No Carbon Neutrality Conversation Without Adequate Student Representation

Photo: UC Davis

By. S. Drew Story

Since its formation in 2014, the University of California’s Global Climate Leadership Council (UC GCLC) has existed to advise the system and President Janet Napolitano on meeting the carbon neutrality goal set the year prior. Since carbon neutrality is larger than operational changes (more efficient lighting) and requires decisions that aren’t black and white (which types of off-site carbon offset programs to employ), such an ambitious goal understandably requires a variety of perspectives and the inclusion of a diverse group of stakeholders at the table.

Ranging from student representatives to campus chancellors and senior administrators at the UC Office of the President (UCOP), the GCLC spans the spectrum of perceived authority and power within the UC system, but is ultimately quite top-heavy in its representation. This realization was not all that alarming upon first recognition; these high-ranking individuals have the final say in many campus level decisions. But after attending multiple GCLC meetings as a student member of the audience, it has become apparent that the underwhelming diversity of positionality from across the UC is manifesting as a limitation to its effectiveness.

Currently, the UC system is comprised of about 210K undergraduate students, 144K staff members, 54K graduate students, and 21K faculty across the ten campuses. Normalized, that’s about 50% undergraduates, 33% staff, 13% graduate students, and 5% faculty. But below is a breakdown of the current GCLC membership, comprised of about 35 members:

8 Chancellors or Vice Chancellors
7 UCOP Administrators
6 Professors
4 External Advisors
3 Sustainability Staff/Directors
3 Center/Institute Directors
1 Graduate Student
1 Undergraduate Student

It doesn’t take a mathematician to identify that the GCLC does not accurately represent the totality of those who make up the UC. The faculty represent about 17% of the committee, but even this over-representation is not that egregious, comparatively. The senior administrators and staff make up 60% of the committee, while the single undergraduate and graduate students each account for less than 3% of the committee while making up 62% of the UC system as a whole.

Think about that for a second…

Pallavi Sherikar, the lone undergraduate student representative on the GCLC, is responsible for communicating to the committee the needs and desires of 210 thousand students from all across California. For perspective, members of the US House of Representatives each represent about 700K residents, and do so as their full time responsibility (also getting paid a cool $174K/year, while GCLC members volunteer their time). Benjamin Sommerkorn, the lone graduate student on the GCLC represents 54K students, the second largest responsibility only after Pallavi.

For some additional context, the GCLC meetings are fast-paced, high-level conversations about the recent accomplishments of the various working groups, progress of incremental sustainability goals, or updates from external partners. The group only meets 3 times each year, cycling among the campuses, and the 35 member committee with 15-30 additional audience members require a large room that does not lend itself to serious deliberation. Rather, one-way communication with a short Q&A is the norm for the ~6-hour meeting.

Would adding students, both graduate and undergraduate, to balance the representation result in more effective GCLC meetings? It would result in over 100 people trying to have a single discussion about carbon neutrality, but it would probably not accomplish much.

Would restructuring the GCLC membership to keep it at 35 members, but 17 of them being undergraduates, 11 staff, 4 graduate students, and 2 faculty result in the decisions that account for the capacity and reality of actions that can be taken at the campus level? Again, probably not. There does need to be a critical mass of high-level decision makers present if substantial movement on the GCLC recommendations are going to have any chance of being adopted at the campuses.

So then how can the student voice be more appropriately represented in the GCLC?

I suggest two things be considered:

  • Increase the amount of student representatives from 1 to 3. Ensure a diversity of student disciplines and campuses is represented. This would still leave the GCLC smaller than 40 members, but allow for a spectrum of student perspectives, and hopefully lend to the preservation of institutional knowledge as student members cycle through.
  • Actively recruit additional students to serve on the various working groups under the GCLC’s purview. The working groups include the Technical Offsets group, the Applied Research group, and the Student Engagement group, to name a few. It is these working groups that conduct the analyses and develop the reports that are presented and discussed at the GCLC meetings, and student participation at this point in the process can potentially have a greater impact on the direction and flavor of the GCLC recommendations. But a simple newsletter ad or system-wide email soliciting student involvement won’t cut it. (We get enough generic emails as it is.) Each campus should deliberately and sincerely seek out student sustainability leaders and request their engagement with the GCLC working groups. Student sustainability groups already exist on most if not all of the campuses. Reach out to the leaders of these groups. Classes are taught on the intersectionality of engineering and environmental justice. Consult with the faculty teaching these courses to identify potential student contributors. A genuine effort towards engaging students in this manner would go a long way towards increasing student buy-in and engagement with the GCLC and carbon neutrality.

The GCLC has made some positive contributions in advancing the UC towards our carbon neutrality goal, and I believe many of its members do value students and their perspectives regarding how we continue in this effort. But there is also room for significant improvement towards magnifying the student voice in the UC efforts towards holistic sustainability.

Piloting A Sustainability Initiative: Zero Waste At UC Davis’ Resident Halls

UC Davis’ Malcom Hall is piloting a waste reduction program to remove paper from its restrooms by encouraging residents to use their own cloth towel.

By. Daniel Adel

At CSSC, we are dedicated to advancing sustainability at our community and educational institutions. But how does our mission manifest itself in practice, and, at a level tangible to students? What factors make for a successful sustainability campaign or initiative?  These are recurring questions for many of us.

Currently, California colleges and universities are racing to become zero waste institutions. As I reported on last June, the UC adopted a zero waste resolution in 2008 with their complete diversion goal aimed for 2020. The system is already diverting 69% of its solid waste from landfills. Pilot zero waste programs now exist on most UC campuses, and some zero waste initiatives have become standard practice. Initial efforts have targeted the largest sources of waste, such as major events and building construction and demolition.

Hand towel holder at a Malcolm Hall restroom.

One of those pilot zero waste programs was funded by CSSC. Several years ago, we awarded a zero grant mini grant to UC Davis Student Housing and Dining Services for the purpose of piloting an initiative called Project Hand Towels. Originally running from 2014-15, Project Hand Towels was spearheaded by students and Student Housing staff to reduce the environmental impact of paper towel waste in the restrooms of UC Davis’ Malcom Hall. The project advocated personal change by encouraging residents to switch from using disposable paper towels to using hand towels provided to them while also being driven by the UC wide goal of going zero waste.

To check up on Project Hand Towel’s progress, I connected with Jenni Porter, who has been deeply involved with the project as the Student Housing’s Sustainability Coordinator.

“Since the completion of the original initiative in spring 2015, a program has been piloted in Malcolm Hall in which paper towels have been removed from the dispensers in the restrooms,” she said. This project picked up where the original left off, spanning the 2015-16 period. Porter clarified that the dispensers themselves were not removed, just the paper towels, in case needed for illness outbreaks. “We temporarily put papers towels back in the restrooms when there was a norovirus outbreak,” she mentioned. “Paper towels were left in the kitchenettes so residents would have access to them for guests or spills.”

To further motivate residents to make this switch during that period, Student Housing held a competition between Malcolm Hall’s four residential floors and provided a prize to the floor who had the largest paper towel reduction. The amount of paper towel rolls that were replaced in each bathroom were recorded each week and tallied per floor. The amount that a floor went through in a week was then compared to their baseline amount. This baseline was acquired by tallying the amount of paper towels a floor used on average per week during the four weeks prior to the competition. The competition winner was determined by which floor had the greatest cumulative decrease in paper towel usage over the four weeks in comparison to their projected baseline usage. The winner of the competition was floor 2, with a 16.7% reduction in paper towel usage.

Lockers at a Malcolm Hall restroom. Each resident has a place to store their towel.

Based on results and resident feedback, Student Housing will be running a another pilot project in Malcolm Hall, but taking a slightly different approach. Because many students chose to use their own hand towels over the free hand towels, they have encouraged the students moving into Malcolm Hall this fall to bring their own towel to use. Towel hooks and push in towel holders are currently being installed in the sinks for residents to hang their hand towel while washing their hands, brushing teeth, etc. The residents now have a place to store their towel in the restroom as each have access to a locker. Student Housing will be holding resident education programs to make the habit of using hand towels more ingrained.

According to Porter, the next step is to meet with leadership to see if Malcolm Hall can continue not providing paper towels in the restrooms and to see if the program can be expanded across campus. “Myself and my supervisor, with support from custodial, have proposed to leadership to remove paper towels from all, or at least one, of our three residential areas so that can run the pilot on a larger scale.”

2020 is now less than three years away. While it is too early to call the “race,” the efforts at UC Davis are commendable and worth exploring at other institutions.

Ecofeminism on the Modern Campus

By. Sara Eddy

Ecofeminism is a feminist theory that intertwines female symbols, concepts and linguistics to those of the environmental movement. However, there is no concrete definition of ecofeminism and it is open to interpretation.  Do theories like these still lead to progress in our society, or are they better left in textbooks?

Socially aware college students on the Cal Poly campus are now beginning to think that these theories may be antiquated.

For centuries women have not been given equal educational, economic or societal opportunities. And for more than centuries, the environment has withstood the brash development of the human race. Man has historically viewed women and our natural environment with a lack of esteem. Many feel that it is easier for women, rather than men, to associate with the degradation of the environment because they too know the prolonged struggle of oppression. Both paradigms press society to move away from the values of dualism and towards inclusivity. 

American society capitalizes on the following dichotomies: males versus females and humans versus the environment. We live in a system that castes men as the elite and the latter, women or the environment, as the subordinate.

Ecofeminism urges us to think systematically and in terms of the future. Similarly, women have historically been forced to think and act in the long term because of child-rearing expectations. Women do not have the same biological option as men; to simply reproduce and then walk away. Infants are voiceless and cannot defend themselves, so someone else, most likely their mothers, must stay by their side until they can care for themselves. By this logic, it is easy to see why women naturally gravitate towards environmental issues: our environment is also voiceless and cannot care for itself.

But anyone, not just a mother, can stand up for the environment.

With each generation becoming more open to fluid gender roles than the last, do we still need theories like ecofeminism? Charlotte Jackman, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, says, “Creating more social constructs will not lead us to desirable results. It never has. As far as environmental issues go, they obviously pertain to us all. We all cohabitate this Earth. Ecofeminism is great in that [it] empowers women, but I think it often deters men from participating, which is far from ideal. Personally, I feel the gender binary should not exist.”

No matter what your opinion may be, protecting our environment and gender equality will be most successful if the issues become androgynous. By limiting ourselves through the scope of our gender or politics, we are not only depriving ourselves of our full potential, but we are depriving society as a whole.

It is easy to connect feminism and environmentalism in theory, but real-world applications are more interesting. Students on the Cal Poly campus are far from passive when it comes to environmental matters. There are over 20 environmental related clubs on campus, all specializing in different realms. Despite their different areas of interest, the students from all clubs have banded together to decide that Earth Day alone will not suffice and an entire week is necessary to honor the Earth.

Students held sustainability related educational activities, clothing swaps and guest speaker events. Walking around the festivities and environmental club events, there was no significant difference in the number of males in attendance versus the number of females. Cal Poly as a whole has made it clear that they are striving for inclusivity.

But where does this leave ecofeminism?

Cal Poly’s 2017 Earth Week proved that students are ready to invoke change. With more than just environmentalists in action, student groups revolving around social justice issues also played key roles. Seeing students from diverse majors and backgrounds was part of what made this event such a success. The common goal of Earth Week was for everyone to raise awareness and take action.

Many students of the Millennial generation feel that a more humanistic approach is the right one. Erin O’Connell, a Cal Poly student, states, “I feel that feminists need to restructure their arguments to make them more applicable to other groups. Feminism benefits everyone, not just women. I feel the same way about the environmental issue. Our pollutants aren’t going away. Even if we don’t see them, someone else does. Environmentalism isn’t just for a certain type of person and we need to stop making it a political issue.”

People identify by many things, including gender, race or religion. These identifiers allow us to foster communities and build relationships with those who share similar physical attributes or ideals. The problem with this natural segregation is that people often put their group identities before larger, global issues at hand. Individuals must see past their identifiers to make lasting change when it comes to environmentalism and female rights. Many students on the Cal Poly campus embody this ideal and put it into practice during the Earth Week event.

Education for Sustainability Through the UC-CSU Knowledge Action Network

By: Shanti Belaustegui Pockell

On January 1st 2016, the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development officially came into action. The agenda set 17 particular Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build a more just and resilient future for the planet and those who inhabit it. Among 17 SDGs is Goal 4, which aims to, “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” More specifically,  SDG 4.7 seeks to:

“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”

With this in mind, how are California’s universities putting sustainable development at the center of their learning?

One budding initiative is the UC-CSU Knowledge Action Network (KAN) for Transformative Climate and Sustainability Education and Action. KAN emerged out of UC President Janet Napolitano’s goal for the University of California to reach carbon neutrality by 2025. Enacted by the Faculty Engagement and Education Working Group section for carbon neutrality, KAN is one aspect of the carbon neutrality initiative and aims to increase faculty engagement within the initiative.

Their purpose statement is: “The emerging UC-CSU Knowledge Action Network for Transformative Climate and Sustainability Education and Action is a collaborative effort of UC and CSU educators to scale out and intensify California students’ literacy in climate change, climate justice, carbon neutrality/greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and sustainability.” The KAN project seeks to merge pre-existing sustainability efforts made by UC and CSU schools as well as inspire new ones, “for the mutual advantage of California students.”

KAN brings together faculty from the UCs and CSUs who have shown a passion for climate change, sustainability, justice, and education to attend workshops and collaborate on creating resources to progress and better education. I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Sarah Jaquette Ray, the leader of the Environmental Studies program at Humboldt State University (HSU) and the CSU program faculty leader for KAN. She said, “We are now just seeing what all the different campuses are doing in different ways, and there is a real sense that possibilities are limitless.”

Dr. Ray also clarified that the endgame of what KAN is doing is not fully solidified yet; rather goals will emerge organically from four workshops across the state that recently finished. She explained that, while there is no system wide plan of action, there will be an outgrowth of resources and energy around the network as a result of the workshops. Dr. Ray expressed that at the very minimum, those who have participated in KAN intend to generate an online open-access resource that will provide access to assets such as curriculum development, best practices for education for sustainability, and links to resources for funding. In June, KAN will create an online and publicly available virtual conference where everyone who has participated in the workshops will present what they intend to implement on their own campuses and beyond. Dr. Ray noted that, “People are learning and getting ideas from one another, but every campus is different so [outcomes] will be very case-by-case specific.” She stated, “Just by virtue of being involved in the network, I now have a huge list of best practices and ideas. Now it is up to me, to start to find ways to share this.”  

Through the KAN workshops, faculty have been able to identify what needs to be changed in the system to improve the ways in which UCs and CSUs tackle education for sustainability. Dr. Ray mentioned that he first call to action that emerged from the workshops was to increase interdisciplinary learning. When difficult questions arise in KAN such as: How can radical innovation around sustainability and climate change happen? Dr. Ray answers, “If you buy the argument, which I do, that the only way to address a wicked problem is by getting all the tools you possibly can together, and that siloing out is perpetuating the problem, then you need to create the infrastructural incentives to break down those boundaries between disciplines.” Interdisciplinary education would combine knowledge from various areas of expertise–notably the humanities, arts, and creative fields, not just policy or social science, with natural sciences– to create holistic and inclusive solutions.

However important interdisciplinary studies are in education for sustainability, bureaucratic barriers to interdisciplinary collaboration exist that make it tremendously difficult for educators to navigate. For instance, when trying to implement interdisciplinary studies, Dr. Ray noted that questions arise such as “How do you fund co-teaching?” or, “How do you get an interdisciplinary class in the books?” When solving these questions a lot of “bureaucratic bean counting stuff” arises that has to do with different disciplines belonging to different colleges within a larger university, which pose a real challenge to increasing interdisciplinary education.

Dr. Ray also brought up that “there is a real sense of proprietary ego attached to disciplinary pride, and not wanting to corrupt yourself by diluting your work by doing interdisciplinary work.” In the past, there have been tensions between cultural studies and the environmental sciences, for example, that revolve around differing views about objectivity, neutrality, and credibility, as well as  the racialized discriminatory past of the sciences. While these disciplines do have a lot of reasons to be disconnected, Dr. Ray did articulate that by having conversations about differing habits and ideologies within disciplines, she feels that tensions can be overcome, and important insights can emerge from various fields of studies working together. She said, “I don’t need to change a scientist’s mind, we just need to figure out how to work together.”

There is also a sense at KAN that in order to incorporate interdisciplinary education in the classroom you must reach students’ hearts and minds, which also means addressing the grief that accompanies students’ awakening to the extent of the planet’s problems. Education for sustainability may simply not be a priority to students if what they are learning does not seem relevant to them, or that their emotional response to the material is secondary to the content. Dr. Ray said that, “The education process of articulating the interconnections of things is going to create better institutions that do interdisciplinary work. Not a lot of classes are doing that.”

Dr. Ray has already been successful in implementing an interdisciplinary and co-taught course at Humboldt State University. This year, she co-taught a new Environmental Studies/Geography course with physical geography professor Dr. Rosemary Sheriff. The class, “Climate Change: Interdisciplinary Perspectives,” (ENST 480 / GEOG 473) exposed students to interdisciplinary perspectives of climate change as both an environmental and social problem. The class was taught using approaches from the natural sciences as well as the arts and humanities, and was extremely successful. Dr. Ray concludes that although pushing back disciplinary and bureaucratic issues is a challenge, it just takes motivation from administration and teachers from other disciplines to achieve, and is worth the effort.

Dr. Ray mentioned many UC and CSU schools are facing a challenge implementing more effective sustainable education because of integration between sustainability and academia, particularly with regards to infrastructure. At HSU, infrastructure for sustainability education is prominent. With student-run programs such as the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT) and the Waste Reduction and Resource Awareness Program (WRRAP), finding ways to actively engage in sustainable buildings and institutional practices is easy and accessible to students. However, Dr. Ray notes that this a huge challenge for other institutions. She said that, “In a fantasy world, the infrastructure would be intertwined with academics in order to increase student engagement around sustainability issues.”

Another change the UCs and CSUs are aspiring to make is increasing efficacy among students through community based learning. Dr. Ray expressed that, “You can bring a lot of students in that want to save the world, and have a lot of great notions around these things, but when they learn about the scale of the problem it becomes very daunting and depressing.

So, the question becomes, ‘how can we build the emotional resilience to deal with these things?’ As Dr. Ray pointed out, community based learning is a solution. She said, “You simply have to get kids in the community so they can feel the efficacy and scale out social change. You are not going to get anywhere if people walk into your class and see it will be depressing and say, ‘see you later,’ or it’s all theory and no action.” Through the renewed energy created by KAN, UC and CSU faculty are committed to developing more community based learning programs to increase getting students out into the community, and the community on the campus.

This notion of a need for increased efficacy within sustainability education does not just come from faculty. Environmental Studies student and Humboldt State University Sustainability Champion of 2017 Madi Whaley spoke at the HSU KAN workshop in April about what she feels needs to be further implemented in university education for sustainability.

Whaley stated, “I have realized recently that I don’t think I have the understanding that I think I need of where I can be most effective.” She said, “The Environmental Studies program has done a good job with intersectionality- addressing multifaceted forms of oppression- and has done a good job in identifying intersectional issues and deconstructing issues, but I think that something that I need, and a lot of other students need, is more constructive solutions and strategy built into the curriculum.”

