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April 02, 1998 - Image 22

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-04-02

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V V V 'V

6B- The -Michigan Dai Weekend Magazine t:- shuday. April 2, 1998






The Michigan Daily Weekend Magazine- Thursday, April 2, 1998 l1B

U, gets down to earth with environmental semester

State of the Arts

By Alex Khachaturian
For the Daily
The theme semester, an idea meant
to focus several units of the University
on one issue, has been a mainstay on
campus for five years. Surprised it's
been here that long? You're not the
only one. Most students have only
been aware of the topic for winter
1998, "The Environmental Semester:
Rethinking the Relationship."
After a year of planning that includ-
ed scheduling speakers, exhibits, films
nd concerts, the faculty, headed by
English Prof. John Knott, reached out
to the student body for its help. For the
past semester, enthusiastic students
engaged in the program have generat-
ed a level of environmental interest
that has not gone unnonticed by their
fellow classmates.
"What separates this from all other
theme semesters in the past is that
there's a student committee and a fac-
ulty committee working in parallel,"
said SNRE senior Mona Hanna, who
chairs the student committee.
With an array of student-organized
groups and an entire school devoted to
the study of the environment, it is clear
that there is plenty of concern on envi-
ronmental issues throughout campus.
But as Hanna pointed out, they are all
"disjointed efforts; there is nothing
concise and coalescing."
By bringing all of these groups
together, organizers of the theme
semester aimed to draw attention to
environmental concerns in order to
encourage the University community
to reduce consumption and pollution
around campus.
One of the keys to accomplishing
this was to reach students on an indi-
vidual level. "Whether through
(flashy) kick-offs or art exhibits, we've

tried to touch people in many different
ways," Hanna said.
"Rethinking the Relationship" asks
members of the community to evaluate
how they are impacting their own spe-
cific environments, and consider what
they can do to integrate environmen-
tally conscious decision-making into
their daily lives. Recycling, reusing,
composting, and conserving energy
and water all are vital activities in
helping to preserve the earth.
Another key aspect of the program
is its distinct lack of negativity in
addressing its environmental topic.
Although there is a clear concern, for
what still needs to be accomplished,
the committees chose not to center
exhibits on some of the most serious
environmental problems. Instead, they
chose other ways to generate positive
public energy and support.
Positive programs like Earth Week,
the Ecolympics and Hands on the
Planet - at which hundreds of volun-
teers at different environmental sites
do everything from cleaning rivers to
composting - make students realize
that their participation is valued.
The theme semester also has featured
informational sessions such as the
Forum on Environmental Education (to
be held tomorrow and Saturday at the
East Quad), which will bring to campus
one of the most influential speakers on
environmental education in the nation,
David Orr of Oberlin College.
The forum, which also includes a
discussion involving a panel of speak-
ers, will culminate in a field trip to the
George Reserve, a 1,300-acre forest
reserve used by the University for bio-
logical research.
The University has been extremely
supportive overall, Hanna said.
"Housing has been amazing this

semester," she said. "They hired some-
body just to work on the theme semes-
ter. We've done lots of programming in
the residence halls, and all of these
(programs) happen because of the
energy that we have started. After our
kick-off, the buzzword on campus was
'The Environmental Theme Se-
Hanna also said she appreciated the
efforts of the University's recycling
program, the provost advisory group
and especially the utilities department,
which is taking part in a national pro-
gram that will replace fluorescent
lights with incandescent ones, reduc-
ing energy usage by one-third.
One of the more visible campaigns
of the theme semester is the "Turn Off
the Lights" campaign. Stickers for
light switches will be distributed
across campus, reminding students,
faculty and maintenance workers to
shut off those lights before leaving a
room. This, Hanna explained, "con-
serves energy that burns fossil fuels,
releasing C02 that causes global
warming." The stickers will be found
on light switches all over campus
sometime in the near future.
Hanna said she was surprised by the
success of "Turn Off the Lights," as
she saw that something so little could
have an effect on individuals' con-
sciousness and lead to a noticeable
change in behavior. But that kind of
change is exactly what both the student
and faculty committees were looking
to accomplish.
"Things we never even asked to hap-
pen are happening," Hanna said.
"Dining services have taken steps.
East Quad even had an ettire bulletin
board about the Environmental
Although organizers are excited to

