Shortly after enrolling at Lander University, Libby Bergmann changed her major from Biology to Environmental Science. “It clicked for me and just made sense. Environmental science encompasses everything I want to do,” the senior from Beaufort said.
That seemingly simple realization has turned into Lander’s own example of the “Butterfly Effect” – the theory that one small change can trigger larger differences.
After settling into her major, Libby became an active member in Lander’s Environmental Science Student Organization (ESSO), a student-led group committed to environmental awareness and action.
When she joined, ESSO was a relatively small group with about 15 members. Since being elected as the group’s president two years ago, ESSO membership has swelled to over 75 active members.
Particularly impressive is the demographic makeup of the ESSO membership, with participants representing the spectrum in terms of academic majors, political beliefs, and backgrounds. “We have members majoring in Education, English, and STEM concentrations among others, and folks who lean to the left and to the right politically,” said Libby. “None of that matters in ESSO. Instead, we’re members because we care about nature and the environment.”
For Zachery Woods, a sophomore Biology major from Arkansas, meeting Libby and taking part in ESSO meetings was a life-changer.
“I became active in ESSO at the beginning of my freshman year, and what attracted me to it was meeting Libby, and seeing her enthusiasm and excitement about making a positive change. It was my first real step in caring about the environment,” he said.
Impacting the Community
Under Libby’s leadership, ESSO practices what it preaches. “Each semester, we fulfill a philanthropic-based project and a volunteer clean-up activity. For example, during last semester’s Soles for Souls project, we collected 300 shoes for people who needed them. That’s a perfect example of making full use of a recyclable item,” Libby explained.
The organization is also making an impact on the Lander campus. “Right now, we are in the process of planting a pollinator garden on campus to attract more native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators,” explained Zachery. “Bees have been declining in recent decades and ESSO wants to help give them a home and a clean environment to live in. This will hopefully help make us the 2nd Bee Campus USA in South Carolina.”
People Change When They Have a Chance to Chill
In addition to meeting twice monthly and regularly hosting screenings of environmentally focused films and documentaries for all Lander students, Libby often leads ESSO hiking trips on nearby trails.
“One of the main reasons many college students are so stressed is because we rarely see the outdoors,” Libby explained, “but when we go on a hike, it’s as if we turn into 7-year-olds again and experience that fascination that only nature can bring. It all boils down to the fact that people change when they have a chance to chill. Simply going for a walk or a hike reminds us that we need to be in rhythm with everything around us.”
The Power for Change Doesn’t Require Much Effort
While impacting the environment may sound like a daunting task, the reality is far different.
“Often, many people do not realize how little things can make a huge impact. For example, our agriculture plays a pivotal role in the health of the environment, and making a commitment to not eat meat for just one day can make a huge difference,” Libby said.
The bottom line, says Libby, is that if we collectively do not take action, we’ll all feel the impact. “If you’re a hunter, you’ll eventually lose the ground on which you hunt. If you’re a hiker, you’ll eventually lose the ground on which you hike. It’s that simple.”