Whaley noted that some of these constructive solutions might include looking at case studies of intersectional solutions, or intersectional strategies and concrete avenues for change that could inspire hope in students. Whaley mentioned, “I have a number of professors who talk about climate change and all of the terrible ecological degradation that is happening, and they say, ‘it is your job to fix it.’ So yeah, we are the generation that needs to fix and address these problems, but when we are not given a platform to do that as we are learning about these problems it is really disempowering, and makes me worry that in the future we won’t be able to work on those constructive solutions or rise to the occasion. So, for the future of addressing climate change, I think we need to start now to empower each other in the classroom and empower each other to change.”

As students, it is of utmost importance to realize our role in what KAN is developing. Dr. Ray stressed that although what KAN is trying to do is fix institutions,the network is mostly trying to implement changes that emerge directly from student feedback that teachers receive in and outside of the classroom setting. Every KAN participant was chosen because they prioritized student voices. Our voice matters, and we have to start reaching out to our faculty and telling them what we need. Below you can find a list of UC and CSU faculty who are part of the KAN. If there is anything you feel you need to better your education for sustainability, or if you simply want to find out more about KAN, you should reach out.

Gabriela Nunez – CSU Fullerton
Nicole Seymour – CSU Fullerton
Lily House Peters – CSU Long Beach
Lucy HG Solomon – CSU San Marcos
Kristina Shull – UC Irvine
Jessica Pratt – UC Irvine
Julie Ferguson – UC Irvine
Jade Sasser – UC Riverside
Stevie Ruiz – CSU Northridge
Rosa RiVera Furumoto – CSU Northridge
Amanda Baugh – CSU Northridge
Allison Mattheis – CSU Los Angeles
Valerie Wong – CSU Los Angeles
David Pellow – UC Santa Barbara
David Cleveland – UC Santa Barbara
Ken Hiltner – UC Santa Barbara
Daniel Fernandez – CSU Monterey Bay
Victoria Derr – CSU Monterey Bay
Corin Slown – CSU Monterey Bay
Ryan Alaniz – Cal Poly SLO
Eugene Cordero – San Jose State University
David Shaw – UC Santa Cruz
Summer Gray – UC Santa Cruz
Chelsea Arnold – UC Merced
Sarah Jaquette Ray – Humboldt State University
Phillip Klasky – San Francisco State University
Mark Stemon – CSU Chico
Enrique Salmon – CSU East Bay
Sahar Nouredini – CSU East Bay
George Roderick – UC Berkeley
Stephen Wheeler – UC Davis
Helene Margolis – UC Davis School of Medicine

From Then to Now: Traveling Through a Brief History of the California Student Sustainability Coalition with Julia Clark

By. Emily Ochoa

Julia Clark, CSSC’s newest board member.

Rooted in an environmentally-friendly family who opts for recycling and energy-efficient measures, it’s no surprise that Julia Clark has dedicated so many years to the California Student Sustainability Coalition. Beginning in 2011, Clark has contributed almost 6 years to the organization – with a two-year pause back in 2014 when she opted out of the CSSC temporarily due to responsibilities stemming from a sustainable living demonstration house at Humboldt State University called CCAT (Campus Center for Appropriate Technology). She admits that it was hard to leave the CSSC, even briefly, but has fully reinvested herself in the CSSC since returning. Now serving as a Board Member, Clark works tirelessly to better the program for its participants.

Glancing back, Clark notes the progress that she and her fellow colleagues have made in developing the CSSC since returning. She says that it has grown in a way, “I can’t explain.” “It’s much more successful, but it’s hard to define success.” For example, the program has become ‘more open’ about the personal life of collaborators and people can share their comments, concerns, and questions without fear of persecution or ridicule – there’s a more prevalent closeness among members that helps prevent conflict avoidance since her return. Clark says there has also been an increased “professional level of acceptance and openness” added to the group dynamic of CSSC.

At a CSSC Restructuring Retreat last year, Julia, among other facilitators, discussed the theory of personal change.

Prior to her leave CSSC was spread to thin and trying to do too much Clark said, whereas now CSSC programs are more focused on direct goals. According to Clark this transition involved recognizing that there are three main theories of change, and that an organization is most effective when it focuses on only one. The theories state that change comes from three places: personal change, developing alternative institutions, and correcting current dominant institutional systems.

Personal change is any change we make to our person or our habits. Personal change can come from switching plastic bags for reusable canvas totes, or taking shorter showers.  Alternative institutional change is creating an alternative system outside of the dominant institutions, such as capitalism.  An example of an alternative institution operating outside of a dominant institution like capitalism would be switching from a major bank like Chase to a credit union, which eliminates the bank’s practice of using consumer money for their own purposes which may not align with consumer values.  Dominant change is defined as a change in current world systems. Dominant institutional change can include lobbying for the restructuring of current policies, speaking to government officials about new government regulations, and collective action (such as protests).

Julia and other CSSC facilitators discuss the theory of alternative institutional change.

Making change in any form is difficult, but worth the effort – something that Clark and her board peers can attest to in their construction of the present day CSSC. For CSSC, the three theories of change is a system they are attempting to teach incoming members.

Dominant Institutional Change.

CSSC is as strong as ever, but there are still some nitty, gritty details that Clark and the rest of the Board Members have left to resolve, for now though “We’re working on restructuring,” she states.  Details such as what CSSC membership is, the structure of the internal staff, and what convergences will look like are at the top of Clark’s list for CSSC remodeling. Ideally, the CSSC will be completely, “Focused on creating change,” by working with eager students ready to, “make the world better,” concludes Clark.

From 2011 to 2017, CSSC has made grand steps into becoming a program that not only resolves issues of sustainability, but also internal fallacies. With board members like Julia Clark, who see beyond themselves and push forth new, innovative ideas, the CSSC has grown from a less personal, overly-broad program to a close-knit and effective program.  Its viable membership attests to its evolution, and while it’s future remains untold, the CSSC is aiding students in their ability to create grander waves of change for a better tomorrow.

The following video goes in depth into the three theories of change presented in this piece:

From Save the Polar Bears to Save the People: A Profile of Students and Environmental Justice

Artwork: Ricardo Levins Morales

By. Lillian Zhou

With growing salience of environmental justice issues in the advent of today’s global environmental problems, many young people are beginning to focus more on the greater social significance of sustainability and challenge wilderness-focused environmentalism to also address the human costs of systemic environmental inequality. “Mainstream” environmentalism has been increasingly inclusive and cognizant of equity and many youth today are finding their voices in these social dimensions of sustainability activism.

While mainstream environmentalism most often concerned with matters such as preservation of untouched wilderness and conservation of natural resources, environmental justice focuses on the ways that social, political, and economic power dynamics impose disproportionate environmental risks on certain groups. One of the most famous examples of this was first documented in a 1983 paper by sociologist Robert Bullard, who found that toxic waste processing facilities in Houston were disproportionately more likely to be located in predominantly African-American neighborhoods. An ever-growing body of studies show not only the reality of environmental discrimination and disenfranchisement, but also that prejudiced siting has been no accident.

Marjan Abubo, a student activist at the University of California, Los Angeles, believes that the tangible anthropogenic causes and consequences of climate change drive students to act. “Students care about the environment because it is nearly impossible to deny the impacts and toll that industries have on the surrounding nature … and at this point, it’s no longer a choice. We only have one Earth and we cannot survive if we do not take care of it,” he said.

As much as the sustainability movement is powered by a sense of urgency, youth participation in the movement is also sustained through an enduring conviction in the efficacy of activism. David Pellow, a professor at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) and Director of the Global Environmental Justice Project, described that “youth might be more optimistic” and more inclined to participate in environmental activism because sustainability problems are often framed in future terms: “Youth see we have an opportunity for change, for prevention now.”

From a political perspective however, it can be difficult to convert this optimism into legislation. Matto Mildenberger, a political science professor at UCSB, explains that the way policymaking is structured in the United States can make it “hard to have a voice”. According to Dr. Mildenberger, “Many politicians are less responsive to what young people believe [because] young people tend to be less consistent voters. The environmental movement has to mobilize, but when it does, it can be very effective. The political challenge is to create a collective sense of action.”

Because young people tend to be more socially progressive compared to older generations, youth activists can build momentum for the environmental justice movement by reaching out to peers who are already involved in other forms of social justice activism. More often than not, environmental equality advocates have suffered discrimination themselves and their personal experiences can be a strong impetus for action. “I think people care more about environmental justice issues because of the human aspect of it. What attracted me to environmental justice is that my community and I directly suffered from its impacts,” said Marjan. “It isn’t a choice for many environmental justice activists because if no one was fighting for our right to live, then many of us would be suffering much worse.”

The growing recognition that environmental problems are fundamentally entrenched in social problems is paramount; a justice-oriented environmentalism fosters sustainability solutions that are more holistic and contributes to coalitions between environmental activists and activists of other movements that might otherwise seem unrelated. People who might not see themselves as environmentalists in the traditional sense are now finding causes to participate in sustainability advocacy, because sustainability without cognizance of its social contexts cannot truly achieve justice.

“Moving forward, we as students and young adults need to realize that if we are going to be fighting to defend the environment, we also need to be fighting to defend the existence of black and brown lives, of queer and trans women, of our Muslim kin,” said Marjan. “We need to recognize that everything is connected and we cannot uplift the environment without also uplifting everyone who lives on it.”

Photo: Marjan Abubo

Collaboration between social movements is critical for the future of the sustainability movement, especially under the conservative administration of President Donald Trump. Although the President’s first 100 days in office have been temperamental and turbulent, the rhetoric and actions from the White House have consistently echoed sentiments from the ideological right on issues ranging from the environment to immigration to reproductive and LGBTQ equality.

It has met a powerful response. Dr. Mildenberger, who studies the origins of different environmental movements around the globe, explained, “The left right now is mobilizing a lot of people who haven’t seen themselves as political activists and creating people who see themselves as environmental activists.”

“People are connecting and focusing on more issues and connecting environmentalism with Islamophobia, discrimination,” affirmed Dr. Pellow. “Many youth are fired up because of the Trump challenge and the opportunities to respond to the challenge in ways that we might not have seen if Hillary Clinton was elected.” He explains that the social, economic, and political hierarchies that perpetuate inequality and environmental harm are nothing new, and the election of another Democratic President could facilitate complacency in long-standing oppressive regimes. According to Dr. Pellow, “Trump’s election has helped bring these views to light. It’s harder to fight a regime that operates underlying capitalism and state power … it’s not about Trump, it’s about being an explanation point for something that has always been true.”

Environmental justice activism is fundamentally tied to students’ access to education and the institutions that provide it. Even if politicians in the United States tend to be less responsive to young voices, the power that students hold is amplified in educational institutions and can be leveraged to enact change. Dr. Pellow said the education system is “critical, in any country. This is why fascist authoritarian regimes absolutely make it a point to attack intellectuals, students, universities and colleges. These have almost always been really important centers for social change. Schools are spaces in which people are raising critical problems.”

“Do not be afraid to agitate those in positions of power,” Marjan urged. “We need to take a firmer stand on the companies and corporations the UC system invests in and divest from unethical companies that perpetuate injustice.”

Students not only have vertical power to leverage important institution leaders, but also horizontal access to large numbers of peers who can help build momentum for social movements. “Every social movement scholar worth their salt will tell you that people tend to get involved in social change movements not just because a lightbulb went off in their head saying, ‘suddenly I care about X’. It’s largely because you have a friend, someone you care about telling you about these issues and providing a pathway to get involved,” said Dr. Pellow.

These pathways can be diverse and as simple as inviting a friend to a meeting or sharing details of an event on social media platforms. Websites like Facebook that offer easy-to-use digital infrastructure for event planning can significantly expand the audience that hears about a cause and a way to do something about it. According to a 2017 study conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, 87% of college students use Facebook and almost half use Twitter, with overall student use of social media platforms having increased since 2013. Additionally, social media usage is more common among young people in college than it is for youth who are not students.

Beyond organizational usefulness, the internet is also a stage for inspiration and solidarity between people who would otherwise not be able to reach one another. In Marjan’s words, “We must engage in conversations that bring critical awareness about the environment and how our generation has a role in preserving it.” Dr. Pellow suggested that perhaps the pathway to effective, sustainable change is to slow down: “In this era of superfast speed, there isn’t time for reflection … It’s important to listen to one another and listen to different perspectives of people in the world around you. By slowing down, paying attention, and asking, ‘How is the bank down the street connected to existing systems of oppression and domination? How does that connect to climate change and global systems like capitalism?’, we can connect ourselves to bigger causes by taking classes and getting together to talk about it. It takes effort and it takes time, but we can do it.”

Seeing Sustainability from the Outside: Josh Cozine’s Journey to Activism Through Journalism

By: Kristin Edwards

Josh Cozine, a Senior Journalist with the CSSC Writing Program, is transitioning to the program’s coordinator over the summer. He has taken the long way around to finding his place in the sustainability movement. His first ambition was teaching, followed by a period of studying history, before he decided to take a few years off from school. When he arrived at Butte College, a small community college in Oroville, CA, he knew he wanted to pursue a hard science and found himself studying Biology with an interest in Ecology. As Josh puts it, his involvement in the sustainability movement was a “natural step from studying Ecology.” I interviewed Josh recently about his experiences with CSSC and his perspective as a writer. He credits his interest in journalism to his teachers, who encouraged him to become a writer after being impressed with the essays he turned in. Josh suspects this may be due to his history background, with its emphasis on synthesizing facts into a coherent narrative through writing, which helped him stand out compared to his fellow science students. However, reading Josh’s work here at CSSC, it is clear he has a natural talent for the craft.

The CSSC Writing Program began in August of 2016 when Josh and two other journalists joined the program under the direction of Kristyn Payne. The program was created to act as an outlet for the student voice in the sustainability movement and as outreach for the many programs operated by CSSC. Josh has had the opportunity to cover both the conflict at Standing Rock and CSSC’s own fossil fuel divestment project and presents those complicated far-reaching issues in a way that is relevant to students. “I try to make sure [my writing] is going to be student-oriented and useful to them and something they’d want to read.” Josh’s work highlights the ways current students are standing up for the issues they care about while providing ways for others to help and get involved. This is especially important with struggles that take place at a national or larger scale, as students can easily feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of larger institutions.

It was his piece on fossil fuel divestment efforts at California schools that got Josh involved with his own local CSSC chapter at Butte. “My first assignment, everyone I talked to was excited and thanking me for reaching out to them and getting their voices out there.” Speaking with the students organizing a divestment campaign on his own campus inspired Josh to work on the campaign himself, which is now preparing a petition for the school’s administration. “I got to hear how they did it, what they put into it, and how they went about it, all as students.” While Josh acknowledges that they do not have the wider campus involvement of some of the larger UC’s and Cal State’s, he appreciates the small core group he works with and looks forward to larger attendance as their chapter grows and accomplishes more. They are currently planning for an Earth Day event, which they hope will allow them to spread information and drum up more interest in campus activism.

On his experiences with the CSSC Writing Program, Josh was all enthusiasm. Compared to approaching other groups as a fellow activist, Josh says that as a writer, “Most people want to get their voices heard. If you approach them as a fellow organizer, they would be willing to share, but with fewer details and not as excited. [As a journalist], you get to know them better.” One of the things that Josh only hears during interviews is the diversity of reasons everyone has for joining the sustainability movement, which contributes to Josh’s ability to see the issues he covers from multiple perspectives and better understand the stakes involved. This is important for crafting articles that are relevant to the diverse student population of California and accurately representing the student voice in sustainability.

I asked Josh what his dream piece would be to write for the CSSC blog and he mentioned wanting to incorporate social justice issues into this coverage, but his answer more so provided an optimistic prediction of the direction of the sustainability movement. “I’d like to see sustainability branched out to other disciplines…more science-driven articles and trained scientists in sustainability.” Josh plans to pursue science journalism in graduate school, a field that is increasingly important in today’s political climate, and where Josh can work to make his vision for sustainability come true.

If you’d like to read some of Josh’s work, here is a link to his favorite piece he’s written so far.

A Book is a Weapon: Your Summer Sustainability Reading List

By: Kristin Edwards

Even though the school year may be over, the need to defend our planet and its peoples is not. While most student organizing has likely ceased until the fall, you can remain involved in the movement through the summer months in a variety of ways. One of those is to continue to educate yourself about the sustainability movement and its history, the theoretical foundations of its goals, and issues currently facing the world today. For this purpose, presented here is a list of ten books you will hopefully find interesting, enlightening, and filled with tools and knowledge for you to take forward into your next year of activism.

I recommend beginning your reading with this excellent TED article, which seeks to answer the question: “Why do protest camps set up libraries?” It explores the idea of a protest library as a symbol of community and free exchange of thought as well as representing the morals of a movement.

If any of these titles pique your interest, don’t forget to explore sustainable and often inexpensive reading options, such as e-books, used books, and library books!

Broad Reading – Ideas and Global Issues

1. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E. F. Schumacher
1973, Reprint by HarperCollins Publishers

This 1973 classic by economist E. F. Schumacher has been read for years as a guide to creating a sustainable economy that supports the needs of communities over those of corporations. The most recent reprint contains a foreword by Bill McKibben, which examines Schumacher’s ideas in the context of the growing threat of global climate change. Schumacher’s arguments are accessible to both students of economics and newcomers to the field, and his message of ending excessive consumption remains relevant to all who are concerned about the future of our planet.

2. Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough
2002, North Point Press

Michael Braungart and William McDonough, a chemist and an architect respectively, present their vision for a paradigm shift in how we manage resource use and waste production. Traditionally, resources are turned into products, which are either disposed of or partially recycled into “inferior” products after their use. Braungart and McDonough propose a “cradle to cradle” method of production, in which products are designed to be recycled and reused in such a way as to eventually close the production loop. They begin this mission with their own book, which is produced from minimal-impact materials that can be recycled – and it’s waterproof to boot.

3. Our Backyard: A Quest for Environmental Justice, Edited by Gerald R. Visgilio and Diana M. Whitelaw
2003, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

This collection of essays, edited by Gerald R. Visgilio and Diana M. Whitelaw, comes from a wide variety of environmental activists and scholars, and attempts to encompass the issues facing the environmental movement now as well as ones we will face in the future. The book focuses most on those issues facing poor and minority communities and the political and social aspects of their struggle for environmental justice. Some of the other topics addressed include the future of environmental research and what may happen to the sustainability movement in a highly conservative administration, something that is more relevant today than when it was written.

4. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
2010, Bloomsbury Press

It’s comforting to assume that every scientist is working towards the pure goals of discovery and improving human life, but as Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway show, all types of people are susceptible to the lures of power and money. Merchants of Doubt tells the story of a group of high-ranked scientists that systematically misled the public on issues of global warming, carcinogens, and effects of pollution. Oreskes and Conway show definitively that the science on these issues is settled, the dissenters being influenced by industry and politics and not by sound inquiry or data analysis. While exposing one group of deceivers, this book is also a reminder to think critically about the information we are presented, even when it comes from scientists, and to look deeper into the motivations of those who seek to profit from doubt.

5. Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain’s Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oceans by Captain Charles Moore with Cassandra Phillips
2011, Avery, a member of the Penguin Group

This first-person account from a sailing captain details the discovery of what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a gyre of plastic debris found in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Captain Charles Moore writes in a loose style, skipping through time as he shares the story of his findings and his delve into the world of ocean activism. Moore addresses not only the surface level of the issue of plastic in our oceans, but also the science behind the negative effects of plastics on humans and on marine life, on the macro scale and the physiological one. This book is ultimately a call to action, to change the way we use and think about plastic, as well as the way we interact with our oceans.

