Approximately 50-60 students from the St. Marys College of Maryland jumped into the freezing water of the St. Marys River at approximately 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 02, 2007. More than 100 other students and faculty looked on. Photo by David Noss.
By David Noss
ST MARYS CITY, Md. When they first told me they were going to do it, I figured at most a handful of people would actually follow through. After all, it is February and while this isnt exactly the frigid northeast, it is cold this time of year. I envisioned that a group of them had been pounding down a few beers when they came up with this grand scheme. Certainly, when it came time to go through with it, they would see it with less enthusiasm.
Well, I totally underestimated the determination of Americas youth on a mission. While the official count isnt in yet, we estimate that between 50 and 60 students from the St. Marys College of Maryland (SMCM) today dove into the freezing waters of the St. Marys River. A polar bear and more than 100 of their fellow students and faculty were on hand to cheer them on. Well, the polar bear was really a student in a polar bear costume. Real polar bears are hard to come by in Maryland.
The air temperature almost exactly matched the water temperature: 39 degrees Farenheit
in the water and 38 degrees above ground. We asked
two young lady swimmers shortly after they exited the water if it was cold. The
answer was a resounding and emphatic, "YES!"
The reason they did it was to draw attention to the urgent issues of climate change and to demand immediate action to end our addiction to fossil fuels. The "Polar Bear Splash" was specifically designed to draw attention to the plight of all species threatened by global warming.
The student actions were part of Rising to the Climate Challenge: Visions of Our Future
, a week-long series of actions coordinated by the Campus Climate Challenge. The St. Mary's City students joined students on over 575 college and high school campuses across the United States and Canada in urging their campus administrators to enact clean energy policies as a key solution to the impending climate crisis. Organizers have called this event "the largest mobilization in the history of the youth global warming movement."
The students at SMCM dont just stop at publicity stunts like todays event. Past history shows that they also take action. In Sept. 2006, the college implemented their Recycled Bicycle Program. The program places unlocked bicycles around campus so that anyone may use them to get to their destination in lieu of using a motor vehicle. In Aug. 2006, the college started a Behavior Modification Program to get the students to reduce their use of energy and water. As part of this weeks events, students were asked to sign a pledge to promise to reduce their energy consumption, recycle, and become politically active in regards to green initiatives.
The college also plans to install a geothermal heat pump when it rebuilds its boathouse in the near future. Whereas normal heat pumps extract warmth from the surrounding air, geothermal systems bury a network of tubes in the ground to take advantage of the earths ambient, year-round temperature of approximately 54 degrees F. Geothermal systems have been around for years. However, they are not widely used because they cost a few thousand dollars more than conventional systems.
While the Polar Bear Splash brought attention to the very serious issues of global warming and dependence on fossil fuels, there was still opportunity for a little levity at todays event. The comedic relief was provided by a handful of young men who decided to enter the water completely au naturale. We suspect they never watched the Shrinkage episode of the Seinfeld show. We certainly hope that they have not harmed their chances for dating for the remainder of their term at the college.
The ironic ending to the story was provided by The Washington Post. The few people that drove to the event, mostly media people, all arrived in small, fuel efficient vehicles. However, the Posts photographer drove a full-size, gas guzzling, SUV and parked it mere feet away from the waterfront where the event took place. Shame on you Washington Post! But, thanks for the great ending to our story.
View a short video clip of the event
(5MB WMV File). Warning: Video contains Bare Buns!
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, Feb. 02, 2007
An Inconvenient Truth
, Now on DVD