Ben Sollee is a cellist known for his politically-minded lyrics. As headliner of the Galesburg Earth Day Festival on Saturday, Sollee will give a concert and hold a question and answer forum for attendees.
Knox Advocates for Recycling and Environmental Support co-president and junior Dani Hill was the driving force that brought Sollee to campus.
“I’ve listened to his music, and I knew that he was also a social activist,” Hill said. “So I emailed [Sollee’s team] … and they responded, which was amazing.”
She feels that Sollee’s devotion to environmental issues, particularly mountaintop removal in his native Kentucky, is right in line with the values of Knox students.
According to Hill, about 50 percent of the energy used in Illinois comes from coal, which is often obtained through mountaintop removal in that region.
“It also pollutes the waters of different towns that live on the mountains … and it’s destroying the wildlife,” Hill said. “We contribute to it.”
Because of this, it is possible that Sollee and Knox share some similar interests. Hill hopes that Sollee will be able to stay on campus and talk with festival attendees following his set.
Sustainability Coordinator Shawn Tubb was largely responsible for seeking funds for the festival. KARES partnered with several other organizations to sponsor Sollee’s performance, but funds from the Cultural Events Committee allowed Sollee to qualify as an EquiKnox lecturer — one who gives an environmental presentation to campus coinciding with the spring or fall equinox.
Tubb anticipates that Sollee will be able to draw in both environmental studies students and those outside of the field.
“The point [of an EquiKnox lecturer] is to have … somebody who has broad appeal who will educate people on issues without just preaching to the choir,” Tubb said. “We’re hoping that it’ll create a lot of … interesting dialogue.”
Hill said that it is in Sollee’s nature to have conversations with his audience while he is onstage.
“He incorporates a lot of speaking,” Hill said. “It’s gonna be outside, so it should be a really relaxing atmosphere.”
If Sollee’s performance goes well, future plans for EquiKnox speakers may include writers and visual artists as a means of drawing in a wider crowd than those that have come to hear from scientists or businesspeople in past years.
“I think it’s important, especially at a liberal arts college, to look at sustainability holistically,” Tubb said.
Tubb noted that this year marks the premiere of the Earth Day Festival being open to all of Galesburg. One of the goals of having a wider target audience is to foster stronger connections between Knox and the surrounding area.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, is just bring the whole community together and get people excited about the earth,” Tubb said.