California – History and Struggle at Home

6. Not So Golden State: Sustainability vs. the California Dream by Char Miller
2016, Trinity University Press

Char Miller, an environmental historian, details the history of California’s development and land-management decisions, touching on how policies came to be in place as well as the effects they are having on California’s ecosystems. By using the complex and sometimes bewildering history of our state, Miller makes the argument for considering the past as a tool for making future sustainability decisions and avoiding the sometimes disastrous mistakes of our predecessors. Miller’s book journeys through the state, addressing each region and ecosystem in turn and providing an understanding not only of the physical reality of each place, but also how it go to be that way.

7. Defending Giants: The Redwood Wars and the Transformation of American Environmental Politics by Darren Frederick Speece
2017, University of Washington Press

Speece’s detailed and moving history of the Redwood Wars on the North Coast of California also serves as a history of the broader environmental movement, in which escalating tensions between locals, activists, and corporations brought environmental politics into the Oval Office and onto the national stage. The Redwood Wars were fought not only by environmental activists, but also by locals who saw their economy changing as multinational corporations moved into their areas and stripped them of jobs and resources. Speece’s account is not only a testimony to the passion of activists and the grandeur of nature, but also an example of how the ability to find overlapping interests can be the key to success for sustainability campaigns.

Somewhere in America – Stories of Other Communities

8. Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town by Melissa Checker
2005, New York University Press

This book by Melissa Checker tells the story of Hyde Park in Augusta, Georgia, whose African-American community stood up to the polluting industries surrounding their neighborhood and called out their situation for what it was: environmental racism. People in this neighborhood had suffered from debilitating medical conditions for years, caused by the pollution from chemical dumping that suffused their lives, but were excluded from any say in how their community was developed and what industries were allowed to set up shop there. Checker’s account comes from over a year of experience volunteering and organizing with the Hyde Park community, and her writing is filled with affection for her subjects and a clear understanding of their struggle against injustice.

9. A Sea in Flames: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Blowout by Carl Safina
2011, Crown Publishers

Carl Safina is well-known as a powerful and touching environmental writer, and his account of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster is no different. Safina travelled to the Gulf Coast and conducted countless interviews for this book, which addresses not only the carelessness of the oil industry that allowed this to happen, but the lack of preparedness by state and federal governments to deal with an environmental disaster of this scale. Written not long after the incident, Safina nevertheless includes an assessment of the myriad negative effects from the spill and is able to give a retrospective on both his and the media’s initial responses to the event.

Collaborating On A Grand Goal: A Zero Waste City And University By 2020

SF State is working with Recology on increasing their waste diversion rate. Recology, which handles the processing of San Francisco’s compost, recycling and landfill trash, is investing in research and development to make it easier to recycle certain items. Photo: Recology

By. Daniel Adel

Colleges and universities are anything but islands unto themselves. Examples abound of higher educational institutions collaborating with their local governments to advance the cause of sustainability.

The City of San Francisco has garnered world fame for its sustainability practices, and so I asked myself if this reputation also holds true at its colleges and universities? As a recent graduate of the city’s largest higher educational institution, San Francisco State University, I know that the city and the university are working hand in hand to send zero waste to the landfill by 2020. This means that essentially all of San Francisco’s garbage will be recycled or composted. This is a little more ambitious than the systemwide CSU goal, which is for CSU campuses to reduce their solid waste disposal rate by 80 percent by 2020.

While there’s currently no CSU time horizon to move to zero waste, the school system has committed to eventually reach it, with individual campuses like SF State, among others, making stellar progress towards that goal. Last year, Sacramento State University received an award for their “The Closed Loop: A Comprehensive Organic Waste Diversion Program,” which is a comprehensive and cost-saving organic waste diversion program that turns leaves, lawn clippings and wood chips into a clean fuel. That fuel—a bio-compressed natural gas—powers a fleet of complimentary campus shuttles. The project aims to decrease Sacramento State’s dependence on fossil fuels, also reducing the amount of lawn waste sent to the landfill and helping close the loop on campus consumption.

The University of California system’s timeline is on par with SF State’s. The UC adopted a zero waste resolution in 2008 with their complete diversion goal aimed for 2020. The system is already diverting 69% of its solid waste from landfills. Pilot zero waste programs now exist on most UC campuses, and some zero waste initiatives have become standard practice. Initial efforts have targeted the largest sources of waste, such as major events and building construction and demolition. All football and basketball events at UC Berkeley and all football events at UC Davis are now zero waste events. UC Santa Barbara holds an annual zero-waste weekend at its stadium for the men’s soccer game. UC Riverside achieved a 99 percent construction waste diversion rate from two capital projects, demonstrating a best practice. UC Riverside requires contractors to use the campus’ waste hauler, have appropriate bins on the construction site, and requires contractors to meet the recycling requirements.

To explore the SF State community’s progress towards towards reducing waste and composting, I got in touch with their Office of Sustainability, otherwise known as Sustainable SF State. Nick Kordesch, SF State’s Sustainability Specialist, briefed me that a combination of new infrastructure and educational and reuse initiatives are now in motion to transform the campus into a zero waste institution by 2020.

New Infrastructure

SF State hosted the 2015 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference. All waste generated by the event was saved and weighed it to see how well the campus sorted compost, trash, and recycling. Photo: Sustainable SF State.

Steeped in a largely throwaway culture, infrastructure to reduce waste and encourage composting is crucial for our transition towards a zero waste society. For Nick and the SF State community, this can come in small, simple steps such as adding new signage for outdoor bins. “We worked with a graphic design class to create new signage for our outdoor recycling, compost, and trash bins,” he said to me. “We asked them to help us create signage that was easier to read and communicated which items belong in each bin. They did a great job and we are about to order those for the whole campus.”

In addition to signage, Nick said SF State is working to add compost bins to its restrooms. “We needed to add compost bins to our academic buildings, but because our custodial staff is limited we couldn’t add many bins to the buildings. Our solution has been to remove trash bins from all the restrooms and replace them with compost bins. The waste in the bathrooms is almost all compostable paper towels so this has worked well. Our custodial team collaborated with Office of Sustainability interns to make this happen.”

Like other university campuses, SF State produces large amounts of print waste. The tackle this, SF State has just switched to a managed print service, which means that the campus now pays a company to manage its printers. “It has cut down on the number of printers on campus, which has resulted in fewer printers being thrown away for e-waste and lower toner waste, ” he said. “Since the service charges for printing, we have an incentive to be more careful about what we print.”

Zero Waste Education

The SF State Dining Services’ Weigh The Waste program shows students how much food is wasted each day. Photo: Associated Students Environmental Resource Center.

While bins of all sorts have spread throughout the campus, students, faculty, administrators, and others may not always know what goes in what bin, especially as labels like “compost,” “recycle,” and “trash” can be vague. That is when SF State’s waste bin educators come in handy. “Our Associated Students’ Environmental Resource Center employs waste bin educators at the start of each school year to help teach new students about our recycling and compost programs, ” said Nick.

The SF State Dining Services also does a lot of educational programming about reducing food waste. According to Nick, “they do a program called weigh the waste where they show students how much food was wasted each day. They also started donating excess food to a food bank through the Food Recovery Network.”

Reuse Initiatives

SF State is installing water bottle fillers around its campus and giving all incoming residential students free reusable water bottles to cut down on bottled water waste. Photo: Sustainable SF State

The phrase, there is no away to throw something away, sums up SF State’s initiatives to promote the reuse of old and unwanted items. “We have an email list where campus staff and faculty post their unwanted office items and equipment to encourage reuse,” said Nick. Other initiatives include ideas as simple setting up goodwill bins and promoting clothing swaps. “Our Associated Students’ Environmental Resource Center has been holding clothing swaps to encourage reuse.”

SF State has also been installing water bottle fillers and giving all incoming residential students free reusable water bottles to cut down on bottled water waste. As part of their “No Bikes Left Behind” program, the Associated Students is collecting donated bikes and giving them out to students in need. “It helps reduce waste and encourages green transportation,” said Nick.

2020: A Grand Goal

SF State’s “Sustainable Move Out” days at the end of Spring semester. Residential students can hand anything they don’t want to Sustainable SF State so they can be donated it to Goodwill, Food Banks, or recycled. Photo: Sustainable SF State

SF State has been steadily increasing its recycling and compost rate. As of 2009, SF State diverted over 71% of its waste from the landfill. The diversion rate is currently at about 80% citywide, and can increase to 90% when all when all material is sent to the correct bins.

With the unique city-university partnership efforts  and all the progress that has been made on campus thus far, I asked Nick how difficult it would be to reach their goal in time. “It’s going to be a challenge for us to get to zero waste by 2020,” he replied. “We need to be doing better education about how to recycle and compost. There are also certain items that we can’t recycle or compost that are sold on campus or get brought here—plastic bags, candy wrappers, chip bags, and juice box packaging to name a few.”

SF State’s partnership with San Francisco is done by working with the city’s Department of the Environment and their local waste hauler, Recology, on increasing their diversion rate. Recology handles the processing of San Francisco’s compost, recycling and landfill trash, and “is also investing in research and development to make it easier to recycle certain items,” Nick adds.

2020 is now less than three years away. While it is too early to call the “race,” the results of the SF State-San Francisco joint effort are commendable and worth exploring at other institutions and their municipalities.

Spotlight: Gregory Brown on Public Participation in the Environmental Movement

By. Sara Eddy

Dr. Gregory Brown joined the Cal Poly campus as the head of the Natural Resources and Environmental Science department in 2016. He comes from a diverse background in environmental studies having worked in universities around the world, including: Central Washington University, University of Queensland and Alaska Pacific University. Dr. Brown is also a former animal rights activist and a committed vegan. He enjoys walking his dog in his free time and snacking on nutritious and interesting health foods. Dr. Brown has been involved with non-governmental organizations, land use planning, and acting as an administrator and educator on the Cal Poly campus.

Dr. Brown teaches his students that to run an effective campaign or movement you must set an attainable goal. He believes, that in order for the world to fight the battle of climate change, organizations, leaders, and students need to tackle more explicit goals with measurable timelines.

Having recently taught a course in environmental leadership at Cal Poly, Dr. Brown shared his experiences and views with aspiring student leaders. In this course he had students evaluate various environmental organizations and leaders and their effectiveness in communities. He encouraged students to view an organization’s goals with a critical eye, reminding them that goals must be operationalized into “specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive” outcomes. Many environmental organizations are not as powerful as they could be because their goals are too, “fluffy,” meaning that they do not specify their outcomes in enough detail and often fail to set a timeline. Many environmental groups and non-governmental organizations strive to combat climate change. While this is a worthwhile action, it is far too broad.

Dr. Brown has conducted research in “Public Participation Geographic Information Systems” (PPGIS) which makes public values and preferences spatial to guide land use planning. Sustainable land use policy and planning is absolutely crucial to combating climate change, managing our resources wisely, and improving quality of life. Dr. Brown argues that, “crowd wisdom,” the phenomenon where a group’s collective answer to a question or solution to a problem is found to be as good, and often better than any of the individuals in the group or an expert in the field, is critical in making these decisions. Making policies that are more inclusive and participatory is what will lead us to more sustainable and environmentally friendly outcomes.

In the town of Avila Beach, CA, residents are currently envisioning their town’s future. Dr. Brown created a tool using Google maps to allow the citizens of Avila Beach to map their favorite locations and where they think various types of development should be allowed (or not allowed). Users of this program map icons pertaining to recreation, scenic areas, residential and commercial development, open space, and other land uses. This is a powerful tool for decision makers to better understand the value of specific areas and how they are best used. This knowledge will ultimately lead to outcomes that are suitable for residents and visitors to the community. Public participation is just one of many of Dr. Brown’s areas of research to promote environmental ideals.

Living by the mantra, “think globally, act locally,” Dr. Brown encourages students to become active community members to invoke the change they want to see. He recently moved to San Luis Obispo, CA, and has already involved himself in the community and on campus. In his prior residence of Ellensburg, WA, he assisted in writing city zoning codes to allow for small wind turbines to be permitted on residential and commercial properties in the city. Allowing citizens to bypass the hassle of permitting will make sustainable choices easier for those that seek them. Dr. Brown goes about invoking change in a creative way and has shown that land use planning is an easy way to let residents make more sustainable choices for their communities.

Many students would tell you that Dr. Brown is an influential leader and educator. He possesses many skills that environmental organizations and leaders could learn from to better promote sustainable ideals. He has already proved to be a positive influence on the Cal Poly campus and has greatly assisted students in meeting their goals.

Silver Hannon: Divestment, Dialogue, and the Power of the People

Photo: Students sit-in at UCSB’s Cheadle Hall, part of a historic action coordinated across the UCs. The sit-ins led to four UC Chancellors  publicly endorsing the need for fossil fuel divestment.

By. Lillian Zhou

If there was one thing that Silver Hannon could tell all California university students, it would be this: Your voice matters.

Fossil Free UC logo from the Fossil Free UC website

Silver grew up in a conservative-leaning area of Boston, where she remembers having limited outlets for political conversations. When she moved across the country to study at the University of California, Berkeley, Silver found herself on a campus with a decades long legacy of democratic student-driven change. This culture of activism and the recent release of An Inconvenient Truth inspired her to get involved in environmental advocacy by joining a sustainability team (STeam) on campus. As an English major, Silver worked hard to gain footing in a community primarily composed of environmental majors and quickly found empowerment by participating in STeam’s direct action efforts.

Since her first move to get involved, Silver has played an impressive variety of positions and has recently retired as Campaign Director for Fossil Free UC. Fossil Free UC is a UC-wide coalition of activists whose primary goal is to pressure the UC Regents to retract all the investments they have put into the 200 fossil fuel companies with the largest carbon reserves. In 2014, this amounted to about $3 billion with $500 million in coal. Although the Regents voted against divestment in 2014, Fossil Free UC has successfully pressured the Regents to retract $350 million from coal, tar sands, and other fossil fuels since then.

Silver and Cal students sit-in at the UC Investment Office in Oakland, demanding that Regent Sherman, Chair of the Investment Subcommittee, moves to fully divest the UC from fossil fuels. Photo: The Daily Californian

The fight for divestment leaves much room for semantics — semantics backed up by tangible environmental consequences. In her advocacy, Silver has often received responses that seem to dance around truly committed divestment goals. Everything is going into the bucket, we’ll keep talking, and it’ll all be a part of the conversation are all typical of UC Regents responses, who ultimately have the power to define how their commitments to sustainability are realized. For example, while the Regents said no in 2014 to Fossil Free UC’s advocacy for the establishment of a UC divestment team in 2014, they vowed to take a more interdisciplinary approach to investment and put an additional $1 billion into “climate solutions”. Silver later found that this action amounted to a large donation to an environmental fund as opposed to strategic investment in renewable energy or climate adaptation measures. While this may point to progress, Silver always sees more work to be done.

With the billions of dollars left in fossil fuel companies, Silver remains resilient at the forefront of the divestment movement. Although the Regents tend to shy away from the word “divestment” and instead opt for words like “de-risking” and “prudence”, Silver sees these financially meaningful decisions as a product of pressure from the bottom up: “Society as a whole is made up of tons and tons of individuals who hold up these institutions. We don’t need to convince them. If we show enough social power, it would be untenable for them not to do the right thing.”

The UC Regents are appointed by the Governor of California for 12-year terms and have been known to be difficult to access. However, this has not stopped students from mounting a fight all over California with Silver coaching and coordinating information between campuses. On the ground, Silver’s campaigns have employed a variety of tactics to get students active, including petitions, and holding promotional and informational events. She explains, “It is about showing that students, young people and the public recognize the urgency of the climate crisis and, in doing so, want to call out the industry fueling it.”

A divestment protest put on by Fossil Free UW, photo taken by Joe Brusky on Flickr.

Despite the top-down institutions that give the Regents large amounts of financial power, Silver’s efforts on the ground mobilizing students to use their voices have won important victories. The most recent was the divestment of $150 million from several fossil fuel companies including Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco. Both of these companies are major supporters of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and Silver affirmed that the Regents’ decision reflected growing social pressure to withdraw support. Other universities across the country have also made concrete moves to divest from fossil fuel companies and other sources of climate change exacerbation. For example, Silver praised Barnard College’s recent divestment away from companies that vocalize skepticism of climate science or oppose climate mitigation policies. It is clear that the political, social, and economic complexity of a problem like climate change is reflected in the diversity of its solutions.

For Silver and Fossil Free UC, divestment from fossil fuels is both an obligation of physical environmental consequences as well as one of moral responsibility. As difficult as the UC Regents may be to reach, she maintains that students and other activists do not need to limit their action to the given narrow windows of access. Students ultimately have the power to vocalize their concerns and mobilize the numbers needed to achieve their goals. Silver emphasizes that adding your own voice to the uproar now is as important as ever: “In our political climate, where the EPA and Paris Climate Accords are on the chopping block, neutrality is a false choice. If a lot of us get together, we can get a lot done. And they will feel it.”

Cooperation, Compromise, and Community an Interview with Tessa Balboni, Secretary of the Board of Directors of CSSC

By. Kyle Ritland

What next? It’s a question many face after college, as they prepare to apply the skills and experiences they’ve cultivated, in the fields about which they’re passionate. But are you truly prepared? How much will your experience as a citizen differ from your experience as a student?

These were the same questions that Tessa Balboni— now the Secretary of the Board of Directors of CSSC— faced when she left behind UCSB three years ago. I spoke with Tessa over the phone about the learning experiences she encountered in her transition from student to professional, in hopes of providing a preparatory roadmap for those who follow similar paths. In our interview, Tessa and I discuss the convergence of idealism and realism, student and professional objectives, and the importance of learning to reach across the aisle to work together toward a sustainable future.

Tessa got her start with CSSC in her undergrad study at UCSB, where she served as the co-chair for the Environmental Affairs Board and worked to ban single use plastics. After graduating, she poured herself whole-heartedly into a wide-array of field biology jobs, before taking a position as a staff biologist at an environmental consulting firm. Currently, much of Tessa’s work revolves around working on licenses and regulations for hydro-electric dams. Her clients are large, municipal utility districts.

“It’s really interesting,” Tessa says of her current work, “because in college I was an environmental activist promoting DamNation[1], and how we have way too many dams in the US, and we need to take them down.” Tessa explains that many of these old dams were built incorrectly, or are in disrepair. From her work with the endangered Southern California steelhead, she has seen the problems these dams can cause— creating barriers for fish, disturbing eagle populations, and otherwise impacting wildlife— and stresses that these problems will never completely go away.

“There are challenges with even the best renewable energy forms,” she says. “The obvious example is wind-power— the only place you’d put wind-power is where there are amazing thermals, but this is also where wildlife wants to use the thermals[2]. Suddenly, you’re endangering birds.”

“There’s a give and take,” Tessa explains. And if these systems do truly help us as humans to be more sustainable in our energy practices, then maybe it’s worth it. “Humans all want the best resources,” Tessa says. “And this puts us in natural conflict with all the other life on this earth.” She pauses, considering the reality of all she’s seen. “And there’s just so many humans that we’re going to win.” Is there a way to make this victory not singularly our own? “Sure,” she says. “By changing the rules. We have to learn to mitigate our impact.”

And the way we do that, Tessa has learned, is through understanding and cooperation.

“When big companies set up big projects, we need to make sure they do their research, and make sure that they are following the regulations— doing things sustainably.”

Tessa lays out the difference between big and small dams. The small dams get built quickly, by those misunderstanding or afraid of environmental regulations. They’re often illegal, and do serious damage to the ecosystems they disrupt. These dams are often built by groups or corporations stigmatized by environmental or sustainability movements, and who see regulation as their enemy.

