52%: a Bazaar Opportunity

shoot3“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”   -Genesis 1:28

Do you know what the most dangerous animal on the planet is? You. Yes you! Congratulations. We’re there! We did it! With the World Wildlife Foundation reporting that since 1970 humans have wiped out 52% of all wildlife on planet earth we can successfully say it has been subdued. As a recent article from The Telegraph describes, “Almost the entire decline is down to human activity, through habitat loss, deforestation, climate change, over-fishing and hunting.”

But of course the earth hasn’t been subdued. It has been inundated. It has been overwhelmed. And it is responding with unstable weather patterns and climate changes. This is climate chaos, and our dwindling biodiversity is leaving us at tremendous risk of a systems collapse. There is a reflexive nature to our actions in this world and the more we subjugate what’s wild around us the more precarious our own situation becomes.

You might think things are observably OK because you saw five or six squirrels on your way to your 1 o’clock class, but even those grey squirrels aren’t naturally occurring in this urban area and were put here by our ancestors to ease our spirits.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I can’t fall asleep, my mind preoccupied by the quandary of the human mission on earth. Certainly I am proud of my species – man which surpasses man – and of what we have accomplished. But I can’t help  interpreting these facts as a reflection of our skewed execution of the Genesis Model: rather than becoming stewards to creation we have become masters of disaster.

So I’ve hatched a plan, and I’m going to need your help. Over the next four days I will be collecting all of the clothes you no longer  want or need, and then on Saturday I’m going to sell them back to you. That’s right, this is the  Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar  and it’s an opportunity for our community to unite in an effort to challenge our own habits and protect the environment. At PC we spend quite a bit of money on new clothing and by shopping at corporate retailers which contributes to the destruction of the environment through industrial capitalism. This week I am asking you to donate your old clothes and shoes to me (but not coats – save those for a warm coat drive!) before Friday. Then, on Saturday, you are invited to come to the Bazaar at the Unity Center in Lower Slavin and shop through the clothing that our Friar Family has compiled. All proceeds will go to the World Wildlife Foundation. The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar takes what has historically been an American method of coping with crisis (consumerism) and inverts its negative impact (if only for a day). Why not donate directly to folks in need? Well, in a sense you will be. Everything is connected, and the folks who are typically marginalized for socio-economic reasons are also the folks who are disproportionately at risk of experiencing the perils of climate chaos. Fight hunger, fight war, fight the (literally) rising tide. Go shopping on Saturday.

Oh, and you’ll have one more opportunity, and this is perhaps the most important part of all.

On Saturday, at the Bazaar, we’ll be kicking off a campaign to petition for the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness at Providence College. As you know PC is doing wonderful things and we provide an invaluable service to the City of Providence and its residents. Every year we graduate brilliant young people who go out into the world to seek justice and good living. To achieve all of this we have had to increase our capacity through the development of the Ruane Center, the Smith Center, the Slavin Center, the Schneider Arena, the Ray Treacy Track. Indeed, these developments have allowed us to draw tomorrow’s leaders, writers and teachers through our doors, but building has a cost beyond the dollar amount: the carbon cost. While have some impressive bioswales for processing the storm-water from our parking lots, a solar panel on Slavin that powers some of its lights and a plethora of Hydration Stations around campus thanks to the efforts of Think Outside the Bottle and Student Congress, we don’t seem to have a comprehensive strategy for dealing with climate change. But our competition does: Holy Cross plans to be carbon neutral by 2040. 

If you were to do a web search for “Providence College and Sustainability” you get a link to a three paragraph page that talks about how we recycle on campus. Recycling is last in the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra because it is a least effective last resort option that comes with its own carbon cost. And while we will probably start composting next year this will only be in compliance with Rhode Island State Law. The Sustainable Endowments Institutes gathers information from academic institutions and compiles it into Green Report Cards. Providence college submitted our information to them in 2010 and the grade we received was a C- (Boston College and Holy Cross both boast B’s).

We need the creation of a Council for Climate Change Preparedness to advise our Board of Trustees in the making of every development decision and the creation of every strategic plan. It all goes back to that first responsibility God ever gave us in the book of Genesis, and who would we be as a Catholic institution if we didn’t give this reality some very specific attention? The folks at the top may not pay attention to this unless they believe it’s marketable, and they won’t believe it’s marketable unless the student body demonstrates interest. If you believe the Providence College should be a leader in Christian environmentalism come out on Saturday and show your interest by signing the petition. Join your friends at the Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar, where we’ll exchange threads, empower consumers and (maybe) save the planet.  It starts with 52% and a C-, and I think that’s a Bazaar opportunity.

The Providence Exchange Vintage Bazaar will take place on Saturday, November 22nd from 12-5pm in the Balfour Unity Center of Lower Slavin. Please feel free to visit our website and follow us on twitter. If you would like to donate clothing contact the Organizer: msmith44@friars.providence.edu. 


Sarah Knapton – The Telegraph 

Jason Bittle – Slate

The United Nations News Center

The College Sustainability Report Card


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