He Wants to Change the World

Anthony Sorgi, a senior in the Dorman Honors College, founded the New Earth Archive, a website and resource that connects college students who want social change.

Anthony Sorgi wants to save the world – or at least improve it. And he thinks other college students want to do the same.

He’s not naïve, or overtly idealistic. He just refuses to sit idly by, he says, as the world deteriorates, both environmentally and socially. 

“I know our society faces great obstacles; maybe some of the greatest that we, as a species, have ever faced,” says Sorgi, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering. “But I’d be failing myself if I didn’t try to make a difference.”

Sorgi, a student in the Albert Dorman Honors College, the main supporter and funder of his efforts, has already begun making that difference. He’s developed the New Earth Archive (NEA), a web-based resource for college students that identifies the most “powerful and influential books written about climate change, sociology, ecology, economics, technology, philosophy, and other topics that inspires college readers to change the world.”  The website also contains print, audiovisual, and online resources about environmental and socio-political issues.  Future developments for the site will also include films and documentaries, TED talks, and multi-media news – all of which is geared toward educating college students and encouraging them to think deeply about pressing social problems.

Sorgi first discussed his idea for the archive with NJIT professors, who put him in touch with prominent environmentalists, authors and scientists. Sorgi asked them to give their suggestions for the top books on the above subjects.  He soon found himself with a list of over 400 titles. He asked them to vote on their favorites, narrowing the list to 70 books. With their continued help, and the additional aid of green-thinking organizations and mailing lists, he is now narrowing the list down to 25.  He’ll have the final list in another week, says Sorgi.

“We hope that this great archive initiated by Sorgi serves as a role model for honors students and will encourage them to assume leadership roles in society,” says Atam Dhawan, Interim Dean for the Dorman Honors College.  

Once he has the list, he’ll buy the books and display them on shelves around the NJIT campus. Students will be encouraged to check the books out and read them, adding their comments, insights, and reviews about them on the NEA website. Sorgi hopes to buy four sets of the 25 books, and display them on shelves in the Honors College Lounge, NJIT’s Van Houten Library, the residence halls and the Fleisher Athletic Center.

Sorgi also formed a new NJIT student group -- the NJIT chapter of the New Earth Archive -- with the hope that other colleges will also form chapters.  So far the new NJIT group has 18 members, all of whom are committed to using the NEA website and social networks to share thoughts with other college students about how to improve American culture. 

And the group is already having success spreading the world.  Recently, a Syracuse University blog included a reference to Sorgi and the New Earth Archive.

He’s received great support and votes for his project through the Brown Green Schools list serve, a sustainability-oriented network. And The WiserEarth blog also wrote about Sorgi to help increase votes for the booklist.

Sorgi hopes the booklist will soon be included in various aspects of NJIT’s curriculum, as well as in the Honors College, and he is discussing that option with NJIT staff. His group also plans to host a film series at NJIT, one that will feature socially conscious documentaries. The group will also sponsor webinars, seminars and lectures at NJIT, connecting students with prominent thinkers.

In developing the booklist archive, Sorgi got to meet some of those prominent thinkers.  He formed a subcommittee of influential thinkers to help select the 70 books.  Some of the subcommittee members include Paul Hawken, a leading environmentalist, entrepreneur and journalist; Andrew Revkin, a senior fellow at the Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Science and DOTEarth blogger for The New York Times; and several NJIT’s own professors, including David Rothenberg, a musician, author, and naturalist; Maurie Cohen, associate professor and director of NJIT’s Graduate Program in Environmental Policy Studies; and Jon Curley, a poet, critic and professor in the Humanities Department.

Sorgi also recently spent three days at the Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium, where he met with leading intellectuals who helped him frame his thoughts and help him connect with other college students.  

He will also be a featured speaker during the upcoming TEDx NJIT Talk, a student organized conference whose theme is environmental sustainability.  The talk, set for March 23, 5 p.m. in the Jim Wise Theater, will have a live simulcast broadcast.  During his talk, Sorgi will discuss the New Earth Archive, and the group is so passionate about connecting with other college students to foster positive social change.

 “As college students building this archive,” says Sorgi, “we admit that we don’t know enough about the problems our society faces–or how to deal with them. Throughout this networking process, one point that was continuously emphasized: knowledge without purpose, without community, is almost useless, and because of that we’ve shaped our goals to create a community of resources for college students.”

By Robert Florida