“But these big dams are more regulated,” Tessa explains. “Because they have to be. And the more regulated they are, the better. They have fish ladders for populations to get past them. They’re built with wildlife in mind.”

I would have imagined these regulations as cursory at best— guidelines that are often dismissed by the big corporations. And yes, Tessa confirms, the spirit of the regulations is often derided, and the actual requirements occasionally dismissed. But she does not view this as a fault in the system— merely a fault in its execution.

“What I’ve seen is that it’s really about working together with the folks who are actually involved in these projects,” Tessa says. “Like line-men— construction guys— I work with them a lot.”

She describes her early experience working on these projects, and lays out what she sees as a disconnect between lofty ideas and their practical application. “Years ago, when they really started implementing these environmental regulations at the level of a construction worker getting a talk about the frogs that are in the area in which he’s working—  they would yell at you, laugh at you, tell you to leave.”

This was not a new experience, of course; she had faced plenty of pushback in her work as a student sustainability leader, and knew that it was part of the game. “If you’re a biologist who goes onto a construction site,” she says, “or you’re trying to put environmentalism somewhere it traditionally isn’t, you get a lot of pushback.”

But now it was something she needed to understand, and overcome, in order to do her job. She looked deeper, trying to understand how to connect with the average line-man, working his 9-to-5.  “They don’t care about the frogs,” Tessa says. “So instead of saying to them saying, ‘You’re being bad, you’re doing wrong’— you’re saying, ‘Let’s work together.’”

She explains how we actually have it easy in California, with our stringent environmental regulations which put us ahead of the rest of the country. Rather than seeing these regulations as more rules she has to enforce, Tessa looks at them as a tool for relationship-building. “We have to come in like, ‘Okay, there are these new regulations, you have to follow them, but I’m here to help.’” To Tessa, it’s all about how we interact with these groups we’re hoping to regulate. “Instead of being the bad guy in their eyes, accusing them of killing animals and being evil, we have to help them fix it.”

She tells me a story— an example of her own experience with these contrasting approaches.

“I was on a project recently and the water turbidity— which is how much sediment is kicked up in the water— if the turbidity levels were too high for three hours in a row, I— me, Tessa Biologist— had the right to stop the project for the day.”

The construction workers at first viewed her as a threat— a force capable of throwing them off schedule and jeopardizing their jobs for what they surely considered insignificant details.

“So they would come to me like, ‘Oh, you’re not gonna stop us, right?’, wanting me to cheat, basically.” She would explain to them that she wouldn’t help them circumvent the regulations, but she would help them conform to them— she laid out how she would give warnings when they were nearing bad levels, and work with the crews directly to ensure they followed safe and responsible procedures. When she did this, the crews suddenly began to see her not as an enemy, but an ally.

She says there are some projects she’s been on where the crews will hide from you if they’ve done something wrong. If there’s a spill, and it’s racing downstream, who will the crew be more likely to approach? The environmentalist who shouts at them about frogs? Or Tessa Biologist, who wants to help them do their job?

“In the projects I’ve been on,” Tessa says, “whenever the best conservation was done, it was because the biologists befriended the crews. They helped them. They met in the middle. My goal is to get these two worlds that currently feel like they’re against each other to work together.”

I ask Tessa how this understanding corresponds to her work with CSSC, and how her view has changed as she’s grown from a student to a professional. She tells me that, like most students, she was a very passionate and idealistic activist. Addressing how her approach may have changed, she tells me, “I can’t work with line-men the way I did in college. There’s undeniable value in being open and idealistic, but if that language deters people from talking to you and coming to your side, how is that helpful?”

She relates her experience with the CSSC retreat a few weeks ago, listening to the students talking passionately about radical environmental ideas. “I didn’t want to stop them,” she says. “It was so great how strongly they felt about it, with how much authority they talked about it.”

She does feel, however, a stigma in her current work, especially from the younger generation. “I think there’s the idea that if you work for a big corporation, you’re a sellout. But I do good science. I don’t break my morals.” Still, she sees value in even this discrepancy between the student and professional perspective. “It’s my job to understand that, but maybe it’s not the job of the student. It’s the student’s job to ask for really far-reaching things. The student’s role is to push the ideas— the crazy ideas— so that there can be a compromise later.”

She pauses, considering what she’s seen of the next generation of conservationists, biologists, and sustainability activists.

“I think students are the best for that. They’re so excited— the enthusiasm is amazing. CSSC is great in that it promotes young people to get involved and really throw themselves into this work through their passion.”

And Tessa maintains this passion. She simply pairs it with understanding.

It’s this sort of understanding, Tessa tells me— this cooperation, this compromise— that we need to open ourselves up to, in order to form the wider, more powerful community of sustainability to accomplish true and lasting change.


[1] DamNation (documented in the 2014 film of the same name) is a movement fighting for the destruction of thousands of obsolete damns which pocket the country, disrupt natural ecosystems, and endanger wildlife.

[2] Rising currents of warm air are called thermals, and are a favorite of soaring birds. Unfortunately, areas with strong air currents are also ideal locations for wind farms, whose spinning turbines threaten endangered birds. Even the construction of clean, renewable energy has its costs.


Does a Changing World Necessitate a Change in Tactics? UCR’s Reborn and Student-led Earth Week as a Tool for Education and Recruitment.

By. Kyle Ritland

The past year has challenged the sustainability community like none other in the recent memory of most students. It has drawn into focus the contrast between their ideals and present circumstances, and made evident the necessity of action to alter the destructive course of our species. As a result, many campuses now teem with restless energy, as concerned students consider what action they might take to address the onslaught of issues facing the planet, and how they might make their voices heard.

At the University of California, Riverside, a reimagined and reborn Earth Week has recently demonstrated the shifts in thinking and organization necessary to incorporate direct student involvement in ways previously overlooked. Rather than simply educating students on green habits and choices, this new Earth Week set out with a different goal in mind: to cast a net further and wider than ever before, and draw in new hearts, minds, and voices toward the vessels of conservation and sustainability.

One of the details that made this year’s Earth Week at UCR unique to those past is the fact that it was almost entirely student-organized. With the weakening of UCR’s Office of Sustainability, there likely would have been no Earth Day or Earth Week events without the intercession of the Graduate Sustainability Network, a student organization formed by a small group of graduate students led by Drew Story and Peter Byrley, with the purpose of improving the environmental and social sustainability of UCR graduate student life.

Not even a year old, GSN is still working to find its feet and its voice in the UCR community, but from the beginning student leaders have fueled the organization with their enthusiasm, taking time away from their official responsibilities to passionately pursue sustainability projects. When it comes to Earth Week, GSN took on the project out of a combination of belief and necessity.

“Previously, there wasn’t a large student contingent interested in organizing Earth Week,” says Drew Story, one of the founders of GSN. “The Office of Sustainability had tried, but it was just two people with full time jobs. And so I think now with the student passion behind it, it’s really become something better.”

That student passion comes in the forms of Ryan Conway and Ella Deyett, a pair of Graduate students in the sciences, who took on the responsibilities of planning, organizing, and executing this new incarnation of Earth Week at UCR. I spoke with Ryan and Ella in the week leading up to the events, hoping to learn more about what drew them to this particular event, as well as their specific intentions in its planning and execution.

Scott Evans, a Ph.D. student in Paleontology, gives a talk on how fossil collecting can answer some of our biggest questions about science. Photo by Peter Byrley.

“The campus had previously had some Earth Day celebrations in the past,” Ryan says. “But we knew that some of the other UC schools were doing much bigger events throughout the entire week. UC Davis has an Earth week where they see 30,000 people show up.” So Ryan and Ella got to work on planning events, incorporating as many different departments as they could.

Ella rattles these off as though she could say them in her sleep: “We have involvement from Dining, from Transportation and Parking Services, we have people from the HUB, we have Vice-Chancellors, we have Risk Management, we have people from the WELL. It started with a few events which we knew we really wanted to plan, and then we included some other department’s events, and it kept growing and growing, and now we have a ton of events happening across a full week.”

When the discussion turns to the expected size of the event, Ryan is quick to clarify that they have no immediate plans to challenge the attendance of UC Davis, or some of the other more established events across the state.

“This year we’re expecting it to stay pretty small,” he says. “But we want it to keep growing in years to come, and use it as a gauge for interest— what the local community cares about as far as sustainability.”

This is an idea which comes up repeatedly in our conversations, and one which has begun to emerge as a founding principle of UCR’s new Earth Week. The descriptions and explanations Ryan and Ella lay out make it clear that they did not organize this event to see the same old faces; they did so with expansion in mind.

“I really would like to reach out to those people who haven’t currently been thinking about these things,” Ryan says. “Hopefully that means that people who are really interested in this stuff are bringing their friends who don’t usually care about it.”

And how would they plan to accomplish this at Earth Week? Through a mix of tradition and novelty in their events. Alongside obviously sustainability-centric events like Vermicomposting and the 0-Waste Workshop are those events with a more general appeal, like natural Tie-Dying, a fundraising 5K run, and, of course, lots of food.

Chris Kane of the organization Post Landfill Action Network gives a talk about zero waste on campus. Photo by Peter Byrley.

Ella describes how a major goal in their planning has been to create a space that’s welcoming to newcomers— an introduction to a new world, for those who may only recently have started to take seriously the tenets of sustainability. Earth Week can be more than workshops and lessons, they tell me. It can be a gathering place for the rising ranks of activists.

“I think a lot of times people have these opinions or mentalities they believe in,” Ella says, “but especially when things aren’t mainstream, or are controversial, it’s hard to promote them. But if you can find groups that already have the same mentality, then that gives you courage to go talk to other people, and share your own ideas.”

And this, at its core, is what UCR’s reborn Earth Week was designed to offer students— a venue in which to share the ideas and concerns they may not otherwise have known how to voice.

Ryan sees this idea manifested most clearly in the Earth Day celebration on Saturday, which they constructed through collaboration with March for Science. “We really aimed for a lot of turnout from both students and the community. We imagine it as a forum to discuss what people are caring about and what they want to see change on campus, as well as throughout Riverside.”

But the larger goal does not end with Earth Day, of course. Ella explains to me how the entire week is in one sense a prompt for further action— a sign to the administration that this issue demands attention. “The goal was to get a lot of support from students, to show the administration that sustainability really is something students care about.” Ella sees student involvement as a powerful message, and a unified student body as a force not to be underestimated. “There are more students than administrators, and the more people we get to care, the more we can get this campus to do.”

Ryan agrees, and believes that an event like Earth Week can help convince students of the power they command. “Every student on campus is casting a vote everyday,” Ryan says. “If students stop purchasing plastic water bottles or disposable plastics, that’s a vote they’re casting. And if they start talking to the administration when they’re bothered by something, whether it’s water waste or disposable plastics, they’re voting against those destructive practices.”

And to him, this is the idea that Earth Week can communicate— that students command much more influence than they realize, especially when they come together.

“I definitely think the concern has started to shift,” Ryan says. “It’s started to move away from that idea of, ‘I care about this, but I can’t make a difference.’ Now it’s our job to show that even if you feel you can’t do a lot as an individual, as a group you can.”

Volunteers set up for the Sustainability 5K. Photo by Peter Byrley.

For many student leaders like Ryan and Ella, this may be a time of challenges and trials, but it is also one of optimism. When support from the UCR administration waned, Earth Week was not abandoned— it was reborn. Why? Maybe because events like these strike a chord in the deep ranks of students who are just beginning to take conservation and sustainability seriously.

“Sustainability is contagious,” Ryan says, as he reflects on the many conversations and months of planning that have gone into the event. “And my goal is just to get as many people to care as possible.”

When I ask Drew how it feels to watch this next generation of student leaders take the reigns of sustainability at UCR, he becomes visibly excited. He compares UCR, where the sustainability movement is young, to the other UC campuses, but he does so optimistically. To Drew, young programs like GSN and events like Earth Week are signs of a new grassroots and student-led style of sustainability.

“In some places where you have a deep tradition of sustainability, your own influence may or may not be all that great,” he says. “Here, we have the potential to make a world of difference. So that’s exciting. And at the same time daunting.”

But that’s what life is for a student— an offering of possibilities and potential, available for acceptance and implementation by anyone with a passion for a brighter future, and a growing belief in the power of their own voice.

Subterfuge, Backlash, and How to Move Forward: The Dismantling and Revival of the Office of Sustainability at University of California, Riverside

By: Kristin Edwards

On January 24, 2017, a group of University of California Riverside (UCR) alumni posted a letter addressed to the school’s administration on an undergraduate sustainability Facebook page. It began thusly, in bolded font:

“This is a statement by alumni of the University of California, Riverside and community members in support of the Office of Sustainability and its staff members.

We strongly disagree with the current administration’s decision to lay off the director and staff members from the Office of Sustainability.”


For many, this would be the first time they heard about the firings, including that of Dr. John Cook, UCR’s Director of Sustainability for the past six years. They took place just before the winter break in December, when most students were focused on taking their finals and preparing to travel home.

The substantial nature of the changes to UCR’s Office of Sustainability were surprising to many, particularly since the student body had received a message in mid-December which celebrated the strides the school had taken charted a path forward towards becoming a greener campus. The letter made no mention of what had taken place in the Office of Sustainability, and there would be no public announcement. The only hints it contained that something catastrophic had taken place were a reassurance that “the Office of Sustainability is not going away” and a note at the end of the message to contact an unfamiliar name for more information about sustainability on campus.

I tried to disentangle this story for myself, looking for any relevant public announcements or documents, but the firings had taken place in secrecy, known only to the Office of Sustainability and its supervisors.

Strife and Confusion on Campus

“We just thought they were continually weakening the Office of Sustainability. John Cook was the big blind-side.”

Ben Sommerkorn, an engineering PhD student at UCR and president of the Graduate Sustainability Network (GSN), worked closely with the previous Office of Sustainability. I met with him to discuss the changes that had taken place and the effects they are having on student initiatives.

“This whole thing has been shrouded in mystery,” he tells me in a campus coffee shop, eager to vent even though he has been discussing this situation for months. Sommerkorn wasn’t sure exactly when he heard that Dr. John Cook had been fired. He says that in the first few days of December he and other students closely associated with the office had gotten wind that four of the five sustainability staff members would not have their contracts renewed for 2017. Even as they prepared their response to the administration in objection to this decision, they didn’t know what was still to come. In the second week of December, the news broke. “They didn’t just fire him, they destroyed his position.”

Cook had not only been removed as a staff member, his position had been deleted from UCR’s system, which would prevent it from being recreated for at least a year. Sommerkorn tells me that Cook had “structural disagreements” with the administrators directly above him, Maria Anguiano, the Vice Chancellor of Planning and Budget, and Jeff Kaplan, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Capital Asset Strategies, and believes Cook was pushed out because of his resistance to their plans for campus reorganization. Anguiano authored the email message sent out to students and included the previously unknown Kaplan as the point of contact for sustainability at UCR with no acknowledgement of the change.

UCR at Night, Photo Credit: Xsolidsnail, Wikimedia Commons

“Firing John was kind of ridiculous; they were already restricting the Office of Sustainability for years,” says Peter Byrley, a member of GSN and the sustainability liaison for the Graduate Student Association here at UCR. Peter tells me that the office’s funding had been cut strategically over the years and Cook had become restricted in what he was able to do on campus. Despite this, Cook was told “he wasn’t doing enough” by Anguiano and Kaplan shortly before he was let go.

Sommerkorn described the method by which Cook’s position was strategically weakened in order to justify his firing as a corporate tactic, used to justify the removal of staff that are perceived to be in the way but who haven’t actually committed a fireable offense.

Despite the administration’s efforts to keep the changes out of public view, there was a strong pushback from those in the loop, particularly graduate students and faculty. The faculty senate in particular was upset by the decisions that were made without any discussion with them and other campus stakeholders.

Political strife was already present on campus due to perceived overreach by the Chancellor and Provost that led the faculty senate to consider firing both administrators. For many this was just another example of the administration refusing to listen to the interests of its faculty, staff, and students. As put by Sommerkorn, “They thought the Office of Sustainability was less important and had less love from faculty and students than it did. I think they stumbled.”

According to Byrley, students began sending messages of disapproval to offices all over campus. When the word spread to alumni, many became upset that the campus they had given their time and money to would make such a drastic change without considering student input. Byrley described a Facebook chat group of over 100 alumni discussing the firings and what they could do to speak out, but so far there has been little administrative response to their concerns.

One of the focuses of student ire besides the loss of Cook himself, was the firing of Delphine Faugeroux and Fortino Morales, the Green Lab and R’Garden coordinators, respectively. The R’Garden is a community garden on UCR’s campus that provides fruits and vegetables to campus dining and students in need as well as offering individual plots for community members to learn to grow and harvest their own food. Green Labs is a program that helps labs become more sustainable by introducing ways to reduce water and electricity use as well as waste production.

Both of these positions are seen by the campus as vital, with the Green Labs program likely to soon be required by the UC system according to involved students and the R’Garden providing food security and an important educational outlet for students and the Riverside community. The administration quickly responded to the backlash and offered both Faugeroux and Morales their jobs back, but their actions had already damaged campus trust in the security of the sustainability movement. 

The R’Garden Entrance, Photo Credit: Kristin Edwards

Anguiano responded to one professor’s email request for justification with a seven-point plan for the future of sustainability at UCR. The proffered plan accurately described the actions currently being taken by the administration but was non-specific in its goals and allegedly outdated. It is unclear when the plan was created: before the firings took place, or after students and faculty demanded to know what was going on. This response also did not make clear why the changes were made when they were and why stakeholders were not included in the discussion and planning. Sommerkorn says he “[doesn’t] trust that that was their impetus, that they were looking out for sustainability. Why wouldn’t you have kept us in the loop?”

Know Your History

One group of alumni had gotten wind of the changes much earlier, due to their close ties to the Office of Sustainability staff and faculty members on campus, and composed a letter (see link above) to the administration, the faculty senate, and the campus newspaper. Gina Gonzalez, Eli Tizcareño, Pavan Rami, Yassamin Kavezade, and Yesenia Gurrola were all tightly involved with the sustainability movement as undergraduates. Gonzalez, Tizcareño, Rami, and Gurrola all signed their letter as co-founders of the R’Garden.

A mural on a shed at the R’Garden, Photo Credit: Kristin Edwards

I spoke to Yassamin Kavezade over the phone about her experiences with the Office of Sustainability and the letter she co-authored. Kavezade agrees with other students I spoke with that it was only a matter of time before this happened, but describes the way in which the changes were made as “problematic.” Kavezade explains, “As a former student leader, I was upset. At this point, the closure of the Office of Sustainability is a reflection of the community we live in at UCR.” She says that she heard about the firings through a sustainability staff member whom she would prefer to remain unnamed. “This is a loss that they need to take on responsibility for and we need a transparent, community-centered, student- and faculty-involved plan to move forward.” Kavezade emphasizes that “the purpose of that office was intersectionality” and that the administration should remember that going forward. She, like many students who knew him, credits the effectiveness of the office to Cook’s unique abilities and commitment to living what he preached.

Kavezade is echoed by her peer, Eli Tizcareño, who worked to found the R’Garden after a previous community garden was set to be scrapped. “One of our biggest supporters was John Cook who was really an ally to the students.” This went against the mold of a white male administrator, something that surprised Tizcareño and made her appreciate him more. Tizcareño also spoke with me about her motivation for speaking out even after leaving campus: “Knowing the history is important.” With the election of Trump and a seemingly grim future for sustainability under his administration, the effective elimination of the Office of Sustainability “is just something else that encourages us to speak out.”

The alumni received little response to their letter. They said that no student organizers reached out to them, although they did get a chance to speak to the Highlander, UCR’s student newspaper. One administrator, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Jim Sandoval, did reach out, but he only invited the letter-writers in to talk one-on-one and failed to address any of their concerns.

Tizcareño’s message to the current administration is that “the most important thing is to be listening to the students and the folks who have given them so much and done amazing things, to value student voices since they are ignored and invisible in many spaces.” In her organizing experience, she has found that “building real relationships that are honest and true” is the most important factor for success, but the lack of transparency thus far leaves students wanting.

“The State of Sustainability at UCR”

I had the chance to attend the first public sustainability forum since Kaplan de facto replaced Cook as the Director of Sustainability, which was put on as part of Earth Week and titled “The State of Sustainability.” It was advertised as a chance to ask questions and discuss changes to UCR’s sustainability efforts and was attended mostly by those already involved on campus – people used to being in the loop who have now found themselves left out of it.

Kaplan opened the forum with a short presentation about the overall plans for sustainability moving forward before asking the audience to share their own comments and questions. The primary focus was on the shape the Office of Sustainability could take in the future.

UCR Chancellor Kim Wilcox is planning to reinstate the Sustainability Steering Committee, a group whose purpose is to guide the Chancellor’s decision-making about sustainability projects and directives on campus. It will be made up of a yet undetermined mix of faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, administrators, and staff from across campus. The exact make-up is still up in the air, but discussions are taking place amongst administrators and faculty to determine what they can agree on as fair representation.

The original plan had the revived Steering Committee meeting for the first time in March, but it has been stalled by the planning process. Kaplan hopes for a new start date in May, but a budget has yet to be put forth by the Chancellor, limiting interest from potential members. The Chancellor has also yet to establish the sort of authority the committee will have, since its influence can only go so far as the Chancellor’s desire to direct sustainability on campus. If Wilcox would rather leave such decision-making to other campus bodies, then the committee’s influence would be limited.

Along with this committee, the school is considering hiring four managers that would be in charge of sustainability initiatives in their respective domains and report back to a coordinator position separate from the director position currently held by Kaplan. Theoretically, the new positions would help to unify sustainability efforts at UCR, which are hampered by a lack of communication between invested groups. These managers seem to be a key factor of Kaplan’s plan for sustainability at UCR, but their hiring has not been confirmed as of the writing of this article.

The wariness of organizers during the meeting was clear, and Kaplan could not provide many of the details that were requested. He made several promises to get back to members of the audience, but it was unclear when this information would be available.

One of the reasons for the caution of attendees was the recent resignation of Maria Anguiano, who presumably made the decision to fire most of the members of the Office of Sustainability. Students in the room wondered if her replacement would be able to roll back the changes currently being enacted and throw the system into disarray again. “This is a bigger effort than me or the [Vice Chancellor for Planning and Budget]” said Kaplan, emphasizing that the new VCPB would have to get approval from Wilcox to make any substantial changes. However, he also encouraged those in attendance to become part of the selection and hiring process. According to an email sent out to staff and faculty, Wilcox has said the process will be “open, transparent, and inclusive,” but Kaplan was surprised to hear this message was not sent out to students. In the end, he told the audience to “challenge them,” and make sure that whoever is hired will listen to their concerns and share their vision.

Kaplan’s work as the new head of sustainability at UCR has been met with mixed emotions by many, particularly those who had worked with Cook previously. Kaplan’s new job was added onto his old one as an Associate Vice Chancellor, meaning he essentially has been asked to fill two positions. “I don’t know how much they planned on Jeff doing all of these things. This guy already has a job, but the argument against John was that he wasn’t effective enough,” argues Sommerkorn. Some students also have concerns over his qualifications, since Kaplan has no experience working in a sustainability-related field. It’s not all ill will, though. Peter Byrley “got the sense he was listening to what we were saying, but he was sort of overwhelmed.” He also mentioned that Kaplan had “come through on a bunch of things. He provided funding for Earth Week events.”

Looking Forward

“Maybe we’ll see some gains; maybe it will be positive.” Sommerkorn is not completely pessimistic about the future of sustainability at UCR, even though he finds it hard to trust the new Office of Sustainability. “There was no need for a nine month lag time, which to me speaks to the reality that this wasn’t their goal.” It was likely only through student and faculty pushback that the current reorganization resembles something democratic and inclusive, but the voices that stood up for their campus have possibly helped create a more effective system than the one before, which relied on Cook’s passion and connections to function. Byrley agrees that if done right, this new plan could be just what the campus needs to keep disconnected groups like Dining and Facilities on the same page and in line with the Office of Sustainability’s goals.

“I would say that we really need all of the departments and students to work together. We need to get together more. We need centralized open forums and task forces to get things done,” says Byrley. “In the end, everybody is trying to do a good job.”

While many aspects of sustainability at UCR remain undetermined, stakeholders can look forward to a series of public forums in the future. Kaplan has offered to have them as frequently as desired and on any topics requested. It is a step towards transparency that is much needed on a campus that will find building “honest and true” relationships, per Tizcareño’s request, difficult in the future.


A reflection of the 2016 Power Shift Convergence and a message to future CSSC convergence organizers

Photo: Courtesy of Power Shift

By. Amanda Miles

The first time I had heard of California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) was when I was going through, what I will call, “my reddit phase.” After being accepted to Cal, I searched “clubs UC Berkeley” on reddit and CSSC was on that list.

Fast forward to Spring 2016, I became a Council Representative for UC Berkeley’s CSSC Chapter! After finding out we would be hosting the Fall 2016 Convergence, I realized that I would be able to do what I care about — helping bring awareness to marginalized voices  in a way that I had never done before: environmental activism.

From this experience, we not only tried to help give a platform to share the voice(s) of others, but I myself learned to have a voice. I went from a quiet student to an activist with a megaphone.

Getting Down to Business

Why your university should host a future convergence:

Skill Building Experience

Last semester, I had the privilege to be among several unbelievably talented climate activists at UC Berkeley. Though I had the least amount of organizing experience on our team, I was the Outreach Coordinator for the Power Shift Convergence Fall of 2016. This role gave me the opportunity to learn beyond what I expected.

Operational Skills:

Our CSSC team consisted of three groups: outreach, programming and logistics.

Although we were all in our designated groups, we oftentimes would help wherever was needed; there were hands everywhere from keyboards to the phones to chips for the chunky guac at our outreach emailing parties.

For the Outreach team specifically though, our team created an Outreach Partner Toolkit to set forth our strategy plan.

Check out our Toolkit here.

In addition, we also reached out to various local papers and put up posters across campus.

CSSC Team Meetings:

With all the phone calls and group meet-ups, there was one meeting that stood out in particular:

We were trying to come-up with keynote speakers for our event and team members were flushing out about twenty possible speakers each. As I quietly listened, I quickly grabbed my computer and typed up all the people of color* guest speakers that they were naming and knew on a first-name basis. My eyes widened because all the speakers did unbelievable work in regards to combatting environmental injustices. It was then I realized, I was not teaming up with your average students, but rather environmental justice superheroes, without the cape and tight pants.

*Note: At this convergence we only had speakers of color to bring light to marginalized voices in environmentalism*

In case you missed the Convergence, you can also check out the schedule to see who spoke at the event and you can also watch some of the recordings on Power Shift Network’s Facebook page.

Make Like-Minded Friends:

To put into perspective how tightknit our community is, I actually met one of the Power Shift organizers, whom I had been communicating with through email and phone calls for months, for the first time in Standing Rock!

We met on Highway 1806, which as some of you may know as the spot where many of the actions were held. This bridge was the divide between Standing Rock supporters and DAPL police. The weekend we were there, there were two trucks that divided our side from that of DAPL. The trucks were abandoned, yet guarded by the police from a distance, up on the hill about half a mile away.

Photo: features family members. One of them is raising a feather (a symbol of freedom, power, wisdom, honor, trust, strength).

This family, much like many of those who were in Standing Rock that weekend, had walked to the reservation, on foot, from their hometown.

“We walked here for three days from Canada. We forgive you,” as the family member held up a feather to the DAPL police who were there on the other side of the trucks.

From this moment, I realized that it is not about being on sides, about seeing good versus evil, rather it is about unity. His powerful statement showed that we must not forget that life is so much more than looking at the world from an us versus them perspective.

As we sat down on the highway asphalt, I could not help but think about how this commUNITY I had joined a few months earlier and how they genuinely care about the well-being of all people.

After coming back from Standing Rock, I felt like I had a whole new perspective on life, not only because of visiting Standing Rock, but also because I broke away from the Berkeley bubble. That twenty-five hour car drive back gave me a lot of time to be deep in my thoughts, especially in regards to how this experience would shape my views on the upcoming convergence.

The Big Day

To think the six months prior had led up to this one moment is unbelievable. It was in these moments where I learned to organize and incorporate social media into activist events.

Media and Activist Experience:

Not only did our Outreach team utilize social media outlets like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter through livestreams and posts, we also were in collaboration with local organizations in putting together two actions:

The first was the ‘tour of shame’ where we teamed with Rising Tide/Idle No More marching from campus to Downtown Berkeley in an effort to shame the banks that funded the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Photo: Courtesy of PowerShift


During the march: It was here where I was honored to speak with local indigenous environmental activists. Being a quiet reserved college student, I felt that being in this community helped me find my voice.

For the second action, we teamed with the RainForest Action Network to create a human wall on Memorial Glade. We called on partners of PepsiCo to stop palm oil, which displaces elephants and orangutans caused by deforestation of unsustainable palm oil plantations.

Photo: Above features the human wall, spelling out PEPSI

A big takeaway from this experience was being able to meet like-minded individuals to build a sense of community, which is vital for environmental change to be made.

Let me just end with this:

When they say, not all superheroes wear capes, believe them, but note they click attending to environmental justice Facebook events and push for a greater liveable future for all.

Note: Some UC Berkeley CSSC organizers are not featured in this photo

What you can do NOW:

Like the CSSC page to stay connected.
Please note CSSC will be hosting another convergence in the Fall.

If your university would like to host the upcoming convergence, then please contact us at

We hope to see you there!

Spotlight: Francisco Ferreyra on Environmental Justice, Organizing, and Collective Liberation

By. Shanti Belaustegui Pockell

For Francisco Ferreyra, the climate justice movement has always been prevalent in his life. His interest in fighting for a more just and sustainable world first emerged in his hometown of Oxnard, CA. Oxnard is a predominantly Latinx, low income community, that is significantly populated by migrant farm workers – Francisco himself is a first generation child of immigrants. The town that Francisco grew up in is, in a large part, a sacrifice zone –there are Superfund sites that have been left unattended to, three large power plants on the beach that power the rest of the county, and corporations like Monsanto constantly trying to take advantage of the community. When I spoke with him, Francisco stated that early on he started asking why his town seemed to be getting the short end of the stick, and that he soon started making connections that perhaps it was something deeply systemic where great oppressive forces were at work. Perhaps it was because corporations and the politically elite realized that many people in Oxnard did not speak English, were caught up in working nine to five jobs, and simply did not have the right kind of power or time to organize against what was happening. Francisco articulated that, because of this, Oxnard has always seemed to be on the “frontlines of climate change in a lot of ways,” and that the connections between social justice issues and the environment were always quite clear.

Francisco did not learn about environmental issues like most of us did in a classroom. He learned about them because the very air that he breathed was polluted and because there were toxic sites close to where he lived. Even when Francisco did start learning about sustainability in a more formal setting, it was hard to relate to when most people working in the field were white men who did not look like him and spoke through a narrative of colonialism that seemed to exclude many people from the movement.

When Francisco started asking himself what he could do for his community, he found himself trying to identify the biggest, most universal problems. It didn’t take long to realize that the greatest single issue was climate change. Francisco calls the climate crisis “the greatest social justice issue of our time,” and recognizes that it is not just a question of the environment, but that it is also a question of economic security, human rights, public health, food scarcity, and so much more. Climate change affects people of color, women, and the poor the most, and so Francisco is adamant that these are the people we need to get behind and that the climate movement must be intersectional – addressing multifaceted forms of oppression – if it is going to be effective at all.

Considering Francisco’s past, the incredible work he is doing now to enact change seems meant to be. Francisco is a student at UC Davis, currently working towards a Bachelor’s in Community and Regional Development. His studies mainly focus on devising a better society – thinking about what a better world could look like in terms of housing, education, politics, economics, culture, etc.  Francisco is devoted to helping out disadvantaged communities like the city he grew up in, and fighting the oppressive forces that inflict such struggles. As Francisco said, “Global change starts at home and revolution has to begin in our own backyards.”

Francisco identifies primarily with being an organizer. He is first and foremost an organizer for Fossil Free UC, but is also the Environmental Sustainability Officer for the UC Student Association, was a co-director for West Sprog (a by-youth, for-youth, grassroots leadership training program sponsored by the Sierra Student Coalition), and helps run the Solidarity Organizing Program (SOP) for California Student Sustainability Coalition. Francisco articulated that “Students have a legacy of being on the forefront of social change, and given the political climate, it is our responsibility to be the leaders that our communities need us to be.”

The Solidarity Organizing Program that Francisco works with is a decentralized campaign that seeks to uplift the cross-regional consciousness of social and environmental justice issues. As Francisco Stated, “If communities on the front lines want people to show up for us, we have to show up for them as well.” SOP is trying to increase their agency, and provide the resources, for independent organizers to win battles in their communities. Whether it be a battle against state-sanctioned violence like ICE deportation, or a local candidate that is running for office that takes money from Chevron, SOP will be there. SOP creates and distributes curriculum that teaches people how to be leaders, build coalitions, communicate with the media and greater public, and how to devise their own personal narratives. It also teaches numerous formal anti-oppression principles. Francisco noted that SOP is teaching people to grow not just by learning, but by unlearning many systems of oppression that have become ingrained in our everyday life.

Francisco acknowledges that a recurring criticism of the environmental justice movement is that there are so many separate issues and groups to rally around that it seems  overwhelming. However, he stated that SOP emphasizes collective liberation, saying that, “Your liberation is directly intertwined with mine, and so when you succeed I succeed.” SOP is simply trying to help people get involved in movements. He stated that we tend to have a lot more in common than we do not, and that we just have to be ready to show up for each other. As Francisco put it, “If someone wants to build an education program for youth in the community, we will help you. If they want to directly fight a multi-billion dollar gas company (like in Oxnard), we will help them. There are so many different ways to fight for the movement, and we have to employ a wide diversity of tactics. We are down for whatever your cause is as long as the end goal is liberation.”

The intersystemic and intersectional world of environmental justice organizing and liberation can be overwhelming for budding activists to take in. However, Francisco has some tips:

  • Recognize the importance of people power, and how effective just showing up is.
  • Nurture coalitions and relationships; build leaders up.
  • Entice people to be down with the movement,“If you set yourself on fire with enthusiasm, people will come from miles away just to watch you burn! Try not to be embarrassed, shy, or scared to speak truth to power”
  • Fill the void — Do things that others are not doing.
  • Read radical literature (such as pieces written by previous revolutionaries) in order to think critically about where we are, as well as the justification and means for revolt.
  • Defend your community, but also defend yourself and your privacy. Use encrypted messaging tools like Signal to guard your organization online.
  • Use your privilege, whatever it is, to uplift narratives of the historically oppressed. “Grab a microphone, grab a pen, a marker or paintbrush and rewrite your people’s history and narratives.”
  • Talk about it . We have to be talking about these things that are happening in our world every day to keep the momentum going.

Talking to Francisco was extremely invigorating, refreshing, and uplifting. Curriculum for the Solidarity Organizing Program will be available soon so that people can take it and bring it to communities and campuses everywhere. Although Francisco is very involved in the environmental justice movement, he still states that “It is a struggle, and the work that I do is frighteningly insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but if I can only be a flicker of light in a sea of darkness that is fine with me. If I can just reach one person, or do a little bit, that is cool with me.”

Protests: The Heritage of the United States

Photo: Brandon Yadegari,

By. Josh Cozine

Looking as far back as the Boston Tea Party, The United States of America was founded on protest. Our very first amendment was crafted to forever grant the citizens of our nation the ability to peacefully assemble and air their grievances against the state without fear of retaliation. Since then this right has been passionately exercised to achieve many of our most important social progressions.

Women’s Suffrage marches and protests along with Labor Rights actions and unionized strikes made their impact on American history in the early 1900s. The Civil Rights movement helped peoples of color and other marginalized communities achieve equal status (at least under the law) with heavy use of non violent protest and peaceful gatherings throughout the 1950s and 60s. The 70s saw huge waves of anti-war protesters voicing their outrage towards losing so many people and resources on a losing political war across the globe. It is impossible to tell the story of American History without constantly mentioning protests.

More recently, protests have once again erupted across the nation, with sadly many of the same concerns possibly under attack from the new presidential administration. Many marginalized communities once again feel that their rights have been ignored, impeded on, or will be left not properly addressed under our current government, and so have come together to voice their dissent.

Two of our own CSSC members, Dylan Ruan and Brandon Yadegari, were happy to share and speak out on their experiences and motivations for attending some of these recent movements, marches, and protests.

Protestors shut down traffic in front of Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. Photo: Dylan Ruan

Occupy LAX and the travel ban:

Since taking office President Donald Trump has signed a flurry of executive orders, many aimed at attempting to make good on some of his more controversial campaign promises.

One such order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, led to nationwide protests against its aim to ban or restrict entry into the US based on nationality.

Dylan Ruan, was able to attend the thousands strong crowd that showed up to protest the signing of such a discriminatory order at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). “I have friends overseas that would be affected by this order, and I also felt somewhat compromised as a part of a minority, even if not from one of the targeted countries,” says Ruan. “This whole election was full of anger and hate, and I think it’s important for minorities and those who feel marginalized to come together where they can feel more visible and have a larger voice.”

“Policies such as these directly affect people like me and my family,” says Brandon Yadegari, recent UCSB graduate of Global Studies and CSSC member. “My father is Iranian and came here back in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution to escape political strife and religious persecution, much the same as today’s immigrants are trying to do. My mother is Mexican.”

Yadegari goes on to reflect, “It seems like a lot of the current administration’s policies are aimed at those who are ‘different.’ It wasn’t until after I returned from the Occupy LAX action that this interesting thought came to mind: My mother and father would have never met, and I would have never been born if something like this executive order had existed years ago.”

On November 15th, 2016, hundreds of water protectors and their allies obstruct the movement of Dakota Access LLC construction equipment. Allies form a front line, kneeling between police and Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota elders in prayer. Photo: Brandon Yadegari,

Pipeline Memorandums and Standing Rock:

In addition to executive orders, the White House has also released numerous Presidential Memorandums. Memorandums function nearly the same as executive orders, with one of the main differences being memorandums are typically used to direct specific departments or agencies to complete specific tasks. In the case of the Presidential Memorandum Regarding Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline it orders the United States Army Corps of Engineers to expedite actions to review and approve all necessary permits, easements and ‘such other federal approvals as may be necessary,’ and sends a clear message of the president’s stance towards the rights of indigenous peoples and the sovereignty of Native American tribes.

An ally kneels in prayer at the site of a November 15th, 2016 action to obstruct the movement of construction equipment to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site. Photo: Brandon Yadegari,

Brandon Yadegari recently had the opportunity to go to Standing Rock, ND, and lend his assistance to the indigenous peoples protesting and fighting for their rights, but more importantly to them, the future safety of their water. “I felt like I had to go when I saw the chance to. I had been wanting to help in some way and went with another group of organizers bringing donations, supplies, and money to help out,” Yadegari explains. “I think it’s super important, especially for students with their different backgrounds and coming from so many different institutions, to reflect on how they got to such a place, and if they realize they came from a place of privilege to think on that and how it can be used to help others less privileged going forward.”

“I arrived early in November just after the election results were known,” Yadegari says. “Honestly not much changed in the next few days, and the people there felt mostly the same. Construction of the pipeline had been continuing under Obama. The tribes feel both administrations are complicit in this situation, but I do fear there may be greater violence under the incoming administration.”

Protestors gather around the White House after a speech from Sen. Bernie Sanders. Photo: Dylan Ruan

Halfway across the country, at nearly the same time, Dylan Ruan was attending a noDAPL protest in Washington DC. “I had been following the Dakota Access Pipeline events and decided to go to this protest while I was in DC,” Ruan says. “I was excited to hear some of the highlight speakers, including: Shailene Woodley, Bill Mckibben, and Bernie Sanders. I took some videos of the protest and speakers and shared them online. I don’t really post updates very often so this ended up getting a lot of responses and opened the door to a lot of conversations I might not have had otherwise.”

Local Movements:

While the protests mentioned have taken place in higher profile areas, it is not always necessary to travel across the country, and there are usually things you can do within your own communities or institutions to help. The Women’s March on January 21 took place across the nation in hundreds of locations. “I went to show my support personally and to show that there are plenty of men who support women’s causes as well,” Brandon Yadegari says regarding his attendance at the march held in San Luis Obispo.

Boycotts can be another useful tool. “I helped get signatures for a petition to get our bookstore at UCSB to stop purchasing products from certain companies when these companies were found to employ workers in sweatshop conditions. We threatened direct action but got the purchasing redirected without having to,” Yadegari explains, showing how change can be achieved at the local level.

Protests and Purpose:

Protests should have a purpose. Whether it be confiscating and throwing tea into a harbor to protest taxation without representation, making an already sluggish airport slower to voice protest over a discriminatory and unconstitutional order, or camping near a river to promote the belief that clean water is more worth protecting than crude oil.

“When we organize we need to be more than just against something, we need to be for something,” Ruan says in concluding. “I attended a not-my-president march as well. I don’t want to downplay people’s frustrations at the time, and I think it was very important for them to have the opportunity to vent, but these marches and protests don’t have the same impact as movements like the women’s march and noDAPL, focusing on women’s rights and health issues, and clean water and marginalized communities.”

Kristyn Payne – CSSC Spotlight

By. Drew Story

The California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) has had immense impact in developing California students into leaders. Comprising a diverse team of individuals, each with a different story to tell, unified by common goals and passions, CSSC paves the way for students to achieve measurable results for the cause of holistic sustainability. Kristyn Payne, Program Manager of the CSSC Writing Program, is one of those individuals for whom CSSC has helped grow into a sustainability leader.

I sat down with Kristyn to try and uncover why she was drawn to CSSC, how she has been involved since that time, how CSSC has impacted her life and her professional career, and why she thinks the mission of CSSC is central to California’s political and educational climate.

Beginning her undergraduate degree at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) in 2012, Kristyn was a political science major who, midstream, found herself drawn to environmental studies. As she transitioned into her new college major, she began taking more interest in plugging into various environmental clubs on campus. Not looking for a leadership role, Kristyn was satisfied to merely participate and learn about this new interest of hers.  

Kristyn recalls reading an announcement for a CSSC Student Convergence happening in Humboldt, CA in the fall of 2013. A Humboldt hometownee herself, that trip seemed like a two birds – one stone scenario; attend an interesting event, and visit friends and family back home. In the carpool on the way to Humboldt from Santa Barbara, Kristyn realized just how diverse the occupants of the carpool were, differing from her in terms of cultural background, geographic roots, and their respective interests. Yet, this diversity was magnified even more so at the convergence, wherein Kristyn realized she had never before felt so inspired and challenged. She never before attended an event so inclusive and able to unify so many different people under a common interest.

The CSSC Convergence was so focused on the student voice, and the power that students wield, often unwittingly, that Kristyn was eternally changed by it. She says this was her first true exposure to the intricacies and interdependencies of sustainability and social justice. This pushed her to think beyond the environmental movement she had been increasingly taking part in.

From this point on, she was hooked. She pursued the opportunity to help plan the next convergence, conveniently slated to happen at UCSB. Shortly thereafter, she began to volunteer as the CSSC Newsletter Coordinator and stayed in that position for a year and a half.

She continually developed her skills and leadership capabilities, but when an opening was announced for the Online Communications Coordinator position, Kristyn was not sure she was fit for the job. But the CSSC Leadership had identified the potential in Kristyn, and with their encouragement and support, she ultimately applied for and accepted the position. This new vantage point gave Kristyn the ability to identify places where CSSC could continue grow as an organization. The semi-annual convergences provided the chance for Kristyn to lend her talents to the team as a facilitator of the event planning process. But in turn, she was able to pass her knowledge and experience to other students and has increased CSSC’s capacity for hosting the engaging and empowering events that were the cause of her initial experience with CSSC. She also felt that CSSC had the capacity to organically foster the development of student leaders across California, and wanted to see more opportunities for students to be involved. She floated the idea of a volunteer writing program, in which students from across the state could write about salient sustainability issues on their individual campuses and amplify the student voice from across California. She presented the idea at the 2016 CSSC Summer Leadership Retreat and the idea was approved as pilot project. You are only reading this now because the program has taken off and begun to take form as that vehicle for student development.

Beyond this measurable increase in CSSC’s coverage of student perspectives, Kristyn is perhaps most appreciative for how the organization has pushed her out of her comfort zone and helped her see the value that interdisciplinarity can have when uniting students towards common goals. She has consistently focused on the institutional aspect of sustainability; the program management on campuses, helping students and groups write grant proposals for sustainability projects, and helping students take ideas off of paper and put them into practice.

As is true for most people who engage in sustainability long enough, Kristyn is familiar with the feeling of the dire nature of sustainability, for our world, and for humanity. But this daunting feeling reinforced her value that a coalition of diverse people with a common passion and a willingness to work together for common goals is paramount to the success of any sustainability movement. Framing her involvement in the movement as a whole, which Kristyn admits feels small at times, in this context helps her stay motivated to continue fighting for the continued impact CSSC can have in California, now and into the future. The network of individuals Kristyn has come to know all share her passion and have proven to be a dependable source of inspiration and resourcefulness, and she knows that this bond will remain intact as students leave their California campuses and go on to different places, doing different things for sustainability.

Kristyn wholeheartedly believes that CSSC has a large role to play in the continued improvement of the educational and political climate in California. While students on California campuses are being stretched and challenged, CSSC provides the space and resources for students to engage with and propel from each other. What is born at a CA Community College can find traction at a UC, and what works as a “best practice” at a UC may save a student group at a California State University a lot of time and energy as they work towards a similar goal. CSSC is the uniting force behind cohesive and sustained progress across the state, and it is this community, this genuine connection to each other and to the shared goal of improving sustainability that has kept Kristyn involved with CSSC for so long, and why she feels she is better leader and a better person having been part of it.

Ask Your Campus if Divestment is the Right Choice

Show them why they are wrong if they say no.
By: Josh Cozine

Every great now and again the long term economic advantages of investing in an industry, and our collective understanding of the ethics involved in continuing to do so, come to a distinct crossroads.

Disinvesting, or divesting, is one tool used in such circumstances, and is the process through which a group or organization pull their money out of potentially dangerous or socially harmful investments. Past instances include divestment from many South African companies to combat state sponsored racism during apartheid, as well as many institutions divesting from tobacco companies in the 1990’s to early 2000’s as health concerns and lawsuits against tobacco companies reached a critical mass.

Many student led groups and environmental organizations are now pushing for divestment from fossil fuel industries under some of the same arguments: investing in, and the ultimate burning of fossil fuels contributes negatively to human health and the health of our shared environment.

Getting such movements accomplished on a national or even statewide scale can take decades or be nearly impossible with legislative red tape. However, on the local level great strides can be made.

Campus Campaigns:

CSU Chico:
In December of 2014 CSU Chico made national history by becoming the first public university to pledge to fully divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The victory, culminating in an 8-4 vote by the University Foundation’s Board of Governors in favor of divestment, came about only after three semesters of planning, work, and activism by a group of students and their professor of a course entitled Environmental Thought and Action.

According to Kevin Killion, previous Council Chair here with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and one of the co-coordinators of the students at Chico State running the project, their campaign can be divided into three different segments, with each being the primary focus of one semester’s work. “The first semester was primarily information gathering and planning. Finding which documents we needed to fill out, where the fossil fuel money was being invested, and who we needed to convince, which our professor, ‘Dr. Mark,’ was incredibly helpful with,” Kevin recalls.

When questioned about how exactly he was able to help as a faculty member involved with the push to divest, Professor of Geography Mark Stemen, whose courses place a large emphasis on the environment and working with local communities, responded, “I was able to help by getting signatures from over 100 other faculty members on a petition to divest, as well helping the students to understand administrative policies and how to work to change them. Often times this could be just as simple as pointing students to the right documents to fill out, or knowing who to email or call and where to start.”

During the next semester students gathered signatures for petitions and put forth their measure to be included in the Associated Students student election, written such that a yes vote will direct student elected leaders to encourage the University to fully divest. Students then took their message public, with large scale demonstrations around campus, including a ‘human oil spill,’ and a banner drop from one of their largest buildings.



(Left: Students Drop banners to spell out the word DIVEST. Photo from Chico State Geography and Planning Dept website. Right: Chico state students create a mock oil spill as a demonstration to inform and educate students. Photo from Chico State newsletter The Orion, photo credit: Emily Teague.)

Along with this students set up social media campaigns as well as distributing orange square patches to be worn by student supporters while placing orange square signs all across campus as a symbol of the cause. All this and more led to an atmosphere of campus wide awareness leading to the measure passing at 85% yes for all students who voted.

The third and final segment of the campaign involved lobbying and working with the foundation and board before they made their final vote on whether or not funds would be divested. Kevin notes here that, “It is important to maintain a respectful yet confident demeanor with administration in this regard.”

Direct action and activism can be useful tools for garnering student support and getting your groups voice heard, but after doing so, attempting to reach out and work together with board members can actually work. By crafting thoughtful presentations to help inform the board of the inherent hypocrisy of investing in fossil fuels while claiming to be a University dedicated to sustainability, and by showing examples of other institutions successful divestments, with little to no monetary loss, the students were able to persuade the board to fully divest.

(The Ayes have it! Board approves CSU Chico Foundation fund to divest from fossil fuels holdings by 8-4 margin. Photo from The Orion, photo credit: David McVicker)

In May of 2014 Stanford University’s Board of Trustees voted to remove all of its investments in coal. This vote, passed by the Stanford Board of Trustees, did not come up as a part of due course, but happened once again on the back of years of work and organization by students of the campus. Of special note are the members of Fossil Free Stanford. Started near the end of 2012, Fossil Free Stanford (FFS) formed with the goal of convincing Stanford to divest from all fossil fuel industries. After a written letter of intent the group held a march and a rally before they were able to speak with their school investment panel.

(Fossil Free Stanford students, on a march to raise awareness of their cause. Photo from

They then submitted a request for review of fossil fuel investments on the grounds that such industries contribute massively to climate change which may cause dangerous and unforeseen consequences across the globe. “The system for review of investments was already there, which was really nice,” mentions John Ribiero-Broomhead, member of FFS.

Stanford had been a part of the previous South African Apartheid, and tobacco divestment movements, so all the framework needed to start a fossil fuel divestment campaign could be found by looking to past work. The students gathered the required 1000 signature petition in order to get a movement on the ballot for the student body to vote if in favor of, or against divestment. They then campaigned before student elections, leading to a 75% vote by students in favor of divestment.

(Members of Fossil Free Stanford. Photo from

While the group took the news of the 2014 coal divestment as a huge win, they remain dedicated to fully divesting their school from all fossil fuels. Shortly following the coal divestment decision, FFS filed another request for review for Stanford’s remaining holdings in the natural gas and oil industries. However, a new addendum had been added to the divestment criteria between the coal decision and their next request for review.

This addendum states that industries must be examined to see if they provide a ‘net social benefit or net social harm,’ before divestment can occur, and due to this addition their request for review was denied. “In this instance Stanford is ignoring their own published research by climate scientists we have within our faculty,” John contends, regarding the notion that oil and gas industries can possibly be viewed to be seen as causing more net good for society than harm.

After spending further months attempting to speak with administration about getting their request reevaluated and subsequently being ignored for months, the members of FFS, and other students in agreement of the divestment movement, staged a nonviolent direct action sit-in event where they camped out in the main quad of the president’s office. Finally, at the end of the week long camp out, the president agreed to a meeting with FFS members.

“Nothing further was promised to be divested that day, but we didn’t see it as a failure, rather we all felt inspired to finally be able to once again have our voices heard, and our concerns responded to,” John says, describing the feelings of those present. “We are also still very hopeful. This happened last year and we now have a new President of the University. Perhaps we won’t need to stage any more direct action events to finish our mission, but we will be ready to if we need to, and Fossil Free Stanford won’t stop until Stanford is fully divested from all fossil fuels.”

Butte College:
Beginning in late 2016, students at my own Butte College formed a group dedicated to getting our campus fully divested from fossil fuels. Butte College has long claimed itself as a leader in sustainability, even offering a certificate in sustainability studies, held by yours truly. Yet when it comes to the matter of divestment, administration has so far failed to lead by example.

“We’re still in the formulation and outreach steps of our campaign, but our next step is going to be drafting a letter to the Butte College Board of Trustees, asking them to make their investments transparent, and to state our intent of getting any investments in the top 200 fossil fuel industries divested elsewhere,” stated Courtney Copper, coordinator of the group, and fellow California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) member. “We’ve also been working with other organizations like the CSSC, FossilFreeUC, as well as working with former members of the Chico State divestment campaign.”

“I’m hopeful,” says Edward Fortenberry, another student working within the campaign when asked his thoughts on what a letter to the board might accomplish. “They seem to be entertaining the idea now,” he also responded regarding the Board of Trustees current attitude toward divestment.

The group is prepared to make plans of direct action events if necessary, hoping to raise awareness amongst the student body in a similar fashion to other campaigns. First though, “You start by talking, then you act,” according JT Abbott, another student member who is responsible for social media and outreach for the group.

“What we need most right now is more members and more people interested,” Courtney said in closing, “And we want all types of people: artists, activists, researchers, and people from other organizations. There’s a place for everyone. We’re a small group right now but have hopes of growing much larger, and I for one am not leaving until I see Butte College divested.”

Start Small, Think Big, Act Responsibly, and Follow Through
One of the aspects that all of these campaigns have had in common is that they all started very small and grew into larger movements. The campaign to divest at Stanford, which successfully convinced the Board of trustees to divest in coal, and continues on with Fossil Free Stanford, started very simply after a group of students heard Bill Mckibben speak one night and decided to meet for pizza after and continue talking about what they could do. The wildly successful Chico State campaign started with the work of one class, and eventually led to it being the first Public University in the US to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry. The Butte College group is currently only a small core of interested students with some support from other divestment organizations, but hopes to grow substantially in the coming semesters, and have promised not to quit until their job is done.

Another point mentioned by all these campaigns that is worth reiterating is to remember to act respectfully and responsibly. Passions can run very high in students when it comes to the areas of sustainable practices and divestment. This is especially true when there is often a generational and emotional gap between the students who will inherit the consequences of such investments, and the administration with an often rigid fiduciary responsibility that favors monetary returns over all else. The different direct action events mentioned throughout the article undoubtedly helped in raising awareness of their issues, but these actions came only after attempts to change things non disruptively, and likely would have accomplished nothing without thorough follow through.

Final Thoughts:
Our modern society and western ways of life are sadly, almost completely intertwined to the present use of fossil fuels, but that does not mean our future has to be. Indeed it must not be, according to nearly unanimous scientific consensus. Which brings us to the final argument, articulated by all of the divestment campaigns mentioned; How can we, as rational beings, continue to invest in a catastrophically environmentally destructive industry that we know must be phased out if we want to continue living on a planet that even resembles what we all now call home?

If you are involved with a group focused on divestment at your California campus and are interested in further help please contact and connect with us here at the CSSC. As divestment becomes a larger movement we hope to have to the chance to cover and share more stories of successful student campaigns. You can also find useful resources as well as like-minded people with experience working towards divestment.

Perspectives from UCOP: Students in Sustainability

S. Drew Story | November, 30, 2016

A despondent cloud hung over the Hay Barn at UC Santa Cruz on November 9. The University of California’s Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC) had convened for their last meeting of 2016, with fewer than 12 hours having passed since Donald Trump had been announced President-elect of the United States.

Janika McFeely (left) and Hilary Bekmann (right)—support staff with the University of California Office of the President (UCOP).


Long tables, scattered with organic coffee, compostable silverware, and various breakfast accoutrements, held the nametags of UC big shots and other GCLC members; vice chancellors, deans, chief officers, vice presidents, professors. Two students had a seat at these tables, and the rest of the expansive barn was filled with UCOP support staff and half a dozen students from across the UC system, present to observe and chime in when the student voice needed magnifying.

Unsurprisingly, it did not take long for a GCLC member to break the silence, but the attempt at a joke fell flat on those of us, the students, who are currently preparing to break into careers that embody sustainability. We who have grand visions of being participants in shifting cultural attitudes for the next 40+ years were just thrown a curveball that most of us are still reeling from. In a matter of moments, we went from relatively conducive federal conditions to a predictably stark contrast of impediments and downright obstruction, the effects of which would remain unknown and perpetually immeasurable.

The students in attendance were either local UCSC students, or Carbon Neutrality Initiative Fellows who had been financially supported to participate in the meeting. Our familiar CNI support administrators were in attendance; Matt St Clair, Abigail Reyes, Janika McFeely, and Hilary Bekmann all made the trip. During the first coffee break, entire conversations were made between us students and these allies with eye contact alone. They understood our burgeoning uncertainty, our struggle to not abandon hope. And they acknowledged our uneasiness without trivializing it, yet required of us to acknowledge the position of influence we all still held as students.

After a few minutes, I finally asked Janika, Sustainability Specialist at UCOP, and Abby Reyes, Director of Sustainability at UC Irvine, “Now what?”

With resolve and empathy, they reminded us that not only do we all still have a role to play, the necessity of our involvement and success was newly emphasized. We still had a UC-wide goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. We still have a zero-waste campaign. Echoing a sentiment I had thought through earlier that morning, Abby said our position in California would shelter us from some of the backsliding that accompanied the shift in values held by the US President-elect. If nothing else, that made our role as student advocates more pronounced. All eyes would be trained on California for the next four years, to continue to be a world leader in sustainability. The birthplace of cultural movements, CA higher education campuses, would now be referenced even more.

Since the time had come for the rubber to meet the road for student involvement, I asked Janika and Hilary to sit down with me after the meeting concluded and let me interview them for their perspective on the role of students in institutional sustainability at the UC going forward. The role of student activists is often easier to understand: show up, unify, be loud, and demand action. But how students fit into the machine of systematic change is not so apparently clear. Ben Sommerkorn had previously shared with me what he thought the student role was, but I expected these UCOP administrators to have a different take on the matter.

“Our job is to serve the mission and you are the mission,” Hilary Bekmann, Associate Director of Sustainability at UCOP remarked in her down-to-business Australian accent. “You are supposed to be telling us what we are supposed to be doing, ‘These are our expectations of you,’ and then keep us accountable to doing that.”  

“So we can send an angry e-mail to Janet Napolitano and it will be read?”

According to Janika, all correspondence to the President gets filtered through the appropriate chains of communication and makes it to the corresponding staff, who then address the messages and respond themselves. “OP responds to consensus, and we are happy to do what the campuses want.” So if students want something, she said, they need to get their campus on board, and then use their allies at other campuses to spread the notion.

What gets in the way of that, Janika laments, is that system-wide decisions and actions almost always outlast a student’s tenure on campus. Efforts like CNI were many years in the making, and will last at least eight more years. She admits that administration struggles to know how to engage students for these types of long-term efforts.

Not only that, Hilary mentions, but it is inherently more difficult to inspire passion in students for a cause the university has already committed to. It is simpler for students to get riled up and demand carbon neutrality than it is to be involved in the nitty gritty of implementing that change. But that is what administration needs from students.

Chancellors accept instruction from UCOP fairly readily. It is the vice chancellors responsible for accommodating and enacting these new directives that are between a rock and a hard place. And without student input, they are left to their own devices to produce the deliverables.

Building on this notion, Janika emphasized that a significant step forward would be for students to remember that administrators are human, too. Most of them care about students, but their daily priorities are often out of sync with what students expect or want to see. So when students can talk with administration about what matters to them, and be prepared to work with them to meet their objectives in a way that satisfies the student desires, progress can be made at the campus-level, which in turn leads to change at the system level.

If administration never hears from students, except that they are dissatisfied, they cannot accomplish what matters to them or in the way they wish. One place to start on each campus is the offices of the Vice Chancellor for Business and Administration Services and Vice Chancellor for Planning and Budget, or their equivalents. These positions are the campus-level decision makers for most things related to sustainability.

In a time of uncertainty and apprehension for the future, students should take heart that we have a role to play in the sustainability of our campuses. It is the job of our administration to listen to us. Not only must we ask for what we want, we have to be willing to continually engage in the process of affecting change. We cannot expect our demands to be met without following through on the process to completion. This necessitates a culture of involvement, not a disparate group of individuals, and dissemination of knowledge and networks. When it is time for student leaders to move on, their legacy will sputter if they fail to equip and empower students to take up the mantle in their stead.

The role of students is large, and has perhaps never been more important than now.

CSSC #NoDAPL Statement

EMERGENCY UPDATE: The final Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) permit has been granted. The Indigenous Coalition at Standing Rock has called for February 8th to be an international day of emergency actions to disrupt business as usual and unleash a global intersectional resisitance to fossil fuels and fascism. 
The California Student Sustainability Coalition stands with Standing Rock and their allies in their struggle to halt construction of DAPL. They are calling for emergency actions all over the world. Please visit to find a #NoDAPL action near you TODAY.

UC students mobilize to demand divestment from the Dakota Access Pipeline, fossil fuel industry

On Thursday, Feb. 2 at 12 p.m. over 350 students took action across the University of California (UC) campuses to voice their opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and demand that the university system divest from fossil fuels. Students called out the UC’s investment in the two companies building the pipeline and demanded that Regent Sherman, Chair of the Investment Subcommittee, lead the UC in full divestment from fossil fuels, for Indigenous people and the planet.

“Water protectors are peacefully defending Mother Earth while the fossil fuel industry pushes for this pipeline, despite its ability to burst and cause irreparable damage. The human rights violations against water protectors taking place at the Oceti Sakowin Camp are unconscionable” says Christina Acosta, first year PhD student at UC Merced.  

Students oppose UC system’s investments in the Dakota Access Pipeline and call for the UC to lead in full divestment from fossil fuels.

The action comes on just a day after the Army Corps of Engineers was directed to expedite its review of the easement request for the Dakota Access Pipeline, by the acting secretary of the Army, after President Donald Trump’s executive action concerning the pipeline over a week ago. With the approval process of the pipeline newly expedited, and yesterday’s raid and round of arrests at the Last Child Camp nearby the main Oceti Sakowin Camp where water protectors have been peacefully occupying for over a year, students are urgently demanding the UC stand with students and against the companies behind the pipeline and the rest of the fossil fuel industry.

“We, the students of the University of California do not support the Dakota Access Pipeline that will poison the life source of hundreds of thousands of beings. Regent Sherman must divest from his investments in the destruction of indigenous land and the environment, and students are prepared to do whatever is necessary to push Regent Sherman to divest from the companies behind DAPL and the fossil fuel industry that pushes for these kinds of projects” says Burgundy Gregg Fletcher, at fifth year student at UC San Diego.

The coordinated actions were organized by members of North American Indian student groups and Fossil Free UC. The UC currently has over two billion dollars invested in fossil fuels and more than three million dollars invested in companies behind DAPL. Thursday’s action comes after years of campaigning against the UC’s involvement with fossil fuels and months of protest against DAPL. The organizers and participants are hopeful that this joint action will spark change on both a national and university level.

Student groups will continue to plan divestment and No DAPL actions, with bolder action this spring and continuing pressure until the UC divests from the companies building the pipeline.

Spotlight – Kyle Fischler

Pictured above: Kyle Fischler

By: Dylan Ruan

In the internal management of a nonprofit, the question of funding is unavoidable.

Nonprofits like CSSC serve their goals by providing community services, energetic events, and transformative programs. Kyle Fischler, treasurer of CSSC, balances the budget to help keep these things coming.

From a young age, Kyle became familiar with the concept of sustainability when the Boy Scouts instilled him with the proverb, leave no trace. “It wasn’t until I took environmental studies courses at UCSB that I realized sustainability wasn’t just about leaving no trace in nature,” Kyle said. 

UCSB is not only where Kyle became more in tune with sustainability, but also where he began coordinating sustainable practices. A campus affairs coordinator position with Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) eventually led Kyle to sit on the Campus Sustainability Committee as a student representative. These experiences allowed him to observe how sustainability is managed as a whole, where money is spent, and how policy is set.

Above all, Kyle learned that students could have a role in sustainability as well.

As CSSC’s treasurer, Kyle’s responsibilities include balancing the budget and overseeing grant writing. A job like this comes with its challenges. For one, the goal of many of CSSC’s programs is to help volunteers develop the proper skills to become effective communicators and community organizers. These skills, unless directly linked to a tangible result like the launch of a campaign – UC Fossil-Free comes to mind, can lead to some hesitation by potential funders. 

This is where the CSSC development director often steps in with a strategic plan to help the organization coordinate its fundraising efforts to attract funders who share similar goals with CSSC. Kyle, the development director, and other CSSC stakeholders merge their efforts in order to create program budgets for CSSC and seek out funders who see the value in the skills that CSSC provides for its members.

CSSC holds an annual convergence that gathers students interested in sustainability from across the state. The organization’s most recent convergence, at De Anza College, was particularly satisfying for Kyle. “CSSC’s community is what keeps me coming back,” he said. Although Kyle’s planning role in the CSSC convergence was limited, he provided financial back-end support for essential paperwork that balanced the convergence budget and stamped out insurance.

Kyle’s work usually goes on behind-the-scenes, but is vital towards ensuring that CSSC’s programs continue to teach, train, and inspire students across the state to advocate for social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

Thousands Participate In #ResistRejectDenial Demanding Institutions Divest From Fossil Fuels

Pictured above: Students rally at the entrance of the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)

Within 100 hours of Donald Trump’s inauguration, in the first and largest youth-led mobilization of 2017, thousands of students across the country walked-out of class in protest of Trump and his corrupt fossil fuel billionaire cabinet. The Monday mobilization came just two days after nearly 3 million people mobilized in Women’s Marches around the world. Students on dozens of campuses demanded that their administrations resist and reject Trump’s climate denial cabinet by divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting in solutions to the climate crisis.

The Day of Action dubbed #ResistRejectDenial marked the first action of the year for students in the University of California (UC) system as part of a pledge to take bold action until Richard Sherman, Chair of the UC Regents Committee on Investments, makes full divestment possible for the UC system. The pledge was launched by UC students last November.

“Today we join over 50 campuses walking out for divestment,” said Tyler Jacobson of UC Berkeley. “As the new administration begins their work, we continue our resistance.”

“I am here today because I can’t stand by and do nothing while others die to serve the needs of the elite few,” said Joia Fishman of UCSC.

“Our climate is like a car hurtling towards the edge of a cliff, and we need the entire world to collectively help step on the brake,” said Aya Rosenfield of UC Berkeley. “A full UC-wide divestment is the first action needed in order to add California’s weight to the fight against global warming.”

“Students across the nation took action today by walking out of their classrooms in protest of Persistent Trump’s regressive climate policy,” said UCSC’s Sam Weinstein. “UC students call on Regent Richard Sherman and the rest of the Board of Regents to address this threat by fully divesting from fossil fuels. The whole world is watching, Regent Sherman. Tick, tock.”

Shortly before Trump’s inauguration last week, Weinstein addressed:

“It is no coincidence that 2016 was the third year in a row of record high annual temperatures. The symptoms of global warming are accelerating, and we must respond accordingly; if we do not, we will hand off a deathly ill environment to yet another future generation with even less chance of preserving quality of life than we had. Climate change is the most pervasive threat to ever affect our species. Everyone on Earth, and every kingdom of living thing will feel the pressure of a changing climate. It is our duty to act. The University of California: an institution priding itself on initiatives of sustainability and producer of world leading climate research, still supports the fossil fuel industry with $2.8 billion. Just as it is the duty of our generation to lead the world through this just transition to a global sustainable standard of living, it is the duty of the UC and Regent Richard Sherman to lead with us. Beginning this Friday, January 20th, the US national government will no longer have our back. The onus is on the UC Regents to protect our wellbeing, and our future. This, above all else, is why I support and fight for fossil fuel divestment. Regent Sherman, your next move is now a matter of national importance. It is with this in mind that the UCSC community, and institutions around the country walk out of their classrooms on Monday, January 23rd.”

Students and youth have been a driving force leading the fossil fuel divestment movement to be the mainstream global movement it is today, with over 600 institutions across 76 countries representing more than $5.2 trillion in assets committing to some level of divestment.

“In the face of Trump’s dangerous climate denial, youth are rising up,” said Greta Neubauer, Director of the Divestment Student Network. “For any chance at curbing the worst impacts of climate change, our universities must stand on the right side of history with students and take action now against Trump’s climate denial. We won’t allow Trump and his fossil fuel billionaire cabinet to foreclose on our future.”

Prior to election day, young people proved themselves a force to be reckoned with. This was demonstrated in unprecedented political engagement throughout the election, challenging candidates to take stronger stances on climate, as well as in youth organized sit-ins at senate offices, engagement in mass mobilizations such as Women’s Marches and the #DayAgainstDenial, and rallying to oppose Trump’s corrupt climate-denying appointees.

Young people have been a driving factor in pushing our institutions to stand on the right side of history, with two consecutive years of on-campus escalation from 100 campuses, resulting in over 30 arrests, with victories at the University of Massachusetts and University of Oregon. Since 2014, thousands of students across the country have participated in national escalation for fossil fuel divestment.

Beyond fossil fuel divestment, young people are taking action to ensure elected officials take necessary action on climate and against Big Oil. In an ongoing lawsuit, 21 young people from across the United States filed a landmark lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to address the effects of climate change.

“This is a wake up call to Donald Trump; there are almost 75 million people in this country under the age of 18,” said Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Youth Director of Earth Guardians and a plaintiff in the federal climate change lawsuit. “We didn’t have an opportunity to vote in the past election, but we will suffer the consequences of climate inaction to a greater degree than any living generation. Our right to a just and livable future is nonnegotiable.”

Just last week, the World Meteorological Organization confirmed that 2016 was the hottest year on record, and the second hottest year in U.S. history surpassing records of 2015 and 2014. Extreme weather, including storms, floods and droughts, are impacting communities at a pace and magnitude far exceeding previous predictions, making it even more crucial that institutions divest and take meaningful action on climate.

“Hope is something we must create. In this moment, the best way to do that is by taking action and showing that we will rise to this moment,” said Neubauer. “When it comes to climate change, time is not on our side. This is just the beginning of the opposition that the Trump’s administration should expect from young people.”

Rising Up To Resist Trump’s Climate Denial

Picture found at Fossil Free.

A climate denier has just been sworn in as President, and youth and students are rising up.

As people dedicated to challenging the regressive political momentum and power in order to contribute to a world where equity and solutions to climate change are favored over corporate profits, we are stepping up the pressure to demand our institutions stand on the right side of history and to not stand complacently in the face of Trump’s climate denial and the urgent climate crisis we are facing.

This is why students in our coalition are joining a nationwide Day of Action on Monday, January 23rd in the first 100 hours after Trump’s inauguration. As part of the first and largest youth-led mobilization under the new administration, California students will walk out of class to resist and reject Trump’s unacceptable climate denial. California students will also call on their campuses to divesting from the fossil fuel industry and reinvesting in solutions to our collective future. Our institutions must stand up for future generations and take leadership on climate justice.

Join or organize an action near you, and follow it on Facebook or Twitter via the hashtag #ResistRejectDenial.

A (Loud) Student Voice in Institutional Sustainability

S. Drew Story | October 20, 2016

“I don’t care about the data. Stop talking about the data,” he pleaded to the committee member. “Students want to talk about justice, not about how many ppb’s [of CO2] are in the atmosphere.”

Benjamin Sommerkorn may be the newest member of the University of California Sustainability Steering Committee (SSC), but that certainly does not mean he will be sitting in the shadows of the room, quietly watching the action unfold.

Ben is the singular graduate student from within the UC system is chosen to serve on both the Global Climate Leadership Council (GCLC) and the SSC. And he plans to keep his seat on both for as long as he’s around. Ben explains the difference between the two groups as the GCLC being a think tank, with its main goal being to provide guidance to the UC on how it can meet its sustainability goals, and the SSC being a physician, prescribing specific recommendations to the Executive Vice President for Business Operations. The groups have some predictable synergy, and more than half of the members sit on both, including Ben.

Ben is a third year PhD student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California, Riverside, and has earned the reputation of a sustainability activist who is not afraid to call out the elephants in any room. His boldness stems from his admission that he cannot reconcile being an intellectual, much less someone concerned with injustice, if he does not fight for sustainability in the most holistic sense. That is, recognizing the three pillars of sustainability; social equality, environment, and economic. “It’s the most important issue of our time,” he said, almost nonchalantly, as though it was not even a topic that is up for debate.

President Janet Napolitano’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI) is an integral part of the system’s sustainability goals. It, along with its sister effort, the Global Food Initiative, supports 1-year fellowships for UC students to develop and execute projects with those respective themes. Ben was a 2014-2015 CNI fellow, and has not looked back from the fight for sustainability since that first shot in the arm.

I first met Ben while sitting in the Office of Sustainability at UCR, waiting to hear that we had been accepted to the program. We both shared similar accounts of having become aware of the program through a weekly e-newsletter circulated to graduate students, including the acknowledgement that we are somewhat unusual to have read the whole thing.

The source of that common bond, our similar proclivities to be aware of what is going on on-campus, has proven to be a main difference between our ability to get involved in sustainability and that of the typical UC graduate student. Students are often simply not aware of what the UC is doing behind closed doors, and how they fit into the big picture of sustainability.

Ben could not pass up the chance to peek behind the curtain, to see the cogs and gears moving, once he heard the graduate student spot on the GCLC/SSC was opening up. He knows he wants to be involved in policy after finishing his PhD, so getting involved in sustainability outside of the lab during his tenure as a student is a natural fit.

When asked what he wants to accomplish this year, he mentioned two main ideas. “I want to hold the UC’s feet to the fire to follow through with their declared goals and implement robust change, to concurrently get the system to listen to students and to see the sustainability problem for what it is, something that cannot be ignored, something that needs to be addressed with urgency and commitment, not something that can tolerate the sluggishness of the beast,” he rattled off to me in one breath. When pressed further for more explicit details on what he sees as the problem, Ben admits he’s not worried about the planet at all. “The earth will be fine. But we will not.”

“In academia, we forget that issues of sustainability hit poor people first, persons of color first, women first, long before they hit the radar of the big wigs in their corner offices.” This is Ben’s bread and butter, pointing out the privilege we both have to even be able to talk about sustainability, much less devote time and effort to it. “The level of inequality we have in the US is unsustainable. We constantly produce and enslave poor people overseas to produce “useful” stuff we don’t need. And if the drought persists [in California], it will be the poor people who suffer. Rich people can pay for water no matter the price.”

Ben is committed to advocating for students, not only in the big picture of sustainability, but also at a personal level. “Students are hurting, man,” he laments, “and for us to not have conversations about inequality, funding the UC, administration pay, tuition, all these things that affect our student body’s ability to be change makers, it’s not right.”

“I want to put those students in the face of the GCLC and the SSC members.”

How can other students, not on the GCLC or SSC, get involved in solutions for sustainability? Ben’s answer: “The sad truth is, they don’t.” Ben knows that is not true in the literal sense; he has a manner of speaking in hyperbole when he gets excited. He clarified that there are few visible or straightforward pipelines for students to contribute to the betterment of the UC in terms of sustainability.

“We only found out about this [GCLC] because we were already connected through CNI,” he reminded me. “We need to find ways to make this [type of] information known to students, and galvanize them to be able to make a difference.” A similar explanation applies to our knowledge of the City of Riverside’s Mayor’s Sustainability Council. “We only learned of that through the UCR Carbon Slam, which, again, we only knew about because of CNI.”

Ben predicts the key to bending the curve will be direct action on the part of students. The sluggishness of change in the UC system is such that 4-year students are relatively transient visitors. (This is an almost identical point Will Carlon made in my last piece.) Students must be equipped to leverage what energy they do have with the short time they are here, and that requires them to know what is going on at a localized level and show up. Before that can occur, Ben insists that we must let students know how sustainability affects them. Ben challenges us to illustrate the connection between the tuition they pay, the food they eat, the jobs that will or will not be waiting for them after graduation, and the literal environment in which they will live. All of these things are intrinsically linked to the UC operating sustainably. “I don’t see robust change happening without strong student leadership and involvement, at least not at the pace we need it to happen.”

Ben is doing his part in our collective fight for sustainability, representing all of us at the Global Climate Leadership Council and Sustainability Steering Committee with his trademark candor and spirit. We at CSSC support his efforts and are working alongside Ben to empower and elevate the student voice in sustainability.

College Administrators Take Note: Divestment from Fossil Fuels Passes $5 Trillion

Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc

College administrators take note: the global movement to divest from fossil fuels is growing—and faster than ever. Marking the movement’s remarkable success, a report from last month shows the value of funds controlled by individuals and institutions who have vowed to dump their fossil fuels assets now surpasses $5 trillion. California students are now waiting for their administrators to be leaders in divestment by fully divesting from fossil fuels as their New Year’s resolution.

California students also are joining the nationwide Day of Action on January 23rd in the first 100 hours after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration. Students are calling on their campuses to resist and reject the incoming Trump administration’s climate denial by divesting from the fossil fuel industry and reinvesting in solutions to the climate crisis. You can find an action near you to attend or sign up to hold a new one on this website.

The global movement to divest from fossil fuels has already doubled in size since September 2015, according to the third annual Global Fossil Fuel Divestment and Clean Energy Investment Movement report from Arabella Advisors. This report, released by the Divest-Invest network, comes exactly one year after world governments reached the Paris agreement on climate change. That agreement, the report says, “bolstered the economic arguments underpinning divestment, validating it as a key tool for achieving the agreements goals.”

Global commitments to divest have reached 688 institutions across 76 countries, representing $5 trillion in assets under management. Notable announcements include Dublin’s Trinity College, 16 universities in the UK, the Islamic Society of North America, the American Public Health Association, and more.

