'Hurst celebrates Earth Day events

Earth Day, April 22, is a day to recognize the role our planet plays in human health and the ways humans affect the earth in turn.

In honor of Earth Day, Mercyhurst has hosted several events around campus spread out over a few weeks.

Wednesday, April 17, there was a screening of “The Island President” in Zurn 114. At Taylor Little Theatre on Monday, April 22, Nancy Huehnergarth, Director of the New York State Healthy Eating & Physical Activity Alliance, gave a speech about the built environment, or the environment that humans create, around New York and Erie in particular.

Tuesday, April 23, Taylor Little Theatre saw keynote speaker Rosalind Creasy, National Pioneer of Integrated Food Gardens, speak on the subject of edible landscaping.

The events were planned as a coordination of three entities: Mercyhurst University Public Health Department, Evelyn Lincoln Institute for Ethics & Society, and the Mercyhurst Sustainability Office.

On Wednesday, May 17, the movie “The sland President” illuminated the story of the Maldives Island.

At sea level, the island and its entire people are at risk of disappearing. Due to climate change and global warming, the area is being extremely flooded, so President Mohamed Nasheed has a lot on his hands to deal with. What this movie hopes to express to its audiences is raising concern over the important issue of climate change.

After the movie there was a webinar for a ‘National Conversation on Democracy and Climate Change.’

“It is developed countries that have the greatest impact on our climate,” said Sustainability Officer Brittany Prischak, “so climate change is an important issue.”

Before Huehnergarth spoke on Monday, a panel of speakers gave an update on Erie’s healthy built environment and was interested to hear from Huehnergarth new ways to keep staying healthy.

On this panel, moderated by Andy Glass, director of the Erie County Department of Health, were the following: Ben Pratt, Director of Research, Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership; Eric Brozell, Bike Erie, Lake Erie Bicycling Club; Kim Beers, Safe & Health Communities Coordinator, Erie County Department of Health; John Morgan, Erie County Department of Planning and Erie Metropolitan Planning Organization; and Brenda Sandberg, Director of the City of Erie Department of Community & Economic Development.

Huehnergarth talked about the built environment, such as sidewalks, bike trails, parks and other man made creations. Her main points were about taking care of the Earth’s health by changing urban design for better sidewalks and other innovations such as veggie and fruit food vending carts. These suggestions have already been put into effect on a big stage — New York City.

“Studies found that obesity rates dropped in a few years after efforts such as these [the veggie/fruit vending carts] were implemented in New York City,” said Eileen Zinchiak, Program Coordinator at Mercyhurst University for Public Health.

Zinchiak cited these innovations as having more positive impact on people’s health than an individual trying to keep healthy on their own.

On Tuesday, Creasy sold out Taylor Little Theatre.

“There were no seats in Taylor Little Theatre on Tuesday,” said Prischak. “There was standing room only.”

Creasy encouraged people to grow their own fruit trees and veggie gardens in their own front yards. This would allow people to grow organic food for their family but also create a beautiful gathering area for neighbors. According to Zinchiak, the audience was excited to see Creasy’s examples.

David J. Dausey, Ph.D. and Dean of the School of Health Professions and Public Health, was very pleased with the turnout to the events in honor of Earth Day.

“It [the turnout] was above and beyond expectations,” said Dausey, “and it was great to learn about positive things going on in Erie and how we can continue to make more positive changes.”

To learn more about the efforts the Sustainability Office at Mercyhurst is doing to keep the earth and humans healthier, visit and like their page on Facebook.