EPA administrator Michelle Jordan spoke at a kickoff event for the Environmental
Theme Semester in January.

see these changes around campus and
to hear stories of how certain people
have had their mindset positively
affected, they want the changes to con-
tinue. They expect long-term changes
in the basic fundamentals of the
University's operation.
Aside from increased awareness
from individuals, the committees are
looking for more environmental fund-
ing and programming. They even talk
of an environmental living-learning
program, similar to the Lloyd Hall
Scholars Program or the Residential
Hanna has spent four years at the
University and cited this year's theme
semester as the biggest change, envi-
ronmentally, that she has witnessed.
She said all of the enthusiasm gener-
ated, and the realization that the pro-
grams she and others helped coordi-
nate were successful, has been highly
rewarding for all involved.
Although this semester may be com-
ing to a close rather suddenly, don't
expect the environmental buzz around
campus to end when students hand in

their last papers or finish off those last
final exams.
On Monday, visiting artist Patrick
Dougherty held an on-site kickoff for
his campus installation. Dougherty, a
sculptor, will work on campus during
most of April. Volunteers are helping
him build his sapling sculptures on the
northwest corner of the Diag with
locally available materials.
Next week is Earth Week, and the
themes semester committees have
given each weekday a theme. At the
end of this week, on April 18, "M-
FEST: A Party for the Planet" will be
held on Palmer Field from 1-7 p.m.
Local and national environmentally
friendly bands are scheduled to appear,
along with speakers. Everything used
at the site will be powered by solar or
alternative energy.
This event will not only celebrate
the University's environmental accom-
plishments this past semester, but also
look at what we have left to do. "The
Environmental Semester wasn't just
winter 1998. It was seen as a spring-
board to future change," Hanna said.

The variability of Michigan weather I
has left me somewhat bewildered. nat
One week it's a snowstorm like one eff
that occurs in the middle of a terrible ver
winter. The next week, it's a beautiful cbh
summer-like day where almost every- she
one is outside in shorts and a T-shirt. I
I am beginning to think that the state qui
of Michigan lost a bet with Mother net
Nature at some point in time. Never in rel
my life have I lived in an environment
where the weather was so inconsistent
that its inconsistency was the only pre-
dictable thing about it.
But amid my despair and despite my
angst, I have found a friend. It's the light
in my meterological darkness, the water
in a water-forsaken desert, the sugar in
my bitter tea. I've conic to depend on it.
Its name is The Weather Channel.
So you're probably thinking to your-
self: This woman must be cuckoo. Well,
maybe, but that's another issue. Ki
I'm talking about the best and most D
comprehensive source of weather on
earth. Its advertisements even claim, su
"The Weather Channel: No place on ren
earth has better weather."5
And how right they are. Every morn- cut
ing, I tune in to see what weather to det
expect from this strange place called the
Michigan, and usually, reality is close ly,
to The Weather Channel's meterolo- get
gists' predictions. It's such a relief. de
Maybe it's a little pathetic on my part I
to be such a weather fan. But I know wi
there are others out there. Another we
advertisement assures us, "Weather ma
fans, you're not alone." So I know there me
are others of you out there - some- ab
where ... maybe?
I have become quite dependent on on
this most up-to-the-minute medium for pa
national and local weather. I am embar- kn
rassed to say - it's almost an obses- res
Each day, without fail, I turn on the No
TV between 7:30 and 9 a.m. to see the da'
local forecast, every 10 minutes on the th-
eights (sometimes they're late, so it fat
runs on the nines and 10s, but no big
deal). W
Read the
online at
http :11
umich. edu

