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THE Journal/PC Mall Green Light Essay Contest: Helen Ayala Unger

WebConserve: a Technological Plan for Environmental Action

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,” once quipped Derek Bok, President of Harvard University from 1971 to 1990. This is a true statement; in today’s world,

One cannot afford to be ignorant, lest a considerable toll be taken in the area in which one is uninformed. Unfortunately, a multitude of people, notably students, are unaware of the condition of their natural environments---they are both unacquainted with the issues facing their local ecosystems and innocent to actions that can be taken to prevent further damage. In order to combat this ignorance and the toll it takes upon the environment, I have developed an idea that will educate and provide conservation opportunities to students in the community that might otherwise not be reached: WebConserve. Webconserve, which consists of a Web site featuring a database of students’ contact information, a monthly e-newsletter and weekly blog concerning environmental issues, and an online encyclopedia catalog, will have a profound impact not only upon our schools’ relationship with the environment, but also with the students’ awareness of their role in the environmental protection.

How will WebConserve work? Fortunately, the South Euclid-Lyndhurst school district is home to a highly active Environmental Club, which is more than willing to design a Web site that highlights local environmental concerns, such as littering in natural parks. The Web site will contain a database of both students’ e-mail addresses and phone numbers, which will be utilized to distribute a monthly newsletter written by members of the club. The newsletter will feature a simple action, feasible to all students that will increase conservation, such as using energy-efficient light bulbs, as well as charities contributing to environmental protection. Also, text message alerts will be sent to notify students of Club projects, such as bottle recycling drives, that are held several times during the school year. Finally, the Web site itself will include fun, environmentally-related games and a weekly blog, updated by members of the environmental Club, which will serve as an open forum for environmentally concerned students.

Another aspect of WebConserve will be a catalog of online encyclopedias and links to other research sites. This serves not only to reduce students’ paper usage, but to draw students to the site. Our school district currently houses a large database of online resources that is widely popular with both students and teachers; these will be downloaded onto WebConserve. Also, a seminar will be arranged for the teachers of the South Euclid-Lyndhurst school district, educating them about the use and advantages of online assignment Web sites, such as WebAssign; the use of these sites will greatly reduce the amount of paper consumed by students, and thus, the district. Once instated, these sites will be added to the research database of WebConserve.

There is an immense amount of potential in WebConserve. In South Euclid and Lyndhurst, students will be more aware of their part in environmental protection. It will allow our Environmental Club to gain members and renown in the community. It will be student-run and thus give the student body more say in the condition of the community. It may reduce our schools’ consumption of paper by 20 to 30%. It is financially feasible, with a little help from the South Euclid-Lyndhurst PTA and the school Board, since it will require the installation of new technologies beyond basic software. Lastly, WebConserve is easily duplicated, as it is, at its core, a Web site. All in all, Webconserve is both highly effective.

As with all proposed programs, there are a few drawbacks. The main issue that WebConserve may face is a lack of funding; this can be remedied through appeals to the School Board and fundraising by our zealous Environmental Club. Luckily, the South Euclid-Lyndhurst district recently passed a levy which will allocate a large sum to the school system, thus making capital less of a worry. Another minor drawback may be apathy from the student body; however, our school system is home to a very active Environmental Club that will ensure that the “word” is spread about WebConserve. Also, the involvement of our schools’ PTA will ensure that the program is preserved. Although these disadvantages exist, they can be easily overcome.

“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action,” said 19th --century English philosopher Herbert Spencer. When it comes to protecting the environment, one’s aim must be to breed action through education; this is exactly the credo of Webconserve. Through the spread of information made possible by modern technology, our schools hope to inspire students to consider their natural environment something to be cared for and consider themselves to be instruments of this safeguarding. It is our goal to expand our influence over our local ecosystems, and as the late American president John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” We must take the risk and dive into WebConserve---the environmental risk is too great for our students to remain educationally inert.

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