For over a decade, Students Promoting Environmental Action in Knoxville has been fighting to change negative environmental perceptions, and in the process, regain a relationship with nature that locals can be proud of. Promoting a just, beautiful and healthy community since 1992, S.P.E.A.K. is looking to kick-start new campaigns this semester and continue a few old ones.
With a hands-on approach to environmental advocacy, S.P.E.A.K. takes great pride in their membership and achievements. This year, the organization plans to continue its Adopt-A-Stream project, conduct a litter clean-up event, host a climate vigil with the campus ministry organizations and show students ways to live more sustainable lives.
Co-president Eric McAnly said the organization will also be making homemade veggie burgers to hand out on campus.
Beyond the intention to educate students about environmental issues, S.P.E.A.K.'s long-term goals include teaching sustainable lifestyle practices and raising awareness of humanity's impact on the local and global environment.
This year, S.P.E.A.K. will be attending two national conferences, including the Power Shift conference in Philadelphia for the second time. Concerned with combating fracking, exploring fossil fuels, building a clean energy future and stopping the climate crisis, the conference gathers like-minded youth from every part of the country.
Kristin Irwin, member and sophomore in geology and environmental studies, said she cherishes the shared values at conferences.
"I got involved in order to meet other people on campus interested in sustainability," Irwin said. "And to start getting involved with sustainability in the Knoxville area."
S.P.E.A.K. also has a diverse group of members and their realms of study, attracting students from various colleges within the university.
"To be involved in S.P.E.A.K., a student doesn't have to be an environmental studies or sustainability major," McAnly said. "You only need a passion to make a difference in your community."
For those looking to join the organization, S.P.E.A.K. meets every Monday at 8 p.m. in the UC room 225 to discuss future projects, listen to guest speakers and plan events. They are accepting new members and can be contacted on Twitter at www.twitter.com/speakutk.