Hey JMU. My name is Stephen and I am the UPB President for the upcoming year. My life throughout the school year consists mainly of balancing working with the student activities organization with a social life, as well as staying on top of a double major and other extra-curricular activities. I know that I’m not alone when I say that since arriving on campus as a freshman – JMU is my life. I get so caught up in what is happening in the immediate that the rest of the world, as vast as it may be, seems to somehow slip through the cracks.
Now summer is here, and the whirlwind of responsibilities has stopped. I was able to step outside the comfort of the James Madison bubble and look at what was really happening beyond the Harrisonburg scope for the first time in months. I had heard some news in passing, but this May I learned the truth. The world is facing one of the worst marine disasters since the Exxon-Valdez crisis in the 1980s. In the aftermath of the April 20, 2010 accident, up to an estimated 1 million gallons of oil has been leaked into the Gulf of Mexico per day. However, only 630,000 gallons are currently being recovered each day.
Not only are the humans who demand the oil facing trouble, the local wildlife also suffers. Five different threatened and endangered species of sea turtle populate the affected area. In less than two months, humans may have jeopardized the animals’ reproductive cycles that have been ongoing for over a millennium. Shore clean-up crews have discovered almost 300 dead turtles compared to the average 30 turtles this time of year.
Conservative assessments claim that it could take up to 10 years for the endangered species to recover. Other experts are more skeptical. “We’ve spent 28 years trying to restore this turtle, and we’re staring at the brink of extinction right now,” Pat Burchfield, head of the U.S. contingency of the Binational Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle Recovery Project, said. As the weeks pass conditions are not improving. Local wildlife services report the total number of oily birds in the first week of June alone is over five times the past six weeks’ cumulative total.
While it may seem like a hopeless situation now, I see this situation with a positive outlook. For my part, I want to strive to make sure that UPB upholds its responsibility to constantly remind students that the world is bigger than next week’s test or the big group presentation this semester. If there’s ever a way for us to gain from bringing in speakers to hear their experiences from these types of tragedies, you can bet I’ll be looking into bringing them…….. If not just for the turtles sake.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”