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Pace Professors Talk Environmental Activism At Suffern High School

Pace University's John Cronin and Michelle D. Land, J.D., flank Suffern High School science students.
Pace University's John Cronin and Michelle D. Land, J.D., flank Suffern High School science students. Photo Credit: Contributed

SUFFERN, N.Y. -- Suffern High School’s science students were visited by renowned environmental activists and professors from Pace University, Michelle D. Land, J.D. and John Cronin, on May 19, 2016. Their presentation covered a range of topics, everything from their experience in the field of environmental advocacy to the conservation of wildlife.

Cronin offered a heartfelt call to action for the young, conscientious students of Suffern High School. Cronin explained that, despite his academic shortcomings growing up, he was inspired by Pete Seeger, a well-known folk musician, to police the dumping of pollution into the Hudson River, a practice entirely uninterrupted since the turn of the century. Their efforts as autonomous citizens resulted in the first lawsuit against a major corporation for the pollution of a waterway in New York State under the Clean Water Act. Cronin’s advocacy has since spurred a global movement known as the Waterkeeper Alliance, a group of over 270 individuals vigilant in overseeing the wellbeing of their local bodies of water. Cronin inspired feelings of empowerment and implored the students to keep a keen eye in looking for ways to improve the world.

“The first step… is imagination,” Cronin insisted.

Michelle D. Land J.D., a graduate from the Pace University School of Law, recalled her experiences at the World Bird Sanctuary in St. Louis, Missouri where she worked hands on in the rehabilitation of endangered birds of prey. Her background in environmental science and law culminated into a truly robust discussion of the reality of advocacy. Adversity, she stressed, is certainly worth the reward of success, especially in the field environmental conservation.

Land is the Director of the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies at the Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment. She also directs the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities. Cronin is Senior Fellow for Environmental Affairs at Pace and teaches the Environmental Policy Clinic with Land. The clinic, an interdisciplinary course combining policy and environmental advocacy, has recently been successful in their introduction of a bill to both houses of New York State’s legislature. The bill, titled the Elephant Protection Act, “aims to prohibit elephants from entertainment acts in New York State by 2018.”

The students of Suffern High School left the auditorium galvanized with a newfound understanding of what it means to make a difference. The assembly was organized by the school’s Environmental Activism Club, founded in 2014 by then-sophomores Grant Goodman and Christian Halstead. The success of the club in organizing the assembly, as well as in its many other endeavors, has provided a foundation in environmental activism, both locally and globally, for the students of Suffern High School.

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