Author Robert Musil encourages student activism

Robert Musil, acclaimed author and environmental activist, encourages students to make a difference in the environment.

Robert Musil, acclaimed author and environmental activist, encourages students to make a difference in the environment.

HANNAH PILLING TTN Environmentalist Robert Musil attends Temple Community Garden’s opening. Before the ceremony, Musil gave a lecture on green issues.

Last week, students from Carolyn Adams’ urban dynamics class and eager ears from Students for Environmental Action heard advice and commentary from Robert K. Musil, a renowned environmental activist and author. Musil spoke to the group in Gladfelter Hall on matters of Global Climate Change and the enormous influence of student activism.

“Students, young people, people in this room can make a difference,” Musil said during the lecture Oct. 7.

Assistant Vice Provost Michelle O’Connor organized the event with the help of SEA executives Korin Tangtrakul and Jessica Gruber, leaders in the student initiative to make Temple’s campus more sustainable.

Musil focused not only on the topic of his book, Hope for a Heated Planet, but also spoke encouragingly about how he began his career at a young age and how young people can be involved in creating significant effects on the environmental issues the world faces.

Musil reached out not just to those already engaged in global climate change, which he called a “nuclear war in slow motion,” but also tried to relate more broadly to students.

“I was a pretty good student,” he said, “but I was lazy. Now I’m reformed and write books.”
Along with environmental and related issues, he discussed ways to be involved in the multiple nationwide student initiatives, such as Power Shift, an annual event held in Washington where more than 12,000 college-aged people gather to lobby and pressure Congress to pass environmentally friendly legislation.

SEA President Korin Tangtrakul said she was pleased Musil talked about Power Shift since SEA is involved with the event.

“He emphasized a lot about students and the impact we have now, and I think it’s the most important thing to bring up on a college campus, that’s what students want to hear the most. They want to know what they can do,” she said. “I’m glad that he, as an older person that’s been through all of this, recognizes that.”

Following the lecture, Musil and seven SEA members sat around a table and discussed their latest initiatives, potential ideas, possible questions and how to deal with troubles faced in organizing.
Musil advised them to make an impact on campus by organizing at a local level and coming up with creative ways to connect people to the cause.

“Let them know it’s not just about polar bears and bunnies and hugging tress,” he said. “You have to engage people, listen to their ideas. Make it social, you have to give them a reason to want to hang out with you because it’s very easy to turn into a nag for people and fall into the environmentalist stereotypes.”

“I understand where people are coming from that aren’t a part of this movement at all really, so I hope to pursue relating to other people and helping them want to get involved,” sophomore environmental studies major Eric Smith said.

Amber Tran, a senior anthropology major, talked about obstacles SEA faces in getting students involved. She said the best way for students to do their share is to do simple things like ride their bikes or participate in farmers markets.

“Little things add up in a big way because the reason we’re in this position is the result of a lot of little things adding up,” she said, “so anything you do makes a huge difference.”

Brittany Thomas can be reached at

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