By Kati Moore (MEM ’16)
DURHAM, N.C. – For Lucila Houttuijn Bloemendaal (Trinity ’18) and Jack McDermott (Trinity ’17), being environmentally active is not only a passion, but also a responsibility.
“When I was younger, I was interested in biodiversity and conservation, but the more I got into that, the more I realized there were so many other issues,” Houttuijn Bloemendaal says. “Once you have this knowledge, it comes with the responsibility to do something,”
Houttuijn Bloemendaal and McDermott are both third-year undergraduates majoring in Earth and Ocean Sciences (EOS). Many of their classes are in the Nicholas School, where they are learning how to address the most pressing environmental issues facing our planet today.
McDermott is using his EOS major as the first building block to a career in environmental policy. As an undergraduate he is establishing a solid scientific understanding of environmental issues. Next fall he will begin learning how to apply this knowledge in law and policy as he enrolls in the Duke Law School.
Houttuijn Bloemendaal says she came to Duke knowing she wanted to study science.
“I chose Earth and Ocean Sciences because I like the synthesis of different sciences – chemistry, physics, biology, ecology,” she says. “I liked how it was a nice mix of things to understand how the world works in a natural way.”
They are applying skills learned at the Nicholas School to their roles as co-presidents of Duke Environmental Alliance, a student-run organization dedicated to promoting environmental sustainability, raising environmental awareness, and supporting student environmental initiatives, both on campus and in the Durham community.
They each became involved with the Environmental Alliance during their first year. Last year, Houttuijn Bloemendaal served as the volunteer outreach coordinator for the group, and McDermott served as the director of communications. The Environmental Alliance leadership also includes a vice president, treasurer, and a director of publicity.
Last fall, the Environmental Alliance held their annual sustainability competition between dormitories. Students were challenged to reduce their dorm’s energy consumption and participate in a variety of educational activities.
This spring, on April 9, the group will host their annual EarthFest celebration, which brings together multiple on-campus groups to promote sustainable practices. Last year’s theme was environmental issues in North Carolina, such as coal ash and fracking. This year’s theme is the future.
“There is a lot of uncertainty right now,” says McDermott. “This event is meant to give people opportunities to take action and get involved.”
In addition to these two main events, the Environmental Alliance has partnered with other campus groups to host various events, including a film series centered on water and how it is portrayed in movies. The series is called “Water: Friend or Foe?” and includes “Semper Fi:
Always Faithful” on March 2 and “Erin Brockovich” on April 6. The Environmental Alliance is partnering with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, DukeArts, and the Artstigators to host the series.
In addition to leading various environmental initiatives on campus, Environmental Alliance serves as a way for students to meet like-minded individuals and make their own mark through projects of their own.
“It’s important to provide a platform for other students to get together and come up with ideas and make them a reality,” Houttuijn Bloemendaal says. “We can support them with resources or expertise, or in any way to get ideas going.”
Past projects have included a 5k race focused on sustainability and distribution of reusable water bottles at Duke events.
Photo and video by: Sean Rowe, multimedia and web content specialist