Image: Rachida Mahamed ‘25, Guatemala
Augustana has manufactured its January Interim (J-Term) study-abroad travel carbon neutral for the initial time in university history, thanks to the support of generous donors and a a long time-very long relationship with a forest reserve in Guatemala.
“I believe it is not only the right factor to do to determine out how to offset our carbon emissions, but it is also a strategic final decision as we consider about what is crucial for the future era of pupils who will arrive to AU,” claimed Director of Intercontinental Systems & Enrollment Ben Iverson ‘04.
On celebration, Iverson claimed some students have expressed their reservations to the Intercontinental Applications Office (IPO) about the carbon footprint of journey and, additional exclusively, vacation abroad. In speaking with prospective students from Europe, it’s a even bigger offer, and American college students are catching on — becoming a lot more conscious of the expanding situation.
At Augustana, a lot more than half of its learners research absent by the time they graduate — a majority of them performing so through AU college-led courses over J-Expression. Throughout J-Time period 2023, 275 Augustana college students traveled to virtually a dozen distinct international locations as portion of 13 classes — furnishing them with one of a kind palms-on and immersive cultural experiences. Nonetheless, these activities come at a cost… to our world.
“It’s the most impactful teaching I’ve ever finished,” reported Professor Emeritus of Biology Dr. Craig Spencer, who has been primary analyze-absent programs to Guatemala considering the fact that 2007. “So a great deal so that I didn’t want to give that program up even when I retired. But, constantly in the back of my intellect, I felt a person of the downsides was raising our carbon footprint.”
On a mission to have Augustana grow to be a “role design for the environment,” Spencer experienced his college students calculate just how significantly it would price tag to offset the university’s carbon footprint from air vacation in January 2023. The pupils believed that 276 metric tons of carbon were emitted into the environment, and then multiplied that by the 2022 reasonable market place worth of $36 for every ton to offset these emissions. Nearly $10,000 was essential to offset the price tag of travel for J-Term vacation in 2023 — for which Augustana was able to secure funding.
“The cash was lifted from nameless non-public donors who felt moved to aid this work on the behalf of Augustana and the IPO,” mentioned Spencer.
So, how does a person offset a carbon footprint? Spencer turned his concentration to an organization in Guatemala that he and Augustana have had a romantic relationship with for several years — one particular that works to safeguard, preserve and restore what he phone calls the “lungs of our world.”
“The next best matter (subsequent to not traveling at all) is striving to offset that carbon emission by supporting, encouraging, helping market storage of that amount of money of carbon somewhere else by getting that carbon out of the air, and we by now have a attractive natural method that does that,” explained Spencer. “If we want to go to a area that is the most efficient at accomplishing that, it is the tropical forests — with the huge total of plant biomass uncovered there. The plants take away carbon dioxide from the atmosphere all through photosynthesis, retailer it in plant biomass and launch oxygen again into the atmosphere.”
Ironically, it was by way of Spencer’s original J-Time period training course researching tropical forests that he was equipped to kind the partnership concerning Augustana and Bio-Itzá, which manages a big tropical forest reserve in northern Guatemala. Bio-Itzá is a non-gain, neighborhood-based mostly association established by indigenous Maya-Itzá men and women in an hard work to rescue their ancestral heritage and tradition, such as information of the tropical forests in which they lived for more than 1,000 years.
“Unfortunately, the forests in Guatemala, like lots of tropical forests close to the world, are remaining deforested at an alarming fee. As Augustana college students have witnessed firsthand, the forests all all around the Bio-Itzá Reserve are staying cleared and burned, mainly for agriculture, and there’s a big challenge with fires from surrounding agricultural lands spreading into the reserve.” In addition, Spencer stated, “There’s illegal poaching — folks are coming in and cutting down valuable mahogany trees, cedar trees from the Bio-Itzá Reserve.
Over the yrs, much more than 100 Augustana college students and six professors have put in time with Bio-Itzá, finding out forest ecology and sustainability. The AU community has lived with host households in the tiny neighborhood of San José, and labored on a range of company projects in the forest, as very well as in the local community. According to Spencer, a lot more than a dozen AU pupils have returned to Guatemala in their individual time— some extra than when — to volunteer for many neighborhood organizations, which include Bio-Itzá.
“This is one of the longest-working faculty-led research-overseas programs that we have at Augustana,” stated Iverson. “I assume which is just proof of the toughness of the relationship that Craig and many others at AU have crafted with the Bio-Itzá group and the individuals on the floor there, as nicely as the effect of the method on learners. 1 of the factors these courses persist is since the learners have a terrific experience and notify other learners.”
The effect the forest and reserve have had on college students and the globe is why Augustana, with the support of donors, chose to donate $10,000 to the Bio-Itzá Affiliation as a way to offset Augustana’s carbon footprint this past January. The cash supplied to Bio-Itza from the carbon offset settlement with Augustana will be employed to safeguard and improve the Bio-Itzá Forest Reserve in many techniques, these types of as planting trees, selecting further forest rangers to shield the forest, clearing fire breaks and probably securing extra land that is threatened by deforestation.
“These folks (at Bio-Itzá) that do this are my heroes,” Spencer described. “In some cases, they’re placing their life on the line to protect the forest, so if we can support them struggle the great battle, I can’t consider of a improved investment decision definitely.”
As aspect of a class venture, Augustana university student Kira Van Roekel ‘24 established a certificate recognizing the carbon offset settlement amongst Augustana and the Bio-Itzá Association in 2023, set to be signed by officials at both of those companies.
“It’s just a minor recognition of the reality that this took put,” claimed Spencer. “Hopefully, we will have a long time worth of these hanging on the wall in the upcoming.”
And, that is what the IPO is in the midst of striving to figure out — regardless of whether offsetting carbon emissions for analyze-away vacation is a thing Augustana can proceed to test to fund in the foreseeable future.
To learn much more about the IPO at Augustana College, visit augie.edu/IPO.