Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Mission Green plants a tree for the Dalai Lama


Expressions of Peace Week didn’t end with the Dalai Lama, but with Mission Green Student Association. The conclusion of the week was also the beginning of a new project for Mission Green’s founder and president, Alex Van Mecl.

The closing event was simple — according to Van Mecl, participants were essentially “picking up dirt and planting a tree.” However, he hopes this will be just the first of many trees planted as part of a campaign to create more green spaces on campus.

The tone of the event was intimate and lighthearted, and everyone seemed relieved to have made it through the week. Participants didn’t actually have to break ground, as the planting had mostly been completed already.

“We don’t do physical work at Mission Green,” joked Van Mecl, inviting everyone present to help finish shoveling the dirt.

At the ceremony on Feb. 25, participants from the Mission Green and Peace Studies student associations placed a memorial plaque under the tree commemorating the visit of such a prominent figure to FAU. But Van Mecl said it was his intention from the beginning for the project to be more than just one event. It has everything to do with the Dalai Lama, he said.

“He has a platform, just like any other politician. … He’s very consistent with his beliefs.”

Evan K., a spectator at the event, noted the relevance of the Dalai Lama’s emphasis on showing compassion toward nature, especially since trees can’t defend themselves. “[It’s about] treating our environment with respect [by protecting it],” he said.

The planting event was intended to be carried out at the end of a Peace Walk from the Dalai Lama’s speech to the planting site, but was postponed until the next day because of rough weather. Just before replacing the dirt around the tree, participants issued short speeches to an audience of about 25, mostly to offer rounds of thanks, followed by a miniature Peace Walk from the Free Speech Lawn to the Nursing Building.

“I’m sure there was suffering,” Van Mecl commented, referring to the time everyone put into producing Expressions of Peace Week.

He intends to use the Dalai Lama’s visit as a platform to initiate a series of rehabilitation projects across campus by tying them into the Tibetan leader’s ideals. So far, he said, his ideas have been well-received, but turning them into reality beyond Expressions of Peace Week is now a matter of funding. Until that happens, Mission Green can’t start working with a landscape architect, which means they don’t yet have a rendering of what the outcome of the project will look like.

Mission Green’s ambitions are still in the idea phase, and many of the details involved in achieving these goals have yet to be worked out. According to Van Mecl, they want to turn underused areas into “habitats […] for studying, meditation, relaxation, or just enjoyment of the outdoors.” They plan to substantiate their ideas in three phases; the Expressions of Peace Week ceremony marks the commencement of the first phase of the project. They don’t know how long the entire project will take to be completed, but Van Mecl said it’s possible that they will be able to finish by the fall or next spring.

Van Mecl’s ultimate vision for FAU includes a mixed-use meditation and study area surrounding the newly planted live oak tree. He hopes the project will not only affect other projects on campus, but that it will have an effect on students’ perception of their environment, influencing them as they go out into the world beyond FAU. “Planting a tree is one of the best things any one person can do — and that in itself is a peaceful concept.”

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