The Institut Européen d’Écologie Turns 50!

It was a very exciting week for the SLS program! One of our partners, the Institut Européen d’Écologie, celebrated its 50th anniversary on Tuesday (09/21), and we had the honor of joining them in the festivities! For their main anniversary event, they started the evening by introducing and unveiling the Aquablier, a water hourglass statue that represents the urgent need to contain global warming. The statue also had a screen that rotated through names of people/groups, and we were able to get the program name displayed (see figure 1)! The second part of the event was a conference during which we got to hear from about 12 up-and-coming voices for ecology on what they are doing to help save our planet and build a brighter future. Once everyone had spoken, they concluded the conference by showing a trailer for the movie “The Great Green Wall,” whose premiere the Metz Ciné Klub was hosting on Friday. The event ended with a party where we had the opportunity to converse with Merveille and Errol, two of the speakers. They are both brilliant students at prestigious schools in Metz and it was so entertaining to get to speak to them. It was a lovely evening, and we were all overjoyed to be a part of such a significant milestone.

Figure 1: SLS Program name being displayed on the Aquablier
Figure 2: SLS students in front of the Aquablier
Figure 3: SLS students with Merveille and Errol

Later in the week, we had an excellent zero-waste workshop with Dr. Jean-Jacques and Dr. Boulard. For our first DIY activity, they taught us how to make laundry detergent! It was so easy and only five ingredients: Marseille soap, hot water, baking soda, vinegar, and a little bit of lavender oil for scent. We each filled up a reusable glass bottle with our detergent, and it was as easy as pie! The next thing we made was toothpaste, it was also straightforward (and easy to use as you can see in figure 4) and only required four ingredients to make! Lastly, we got to try some of Dr. Jean-Jacques’ homemade kefir. His kefir was not like the milk types I have tried in the past but instead was a citrusy fizzy fermented drink made with a water base and kefir seeds. My classmates and I were slightly skeptical about the drink based on its smell at first but were pleasantly surprised at how refreshing it was after trying it! On top of its yummy taste, kefir is filled with probiotics and is excellent for maintaining a healthy intestinal microbiota. I definitely want to try to make some kefir at home soon! Making these everyday items was a fun activity that I could easily incorporate into my routine to decrease my waste output. I had never really thought about how much waste is produced just from laundry and toothpaste products alone. It put into perspective how easy it is to contribute to the plastic problem without even realizing it.

Figure 4: me testing out our homemade toothpaste
Figure 5: John, Lauren, and Olivia making laundry detergent
Figure 6: Jean-Jacques preparing the ingredients for the laundry detergent
Figure 7: Laynie, Ida, and Laura making their toothpaste with the help of Dr. Boulard and Dr. Jean-Jacques
Figure 8: Dr. Boulard and Dr. Jean-Jacques explaining the ingredients

We ended our week by attending the premiere of the film “The Great Green Wall” hosted by the Institut Européen d’Écologie. The film was all about bringing awareness to the Great Green Wall initiative in the Sahel region. This project attempts to combat the desertification of the area by planting a wall of trees that stretches across the entire Sahel: 8,000 kilometers (4970 miles) of trees planted across 11 countries! The film followed Malian singer Inna Modja as she journeyed from one end of the Sahel to the other, learning all about how climate change and desertification have ravaged many individuals’ lives across the region. Her goal was to make a song for each place she visited that represented the stories of the people while repainting their image today and for the future with a light of hope. The film was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It is devastating to see how so many people’s livelihoods have become so fragile because of the climate crisis, but to see someone like Inna (and many others in the film) have a dream for a future where this region can live in peace and without fear was a beautiful thing. The emphasis on working together to overcome something that many believe is bigger than us was inspiring. Often, I get overwhelmed with the destruction of the world that we are constantly discussing in class and feel like there is no way to make a difference truly, but this movie reminded me otherwise. The Sahel needs help and has a very long way to go before the land and people can begin healing. However, the last stop Inna went in the movie was Ethiopia, and the film showed how a country once devastated by famine is one of the greenest, most peaceful parts of the region today! If that doesn’t put a fire in your belly to do all that you can in your lifetime to fight this ecological crisis, I don’t know what will! People being resilient and fighting for change together is the answer, and Inna and this film did a fantastic job portraying this message.

Figure 9: Poster for the film
Figure 12: SLS students with the Chadian and Mauritanian delegations, Great Green Wall respresentatives, mesdames Fatimetou Abdel Malick and Sarah Toumi and the IEE president: Marie Anne Isler Béguin

Check out this link to see the Institut Européen d’Écologie’s tweet about the premiere and some more photos of us!