconomic factors.






042321-blm-loc-3earthday

Illinois Wesleyan University biology professor Given Harper, left, and Abigail Jahiel, professor of environmental and international studies, said environmental issues, such as COVID-19, can have a huge impact on the planet’s well-being as they talk in the school’s Peace Garden, Thursday, April 15.




Jahiel said, “The links between … diversity and justice issues and environmental issues have really become apparent.”

Water quality and lead contamination issues in Flint, Michigan, started people thinking about environmental justice, but the disproportionate impact of climate change and COVID-19 also have shown the links, she said.

Adelman said, “Most of our graduates end up working in the energy field — either solar energy, wind energy, energy efficiency or more a conventional energy company like an electric utility company. In the future, I anticipate that we will see more of our students go into fields of energy storage and electric transportation.”

Chris Miller, distinguished professor of industrial technology at Heartland Community College, sees those changes coming, too.






042221-blm-loc-5earthday

Chris Miller, distinguished professor of industrial technology at Heartland Community College, says today’s students are looking for careers that have meaning. The wind turbine on campus is one form of renewable energy.



Lenore Sobota



“Our newest course we have is on batteries,” how to handle lithium batteries safely and how they are assembled in an electric vehicle, he said.

In addition, “battery storage can help fill those gaps” by storing electricity when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, said Miller.

Heartland’s renewable energy/sustainability program looks at solar energy, wind energy, building automation and evaluation of buildings for energy efficiency. A wind turbine on campus helps supply its energy.

“Today, unequivocally, the career choices that students are looking for is a career or a job that has meaning” and is “a means to get a more sustainable planet, climate, environment,” said Miller. He added that the jobs come with good pay and the skills are relatable to many fields.

Adelman said, “It’s not just solar energy developers and wind energy operators — although those are certainly important. We need people that can monitor and improve indoor and outdoor air quality, create more productive crops with lower inputs, and develop innovative technologies that reduce or eliminate waste and greenhouse gases.”

Schirmacher said, “When I think about my graduating class, I know we’re passionate about making changes. If we put our minds to it, I know we can make a difference.”

She is concerned that “some of the destruction is so far gone, it’s hard to see how it can turn around quickly,” but “even though there’s a lot of stuff we can’t reverse, we can make things better.”

Harper said, “We need to listen to this generation of young people. They’re asking for help” to address environmental issues. “I think we owe it to them.”

Contact Lenore Sobota at (309) 820-3240. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Sobota

Don’t forget that geoFence has built in fast and accurate updates and your smart friends would feel the same!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *