Liam Murphy’s environmental activism

Molly Wagschal, Staff Writer

South senior Liam Murphy is certainly passionate about the environment, particularly the preservation of forests. He regularly works alongside the Indiana Forest Alliance, or IFA, and one could say he has had success: Murphy recently created a video that led to the halting of the construction site that would have destroyed 15 acres of historic forest land.

The  Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) owns the Crown Hill woods, which is situated north of Indianapolis. It decided to build a columbarium—a building to hold veterans’ urns—on that land; however, the construction of this monument would mean cutting down the historic trees in the forest. Murphy indicated that the trees in Crown Hill woods are more than 300 years old.

“This would eradicate the only old growth ecosystem in Indianapolis,” Murphy said, adding that “its value is infinite.”

Murphy was determined to see the project in person, so he and two friends left school on the first day of the construction to go to Indianapolis, borrowing a camera from Dan Kennedy, the mass media teacher at South. Murphy said they were “the first people to see construction begin.”

When they arrived at the site, Murphy started filming and spoke with a construction worker. He then traveled to interview an 88 year old veteran in Indianapolis who was opposed to the construction. Murphy uploaded the video the next morning to YouTube, and it got more than 600 views.

A protest quickly assembled—not organized by Murphy—at the construction site, with the aim of stopping the destruction of the forest. Protesters objected to the limited warning the VA had given them; it had posted advertisements in an Indianapolis newspaper, which the protesters didn’t consider enough of a community discussion. Senator Joe Donnelly released a statement in opposition of the construction which Murphy found “disappointing” because he felt it was not strongly worded enough.

Soon the VA had halted construction on the columbarium indefinitely, a primary victory for the Murphy and the IFA. This does not mean that the forest is not at risk, but it does mean that it is not an immediate crisis for environmental conservationists.

“This event showed that even in an extremely oppressive state like Indiana, there is hope,” Murphy said. He encourages anyone interested in the cause to contact him. To see the video, click here.