Earth matters: journalist and author come to NEIU

Edwin Gramajo, Opinions Editor

A crowd of roughly 75 people gathered to listen to world-famous journalist Bill Kurtis and best- selling author John St. Augustine speak about what responsibility each human has in regards to keeping our environment habitable on April 15 in NEIU’s auditorium.


Their presentation, “Earth Matters: Ethics in Action,” aimed to blend scientific facts and ethics in new ways to encourage the audience to make a move to change the planet for the better. This particular event hit issues from Flint, Michigan to the ozone layer.


According to St. Augustine, apathy is what impacts our environment the most and it is the achilles heel of positive environmental change. Before we start doing anything, we first have to care.


St. Augustine implemented videos titled “Flint, Michigan,” “The Pope,” “Shark Attack” and “Ozone Layer Redux.” In 2014, a water crisis began in Flint, Michigan, when lead from old pipes poisoned the local drinking water. The Catholic Pope has millions of followers that he could influence to make a change. Every year, millions of sharks are killed in order to make gourmet soup. The ozone layer is depleting.  St. Augustine argued that while these places and events are not close to NEIU, they can and will impact us.


Kurtis offered one method to help earth by using photosynthesis and deep-rooted plants. Photosynthesis converts carbon dioxide into clean breathable oxygen. According to Kurtis, deep-rooted plants are capable of sequestering carbon emissions in greater quantities. One plant that can be used is switchgrass because of its capability of growing up to five feet down into the ground. Switchgrass can be used to reduce carbon dioxide by feeding it to livestock, a contributor to the increasing amount of pollution.


The first episode of Earth Matters launched in April 2013 and covered how microbeads fill our oceans. About one million people saw this episode. Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic used to rinse your face. These pieces aren’t removed by most water filters and as a result they end up in our oceans and lakes.


State Senator Heather Steans co-sponsored the bill “Ban the Bead.” This bill was signed into law by former Governor Pat Quinn. “The Ripple Effect” proves true and former President Obama signed “Banning the Bead” in the United States. One idea, one episode, one state, one country.


St. Augustine brought up the sentiment that when we die, we do not put “Republican, Democrat or Independent” on our gravestone, therefore, politics should not impact our planet. The main purpose of this lecture was to shock, motivate and change. One person can make a change, but according to St. Augustine, we first have to eliminate apathy.