OUR OPINION: Earth Day brought many new attitudes

Across campuses nationwide – including the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University – students and scientists are gearing up this weekend for the 44th annual celebration on April 22 of Earth Day, the iconic American observance marking a milestone in the environmental and sustainability movements, now reaching worldwide.

Ole Miss and MSU both have offices of sustainability leading campuswide action-focused programs, and they are part of Green Week in a specific and larger context.

Both universities also have direct ties to proof that sustainability and corporate environmentalism produce jobs and prosperity, a concept somewhat discounted in the beginning of Earth Day.

Mississippi State has it automotive program on the campus of Nissan Motors in Madison County, a major Mississippi employer.

Ole Miss is actively engaged with Toyota Motor Manufacturing of Mississippi on the Oxford campus at the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Toyota plant in Blue Springs. Toyota, like Nissan, is a major manufacturer and jobs creator.

Both auto manufacturers are models of environmentalism ad sustainability, including changing their own business models to reshape fossil-based fuels reliance in the vehicles they make.

“As we educate and support the development of the next generation for responsible citizenship, we consider these global issues to be of critical importance to their preparation,” said Anne McCauley, assistant director of the UM Office of Sustainability. “Changing behaviors and habits are important, but equally important is understanding the larger context behind why we advocate for these changes. We hope Green Week brings to light both actions for individual responsibility as well as awareness of social, environmental and economic challenges that need to be addressed.”

“It is a week where we, as a community, can build our environmental conscience and strengthen our commitment to lowering our global impact,” said Kendall McDonald, a junior public policy major from Bay St. Louis who serves as the Office of Sustainability’s Green Week intern.”

The evolution of Earth Day from a light-hearted one-day event to a huge movement driven by concerns centering on the economy and quality of life is an encouraging sign of changing attitudes and priorities.

Mississippi, which has had fewer major environmental issues than many other states, still has great opportunities to lead for sustainability in a new world economy. Our state’s universities and industries like Toyota and Nissan provide resources and leadership moving forward.