really don't care too much about the
tional details, but when the El Nino
ects were hardcore in Florida, it was
y convenient to know when I should
eck up on my grandma to make sure
was not washed away by the rain.
The "Local Forecast" segment is
te possibly the greatest asset of the
work. I never realized how much I
ied on it until last December when
something went
During one of
those sometimes-
warm spells that
for some reason
are always hap-
pening around
here, I was
watching to see
whether I should
ristin Long wear a heavy
wily Arts Editor sweater or a light
one, when all of a
dden, the screen was stuck on the cur-
t conditions.
See, the "Local Forecast" begins with
rent conditions, then it gives a
ailed description of the morning,
n precipitation in the area and final-
a forecast for the day. Sometimes, we
t a three-day outlook, but it all
spends on the timing.
Unfortunately, nothing was wrong
th my TV. No, no. It was worse. They
re having some sort of computer
lfunction, and the remaining ele-
ents of the "Local Forecast" were
So you can see how disturbing it was
ly to know what the conditions of that
rticular moment were, as opposed to
owing what I was to expect for the
t of the day.
I found myself somewhat annoyed.
o only because I didn't know the
y's weather, but becuase I realized
at I, me, moi, had become a "weather
n." Pathetic, yet again.
You may think, who cares about The
eather Channel anyway? Why not just

turn on the local news and see what
those weather people have to say? Or
read the newspaper to check its fore-
That wouldn't be good enough. Local
news broadcasts have to focus on other
things, like who is killing who, sports
news, entertainment news and the like.
The Weather Channel is all weather, all
the time - unless, of course, there is a
computer malfunction. Then it's only
some weather all the time.
Nothing beats the writing of The
Weather Channel's forecasts either.
Sometimes it's the standard partly-
sunny or partly-cloudy business, but
every once in a while, some wave of
creative genius strolls along and
informs us that clouds will be "invad-
ing" the skies this afternoon.
The "Local Forecast" incident made
me really notice my bizarre habit. It's
the way I start my mornings - every
morning. While I am getting ready, I
have the television tuned to channel 34,
sometimes muted (the musical back-
ground leaves something to be desired),
but nonetheless on my screen. I consid-
er no alternatives.
I am not only enthralled by the
weather, but by the advertisements and
some of the on-camera meterologists.
There must be some aspiring comics
in the marketing department who create
their ad lines, butI have to give the net-
work a bonus point for original adver-
The main promo is, "Weather fans,
you're not alone" in which different sit-
uations dealing with weather occur at a
bar called The Front. Catchy, isn't it?
While some of the commercials bor-
der on the cheesy and somewhat lame,
each is creative and a lot better than
most network pronotions. After all,
from a channel that is all weather, all
the time, what can we expect?
At The Front, The Weather Channel
is on all of the televisions throughout
the establishment all of the time. One
installment features two men with their
faces painted like a warm front and a

cold front, with blue and white or red
and orange isotope lines detailing the
pattern of the condition. They are called
"big Weekend Outlook" fans.
The two wait in anticipation of the
forecast, and then they cheer as if it
were a touchdown or something. And
one yells, "Who looks stupid now?" or
some variation of it, even though they
both look rather ridiculous.
I guess you have to see it for yourself.
But still, it's a rather decent satire of
sweather fans.
The entire commericial series is quite
inventive. In a way, it mocks all us
weather fans out there, but in a light-
hearted manner that at least makes me
feel not quite as silly.
My boyfriend makes fun of me
because every time he turns on the TV
it's always set to channel 34. It's the first
and last thing I watch in the morning, so
come evening, what other channel is
going to be on my TV?

We all have our "nerdy" yet intellec-
tual tendencies. Some like to read a
sophisticated newspaper every morn-
ing. Others like to read academic books
about history and mathematics in their
free time. Others need to watch their
local or network news three, four or five
times a day. You won't hear me giving
you a hard time.
For me, it's just The Weather
Channel. The meterologists are decent.
Granted, I only see the morning crew,
but as for Vivian, Marshall and
earth-man Bruce, I have no complaints.
Weather fans, I know you're out
there; don't be ashamed, you're not
alone. Be embarrassed if you must, but
at least you'll know when to carry an
umbrella when all those others are
caught in the rain. And then we'll see,
who looks silly now?
- Kristin Long can be reached at

Inside the Clarion Hotel
2900 Jackson Rd.. Ann Arbor, MI

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