Dana August '11

At least once in our lives, and probably more, we have thrown out a plastic bottle or a newspaper and never thought anything of it. If she could, Fairfield University junior and president of the Student Environmental Association, Dana August, would be right behind us to pick it out of the trash and recycle it.

The Mirror: What sparked your interest in the environment?

Dana August: It started because of the lack of knowledge here at Fairfield.  In California I didn’t really recognize myself as having any commitment to the environment, but I saw the lack of compassion here.

TM: The population of the earth is growing rapidly, and nearly half of humans currently live in cities. Do believe there is still a future for the forest?

DA: With the current population trends and mindsets, no.  There needs to be some drastic change and a lot of people don’t realize that. So the first step into making that change is realizing that the change needs to be made.

TM: Going to a university where most people do not share your passion for the environment, how do you keep yourself motivated everyday?

DA: I don’t know, I guess it’s just who I am now.  [Laughs] I think that was a weird word to put there.

TM: It doesn’t bother you that environmental awareness is not a popular issue on campus?

DA: No it’s more sad to me that it’s not because it’s such a real issue that people only see as a green trend. You know how people have the shirts that say, “Hug a tree,” but it’s like do you know where that cotton came from that was used to make that t-shirt?  And what about the ink, the dyes, and the labor?  No, people don’t understand it, and so it’s just…well it’s not the whole environmental issue that’s sad, it’s just the apathy and close-mindedness that is more sad, I guess, to go away from you’re question a little bit.

TM: Do you believe that powerful corporations and political interests control our society or can individuals cause real change?

DA: Individuals can cause change, but not on a national or global scale, I believe.  Not because I’m not optimistic, just based on experience I guess, and different issues, but that doesn’t mean that people should give up.  That would be the same as saying my vote doesn’t count because I live in a Democratic state, so why do it?

TM: What would you say to those who are passionate about an issue, but feel helpless?

DA: Well if you’re passionate about something, then keep doing it.  If you know it’s the right thing to do, then stay with it and if you have a reason for doing something, do it.  That relates to anything.  Specifically with environmentalists, we live in a society that views things from an individual standpoint because of the capitalist nation that we’re in, but I won’t go into that [laughs].  If we start living more ontological, ethical lives, which is a desire for the future to be better, then everything will eventually be the way it should be.

TM: Is the author of an “An Unreasonable Woman,” and the 2009 convocation speaker, Diane Wilson, an inspiration to you?

DA: Yes, it’s funny that you say that because when I answered the question about individuals, I was like, oh what about Diane Wilson?  She is very inspirational because she went against what I thought and what I believed about individuals causing change.

TM: Would you say that you are an unreasonable woman?

DA: [Laughs] No, I think everyone else is unreasonable, and yes I act unreasonable everyday because people think that going through the trash just to recycle two water bottles is a ridiculous waste of time or a dirty thing to do, but it’s just one of the things that is my commitment to other people and the environment.

TM: How does it make you feel when you see someone throwing out a plastic bottle?

DA: Honestly, it hurts my heart.  I know that’s a very cliché thing to say, but I feel a pain, because I just want to know why; like why they decided to do that, because it’s a decision and everybody knows about recycling.  It’s not like anybody’s living in the dark, and maybe they don’t know the impacts that it really has.  I feel that you see it everywhere in media today, like this bag was made out of three cans or an aluminum can will power your television for three hours.  I don’t know, is that just me?

I also don’t understand why people don’t have the desire to know things like that, because we go a university where you’re supposed to be here because you want to learn and obtain all of this knowledge that better prepares you for real life.  Even if it’s something like going on Wikipedia to learn how the moon cycles work, it still is something that you want to know.  I went on a rampage there, but yes, it’s very saddening to me because I don’t understand why it happens.

TM: Do you believe that humans have it in them to solve the environmental crisis?

DA: Yes, because in December of this year, all of the international leaders are getting together in Copenhagen and are going to discuss the environment.  Even if it’s not the complete action that should be taken, the will be action taken, and it will be dramatic.  My prediction is that the results of the meeting will cause a huge blow to the economic systems because it will be something that they won’t be used to.  It’s not…well I’m not going to get into the economy, but yes, I think that we can and will change the environment.  Maybe the change will not be as much as we should or happen as fast as we want, but it will happen.

We are actually in the middle of a mass extinction right now.  I don’t know the numbers but something around 90 species a day are going extinct, which is crazy and people don’t know about it.  It’s because people are escalating climate change.  Something has to be done and something will be done.

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