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Environmental Stewardship Club focuses on educating community about eco-friendly habits

Members of the Environmental Stewardship Club listen to instructions regarding plant conservation at a garden area

According to its Facebook page, the Environmental Stewardship Club (ESC) is “a club of people who love God’s creation and want to protect it.” The club’s focus is to join students together and find ways to conserve the local environment.

President of the ESC Tanner Sanchez-Smith, a biology senior from Oregon, said he realized he wanted to commit his life to conservation, and he recognized there was not a professional club for his chosen field at BYU­–Hawaii.

“I would have a lot of discussions about environmental issues and it seemed like people didn’t know that much despite us living in the [bird] extinction capital of the world and a place that’s already experiencing the effects of climate change.”

He noted BYUH students continue to remain ignorant of those facts, so he wanted to ensure the student body was educated.

Sanchez-Smith challenged BYUH students to raise awareness for their friends and family. “Anytime someone comes to visit [you], show them around the island and take them to Hukilau Beach.”

Hukilau Beach, Sanchez-Smith said, is one of the most plastic-polluted places you can find on the island. “Show them the plastic so then people can understand what their plastic pollution does. I think it’s important to not turn a blind eye to the issues that are right in front of you and show others those issues.”

Sanchez-Smith got to work and created the Environmental Stewardship Club with Assistant Professor Spencer Ingley as the advisor. “The club has four pillars: career, service, education and fun. That’s what we do.”

According to Sanchez-Smith, there are opportunities to do service for the environment in the club. “We’re working with conservation agencies so we have cool access to places you would not normally have. We are going to a piece of land that the Nature Conservancy owns. We have cool access to stuff.”

ESC also gets surprise perks. When they visited Kahuku Farms last semester for volunteer service work, they were treated to complimentary smoothies. In February, ESC will help reforest areas on Gunstock Ranch with the Legacy Forest Project. “We have a service club, but it’s also a nature lovers’ service club with perks.”

ESC also has activities with special access. “We have a visit to James Campbell Wildlife Refuge where you can’t go normally.” Sanchez-Smith said when they visit the refuge, they will be able to see albatross chicks.

ESC also plans to visit coral restoration facilities and participate in the Tour de Trash. The Tour de Trash is put on by the City and County of Honolulu to showcase their recycling and environmental preservation systems.

The club will also hold forums called Conversations on Conservation to educate students about the environment. The forums will highlight traditional ecological knowledge, eco-law, and will involve a discussion on the ethics of ecoterrorism. As for educating students about environmental careers, the club will have Ingley present his recent sabbatical to Antarctica.

Students react positively to ESC

Viema Taito, a social work and psychology senior from Fiji, said students should be able to see the traces they make and how it affects the environment around them. “I think it’d be a great club to help the rising generation be more aware of what is happening in the environment. That way they’re not just closed off about what’s happening.”

An accounting and hospitality and tourism management major freshman from the Philippines, Ken Asetre, agreed with Taito. “It’s a good thing to have a group that has the resources to gather information on how to take care of the earth.”

Adriannah Metta, an anthropology and peacebuilding senior from Papua New Guinea, also enjoyed the idea of the club. Metta had heard about the club a few semesters ago, but at the time it was only an idea. “I believe it’s really good for the school to enhance our understanding of [environmental issues].”

For Metta, Asetre and Taito, environmental issues hit home. “In [the] Philippines,” according to Asetre, “I’ve seen many things [where] people do not have a sense of stewardship towards the environment. Stuff like throwing garbage in the river.”

Taito said there is overlogging in Fiji and it causes the soil to loosen and increases the possibility of damage in natural disasters. Metta said people back home were throwing trash in the water and people fell ill.

Metta said, “Actively participate even if you don’t have the resources to [donate]. If there are activities like beach cleanups or club activities [involving the environment] then participate in those because those are some ways that you are contributing to the awareness of taking care of the environment.”

Taito added, “Not only participate, but vocalize whatever you are learning.” She said there is no point in learning about the environment if you aren’t going to teach someone else about it.”

The divine mandate to take care of the earth, Sanchez Smith explained, was never revoked. “By the sweat of your brow, you will tend to the earth. It’s just harder now.” He explained, “The spiritual and physical are connected and everything was created physically so to some degree we are disrespecting God’s spirit and other spirits if we do not protect nature. An appreciation and respect for all living things make sense with the gospel.”