By Marcus Whitman, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of The Baltimore Sun
Towson University held its annual Environmental Conference Wednesday to highlight career, research, leadership and advocacy opportunities in environmental and sustainability focus areas.
TU alumni Destiny Watford, this year’s keynote speaker, highlighted the impact that environmental injustices can have on the community.
For Watford, one such injustice is the Baltimore Refuse Energy Systems Company incinerator, something she feels is one of the biggest issues in the community. Watford said that it creates one third of the city’s air pollution.
“To put that into perspective, there was an MIT study conducted in 2013 that showed that death related to air pollution in Baltimore City is higher than our homicide rate,” Watford said. “In spite of this over 80% of what is burned at BRESCO could be recycled or composted.”
Sophomore Karlee Perry said that these statistics were captivating.
“This was the most interesting because it was unfortunately something that was impacting me on such a personal level,” Perry said. “It was where I felt the most fire deep within, because it was something I could literally see, feel, and confirm.”
Angela Ober, the Environmental Planner for the Office of Sustainability, feels that even though bringing up these topics of conversation are important it can also be polarizing.
“It’s hard to balance between feeling like your being preachy versus being truly being passionate about educating people about these efforts,” Ober said. “I think some people, I wouldn’t say don’t care, but once you start talking about things like climate change to them, some people are turned off [by] those topics.”
Luis Sierra, the Director of Civic Engagement, said event planning took months of collaboration between The Office of Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility and The Office of Sustainability. They also worked with the Environmental Science and Studies program to tell students about the event.
“Some of them encouraged and even asked their students to be a part of this conference, as part of their course work,” Sierra said.
Watford’s passion for environmental activism was sparked when she realized that the state of the environment could negatively impact the lives of those she loved.
“You can’t actually ignore something like that when it happens,” Watford said.
Environmental justice is also a passion for Perry, who has committed herself to doing more physical work and growth as an activist.
“The environmental conference seemed like the perfect opportunity to network and learn more about ways I can become even more involved as well as information needed to defend my stance and beliefs,” Perry said.