Saint Xavier University students to fight mining pollution in Southern Idaho water
Chicago honors students learning to be water activists
Chicago (Jan. 22, 2008) – A group of Saint Xavier University honors students will fight to protect clean Rocky Mountain water from mining contamination in Idaho this summer as part of a water activism boot camp.
After a semester of studying water management and conducting field work in a Saint Xavier honors class, several students will accompany SXU Biology Professor Tatiana Tatum and Philosophy Professor Thomas Thorp to Southern Idaho, where they will work alongside a local organization fighting to prevent mining pollution in area waters.
“In the past several decades, river scientists have come to the realization that the health of both the environment and the economy require free-flowing rivers and measures to protect ground water sources,” Thorp said. “It’s not just environmentalists making these claims; it’s a matter of established science. Philosophically, we need to adjust our thinking so as not to view water as an exploitable resource but as the life-blood of the planet.”
Students began the semester by taking samples of Southwest Chicago’s Lake Marion on the SXU’s campus. They then will study and conduct field work on the Little Calumet River in the south suburbs and a branch of the Pecatonica River near Mineral Point, Wis.
In the classroom, students will learn the biology and chemistry of water, as well as the historical politics of water ownership and management. Thorp will teach the political and judicial background of how people own, regulate and distribute water. Students will begin locally by studying the history of the indigenous Potawatomi, Fox and Sauk Tribes, and how they lived on the land and alongside the rivers.
Tatum will lead the biology and chemistry discussions of water management.
In late April, the class will travel to Mineral Point to visit stream-front property owned by Thorp. Students will take part in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources “Adopt a Stream” Program and conduct field-work: wading, collecting samples of water, fish, plants and insects and bringing them back to the lab for analysis.
As part of the course, students also must take part in online activism by identifying and then studying some of the many groups devoted to protecting clean water, whether around the city of Chicago or nationally.
In a grand finale, five students will travel to Idaho Falls this summer to work with environmental groups facing off against mining companies by doing the same testing of water, fish, plants and other aspects of aquatic life. In the process, they will work with local scientists and activists on the front lines of the battle for water conservation.
“This class provides a panoramic, three-dimensional approach to environmental education, equipping our students with the skills necessary to manage the environmental impact inherent in all activities,” said Tatum. “People care about protecting their health and safety through environmental stewardship, and they will do the right thing when given trustworthy information, expert training and simple tools.”
On April 8, John Hart, of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Caribou County Clean Water, will travel here to present the annual SXU Honors Program Guest Lecture.
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