May Boeve, Executive Director, declared: “In the face of intensifying climate impacts, and regressive and anti-climate governments like the Trump administration, it’s more critical than ever that our institutions—especially at the local level—step up to break free from fossil fuel companies.”

What started as a campaign on university campuses in the United States has now become a mainstream, global movement permeating every sector of society. Divestment commitments and campaigns stem from all types of institutions: from universities and pension funds, to faith-based groups and health organizations, to the insurance sector and cultural institutions, and more.

As the movement celebrates this tremendous milestone, it recognizes the increasingly urgent need for bold and swift action on the climate crisis.

“Fossil fuel divestment has become a mainstream $5 trillion movement because our institutions and society know that we need a rapid and just shift away from the fossil fuel economy,” said Yossi Cadan, Global Senior Divestment Campaigner. “But many institutions are moving far too slowly. That’s why we will take action around the world in May 2017 through global mobilisations to shine a spotlight on the impacts of the fossil fuel industry, and escalate the call for governments and institutions to divest.”

The Global Divestment Mobilisation for a fossil free world will take place between May 5-13.

Spotlight- Lauren Jabusch

Pictured above: Lauren Jabusch. Photo credit: Cristian Heredia

By: Josh Cozine

I recently had the privilege to interview Lauren Jabusch: Chair of the Board of Directors for the last three years with CSSC and current Chair of the Governance Committee. Lauren is pursuing a PhD in Biological Systems Engineering at UC Davis, where she performs research she hopes will aid in the development of next gen clean biofuels. Along with this, Lauren has earned numerous academic awards, such as the UC President’s Award for Outstanding Student Leadership, and a UC Davis Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community. Lauren has also taken part in many sustainability related extracurricular activities, including her work with the UC Climate Neutrality Initiative, and her fellowship work with the National Science Foundation where she helped coordinate and teach lesson plans to sixth grade STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students in the areas of sustainable energy technologies, like wind and solar.

After initial pleasantries and getting to know each other, I asked Lauren a few questions so that our readers might gain some further insight into this impressive member, mentor, and leader of our community.

CSSC: I’d like to start with a question I always like to ask people involved in the sustainability movement in any way: What does sustainability mean to you personally?

Lauren: To me, it means taking your everyday actions in a fuller manner. To really think about what it is you do everyday and what the impacts are of those actions. Not only in my own life, but our communities as well. How our day to day actions affect the world around us, and each other.

CSSC: Considering all the work you have done, and are still doing: where do you get the energy, drive, or passion to do all these things?

Lauren: I couldn’t imagine not doing all these things! I’ve always been the type to keep busy, and it’s a part of who I am. Climate change, I think, is an imperative issue to try and tackle. Along with and on top of that, energy production and food production need to be done in a more thoughtful manner, as well as improving people’s access to healthcare. With all these problems to be looked into and solved it can be hard to even sleep some nights! So I try to do all that I can.

CSSC: You mentioned energy production and you are studying for a PhD in Biological Systems Engineering. Would you care to share a little about your current research, especially as it relates to sustainability?

Lauren: Sure. I study algae and algae growth patterns and develop mathematical models of how they interact with and are affected by other microbes. These models and studies might one day make biofuels a much cleaner, much more efficient option.

CSSC: Thinking through all of your accomplishments and experiences thus far, what would you say has been the most rewarding? And why?

Lauren: I would honestly have to give two answers to this question, as both have been so rewarding to me. The first I would say is my involvement in different volunteer and nonprofit organizations, like the CSSC. These programs and organizations have minimal resources, but their impacts can be huge. They have also allowed me the chance to learn and practice many new skills and to branch out further than I would have on my own.

Secondly I would say is the opportunities I have had to teach. I’ve taught both 6th graders and undergrads. At both levels you will find frustrated students that think they can’t do or learn something, and as a teacher it is always rewarding to help people learn something they thought they couldn’t, and to help them see things in new ways.

CSSC: Lastly, is there anything else you would like to say personally to our readers, or to students interested in the sustainability movement at large?

Lauren: Absolutely. When I first became interested in sustainability and started showing up to different events I didn’t speak up or participate too much at first, but that’s ok. I still found myself interested and kept showing up to new events, and got slowly more and more engaged. No one is perfect and no one needs to be. Just keep coming, keep learning, and keep growing.

Hundreds Kick Off National Earth2Trump Resistance Roadshow Tour

The California Student Sustainability Coalition joined a coalition of social justice and environmental groups on Monday, January 2 in Oakland to kick off the cross-country Earth2Trump roadshow, a two-route, 16 stop tour building a network of resistance against President-elect Trump’s dangerous agenda on civil rights and the environment.

The free show featured national and local speakers, great musicians, and an opportunity to join a growing movement of resistance to all forms of oppression and attacks on our ecosystem.

The Oakland gathering featured notable speakers such as include Julio Madrigal from Planting Justice, Sandhya Jha from the Oakland Peace Center, and Eva Lin from the Alliance for Climate Education. A simultaneous gathering took place at Seattle, where the tour’s central route began.

The central tour was in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, having featured Portland singer Mic Crenshaw and American Indian storyteller Si Matta, who was part of the water-protector occupation at Standing Rock.

The southern tour that began in Oakland was at Los Angeles on Wednesday at the Global Beat Multicultural Center. The show featured Los Angeles Poet Laureate Luis Rodriguez and musicians Casey Neill and Allyah.

The shows offered a chance for participants to write personalized Earth2Trump messages that will be delivered to Washington, D.C., on inauguration day Jan. 20. The Center for Biological Diversity is organizing the shows in coordination with allied groups around the country.

“This wave of resistance against Trump is only starting to build. What we saw in Oakland and Seattle will continue to grow bigger and stronger in the coming weeks,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “And after Trump is in office, we’ll be there every day to oppose every policy that hurts wildlife, poisons our air and water, destroys our climate, promotes racism, misogyny or homophobia, or marginalizes entire segments of our society.”

“I’m so inspired by the outpouring of empowerment and resistance we’re already seeing,” said Valerie Love, one of the Earth2Trump organizers who spoke at Oakland’s event. “When we come together and speak with a single voice, we become a force that can stand up and defend our environment, civil rights and democracy.”

See a map of the tour and more details at Follow the tour on social media with #Earth2Trump and on the Center’s Medium page.

Spotlight: Will Carlon, J.D., CSSC Board Member

S. Drew Story | September 29, 2016

The Board of Directors at the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) is a diverse team of individuals working together towards one common goal of empowering students across California to affect positive change towards sustainable culture, both on campus and in their communities. The diversity of this team is not limited by ethnicity and cultural background. The Board consists of a variety of professional skills and educational training, and this ensures a refreshing mix of perspectives.

Will Carlon, J.D., has come full circle in his engagement with the fight to promote sustainability. From his time at UC Davis as an undergraduate to his tenure as a law student at the University of Oregon, culminating in his recent appointment to the CSSC Board of Directors, Will contributes to sustainability efforts through his law practice and his service with the Coalition.

Having grown up on an organic blueberry farm, Will has a self-professed close connection with nature. He always imagined committing his life to an environmentally relevant career. Public interest environmental law is a natural prescription for that innate desire, and his training has granted him unique skills that he brings to the CSSC table. Will’s sense of responsibility to be an actor in the sustainability movement, and specifically within CSSC, comes from his recognition of his ability to contribute. When asked “Why you, and why now?” pertaining to his involvement with sustainability, Will’s answer was simple. “If it’s not us, then who is it going to be?” he said.

As a practicing environmental attorney, Mr. Carlon looks at the word slightly differently than most associated with CSSC. Logistically, Will is able to guide the team regarding actions it can take as a non-profit, such as the level and types of political engagement we can participate in that do not jeopardize our non-profit status. Will’s familiarity with public records requests is a useful tool that CSSC can use to determine how much money different public institutions invest in the fossil fuel industry, for example.

A UC alum, Will provides some experiential advice on how current students can be most effective when it comes to engaging their communities, both on- and off-campus regarding sustainability. Campus administration is responsible to its current students. This provides a platform for students to feel empowered to speak their minds on issues affecting the student body, whereas an external organization does not have the vested interest and therefore immediate attention of the administration. However, Will is quick to point out that if the institution is at odds with student’s calls for change, the strategy on behalf of the university can quickly devolve to playing the long game, waiting for a new wave of students to enroll and replace those demanding action. In this scenario, Will points out that organizations like CSSC can provide “continuity of message through years,” and thus getting involved with CSSC can be crucial to the success of student-led campaigns. CSSC has the infrastructure and staff that can provide organizational support and allow students to effectively participate in the sustainability movement.

Will Carlon is a key member of the Board of Directors, and with his experience and passion, the California Student Sustainability Coalition can continue to be an invaluable resource for students in California.

Into 2017 We Go

By. Kezia Wright, guest blogger

The dawn of 2017 is fast approaching and with it comes a time of reflection on the gains of the environmental movement. Last week, beginning the 12th December, the first wind farm in US waters off the coast of Rhode Island quietly started to send electricity to the grid as its 240-foot-long blades began to spin. The Block Island Project which will provide enough power to sustain 17,000 homes is not large scale. At just 30 megawatts, it is only a fraction of what may be produced by an average coal or natural gas plant. However, its opening is symbolic. It represents the nascent shift in US energy provision towards renewable, cleaner alternatives.

The $300m Block Island Project off the coast of Rhode Island

December 5th saw the remarkable victory for the Standing Rock Sioux as the Obama administration announced that the easement required for the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline would be rejected. After months of blood, sweat and tears, the coalition of activists led by the Standing Rock Sioux finally won out. Their plight harkens back to indigenous battles of old such as Little Big Horn. Images circulated of men and women courageously riding on horse back as they were affronted with tear gas and water hoses. The stories emanating from North Dakota stirred the hearts and minds of onlookers both at home and abroad and their slogan – “Water is Life” –  had a profound resonance, which will no doubt be felt deeper in the years ahead.

Victory for the Standing Rock Sioux

These advent occurrences are without a doubt milestones in US environmental history and they testify to shifting attitudes.  These attitudes are most evident among the youth groups which rallied throughout 2016 to demand change of the government. The Fossil Free Divestment movement is a good example. A few weeks ago a report was published revealing that the fossil fuel divestment funds have doubled to over $5.2tn in just one year, a remarkable achievement that Ban Ki Moon lauded, stating that “Investments in clean energy are the right thing to do and the smart way to build prosperity for all, while protecting our planet”. Here in California, educational institutions such as Chico State University, Humboldt State University and Pitzer College have already divested. The University of California has yet to fully divest, however, at the bi-monthly University of California Regents Meeting, divestment ranked high on the agenda, with numerous pleas made to UC Regent Richard Sherman along with a petition with over 600 signatures. Let’s hope that 2017 will bear the breakthrough move to divest that the Fossil Free UC movement has been so vigorously pushing for. Youth leadership on environmental issues could not have been so evident than at the Power Shift West Convergence which took place at the  University of California, Berkeley in mid-November. The Convergence saw over 400 students gather to discuss, coordinate and cooperate around issues such as the DAPL and Fossil Fuel Divestment. Having attended the Convergence myself, I have never witnessed such enthusiasm, passion and dedication from a bunch of students in my three years of college.

The Northern California Climate Mobilization

These experiences prove that youth leadership around environmental justice is alive and growing ever stronger. Milestones such as the Block Island Project and the victory in North Dakota stand as testament to our efforts and energise the youth movement, providing focal points for re-organisation around energy politics. January is going to be testing and that is why now more than ever youth leadership needs to renew its determination and power forwards. Trump’s projected cabinet representatives are a foretaste of what is to come and, most notably, he has chosen Scott Pruitt, a renowned climate change denialist, to head the EPA. This ominous decision sent shockwaves across all those who are hopeful for a greener future. Yet, we must take the successes of this past month as examples, as testaments to the power of perseverance.

Breaking down the Paris Agreement: What does it mean for climate action and how can students find their place in it?

by Dylan Ruan


Pictured Above: Ryan Camero, a CSSC delegate, accompanying the SustainUS delegation at COP21 in 2015. Picture found at SustainUS.


It must have been hard to be a climate activist in 2009. In Copenhagen, at COP 15, the United Nations bickered and grappled for two weeks while sewing together a treaty to address the global issue of climate change. Contrary to the ironclad unity envisioned by the UN, the United States, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa discreetly backchanneled a rudimentary climate agreement in the COPs final hours and presented the results to the delegates.

The result? Some slapped it down. Others shrugged. The accord was simply a letter of intent to act on climate change. There were no consequences for inaction. The outpour of ambition and optimism leading up to COP 15 was left in tatters.

Six years later on December 12th, 2015, the United Nations held its 21st Conference of Parties – COP21, and negotiated a landmark agreement to tackle climate change as a unified front.

In many ways, it feels like the Paris Agreement is the coming of age for climate change response. It certainly shakes off the ghosts of COP 15, where 187 of states were excluded from the backdoor negotiations of the climate accord.

In stark contrast, 175 states signed the agreement in Paris and as of this writing, 79 have officially ratified the climate pact in their own nation, the most recent of which being the European Parliament’s near-unanimous agreement to do so. This launched the Paris Agreement well above the required parameters for it to officially enter force and legally bind countries to act on its procedures.


Dissenters, however, have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Paris Agreement since its conception.

Some have argued that the climate pact is an empty husk and real-world politics will render many of the agreement’s promises unrealistic. One of the leading voices on the dissenting side is James Hansen, pioneer of anthropogenic climate change science, who painted a picture of an even more dire situation.

“It’s a fraud really, a fake,” he said.

Hansen argues that negative-carbon emissions, not lower emissions, will be necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The agreement only acknowledges a goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming, let alone promise negative-carbon emissions. To Hansen, the Paris Agreement is sorely insufficient.

In that case, it becomes necessary to examine the Paris Agreement and list the key points and promises it has ironed out in order to address the issues that are leading us to a warming world.

1. All participating parties are required to develop climate action plans, “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), every five years and pursue domestic policy to achieve them. There are no binding emission targets or rigid procedures. The plans are carved out to demonstrate transparency and progress. While the procedure of submitting an NDC is binding, specific targets for emissions reduction are not. Each consecutive NDC is expected to be more ambitious than the last and escalates climate response.

2. Commit all countries to report regularly on their emissions progress for technical review. The Paris Agreement consistently hammers home the notion of transparency. Technical experts digest and review NDC plans and finances. Developing countries may be entitled to financial support to implement programs.

3. Extend the current goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in support by 2020 through 2025. This point reaffirms the necessity of climate finance and the obligation of developed nations to financially support the efforts of developing nations. Developing countries will be able to work with flexible targets and support to help them reach requirements.

4. Limit global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius, but pursue the goal of remaining under 1.5 degrees of warming. The agreement asks for nations to aim towards reaching “peak emissions” as soon as possible before rapidly decreasing. Developing countries, however, are “allowed” more flexibility to reach peak emissions so that they can address issues of equity, sustainable development, and poverty.

It is expected that the Paris Agreement will enter force before COP 22, which begins on November 7th, in Marrakech, Morocco. Having the conference hosted in the red-dusted city illustrates that climate action in this age is a global effort.

“It’s great to see it in Africa,” said Daniel Fernandez, Professor of Natural Sciences at Cal State Monterey Bay. “The COPs have always been contained in places like Europe so it’s great to see it somewhere else. It’s not a European movement. It’s much bigger than that.”


It’s easy for students to feel unwelcome and unheard when sustainability negotiations like Paris take place.

Students who protested with climate activists in Paris during COP 21 were effectively declared persona non grata and barred from entering the conference – although city police had understandably doubled down on vigilance because of the November attacks.

In 2016, the presidential debates shortchanged students by ignoring issues that drive conversations between them, swapping out questions about climate change, student debt, and LGBT rights with topics such as Medicaid, health care, and border control.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Voting is critical,” Fernandez said. Leaderships change and administrations face turnover. A consistent record of student participation – a continuity of intention in the political process can help students ensure that issues salient to them are addressed.

Voting is not, however, the only way for students to push for change.

Fernandez added. “But how can students maintain a voice in sustainability? It’s an interesting challenge, particularly since students typically only are students for around 4 years.   So, there is a high turnover rate and it can be challenging for the student body as a whole to maintain its own “institutional memory.”.   However, I think that performing activities such as writing about it in the student press and making it a top issue are critical.”

Raising the student body’s voice — metaphorically, also entails placing students in spaces like local governance where decisions are made and debate takes place. It’s in these situations that Fernandez has discovered students not only make meaningful impacts on discussion, but are also taken seriously by decision-making officials.

Fernandez’s Sustainable City Year program is one example of an avenue where students have been able to occupy sustainability decision-making spaces.

The program provides a “matchmaking” service between a community need and university expertise. Campus faculty connect with local governments taking on sustainability-related ventures that need assistance to get up and running. The city supplies the needs, the faculty integrate the community’s projects within their classes, and the students provide  have the drive and do the work that helps the city.

“Cities are hungry for the innovation, creativity, and excitement of students and many students are hungry to make a difference in their communities, to change the way we do things, and get experience that can lead to real meaningful employment,” Fernandez said.

It’s not on the same playing field as the Conference of Parties, but it provides tangible and often transformative experiences for students. Programs like the Sustainable City Year are launch pads for students to work with public officials and community organizers to make decisions, implement projects, and juggle the responsibilities that come with being active participants in local governance.

Fernandez agreed: “City government plays an essential role in our everyday lives as citizens. The level of counties or cities is probably the most influential in terms of making real differences that we can see […] They (the regional governments) are the ones who have the ability toinstigate positive changes for the people who live there.



The Unfinished Pipeline that Reconnected an Ancient Nation

By. Josh Cozine

Disputed Areas:

The Dakota access pipeline has recently gained much media attention because areas of its construction began encroaching on lands sacred to Native Americans of the Sioux tribes back in April of this year. Though the construction zones for the pipeline are technically outside of the Standing Rock Reservation, this fact can be attributed to repeated instances of the US government not following established treaties wherein the Sioux must be consulted if there is going to be any potential construction or potential damages to their lands. The pipeline is also currently planned to cross under the Missouri River, which the Reservation and its people depend upon as their main water source, only a mile north and upstream of current Sioux territory.

It’s About the Water:

You need not look far to see that pipelines are far from safe. So it should come as no shock that the residents of the Standing Rock Reservation would respond to the construction of one so close that it could jeopardize the majority of their water, and thus their lands and health.The response since then has been massive. In April of this year Sacred Stone camp was set up in in order to halt construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a few miles walking distance from the construction sites. In mere weeks the camp swelled and over flowed into several satellite camps, with averages estimating over four thousand people in total, with members from all 7 tribes of the Sioux Nation arriving, as well as other Native American tribes, and environmental and human rights activists from all walks of life.

Oceti Sakowin:

The largest of these camps is the Oceti Sakowin. When translated this phrase refers to the gathering of the seven bands of the Sioux, an event which until now has not happened in over a century, before the Battle of the Little Big Horn, when the tribes were still actively warring with the American Government. It was also at this camp that CSSC members and alumni spent much of their time helping out, after arriving at Sacred Stone in two cars filled with donations and supplies.

(Caption: Oceti Sakowin camp, seen from across the Missouri River. Photo credit: Theo LeQuesne and link to his blog)

Show Up to Help:

With numbers of over four thousand people a day in mostly tents and temporary structures it can be easy to imagine organization being a chaotic nightmare, but that’s not the case at any of the camps in Standing Rock. “Show up ready to help,” was one sentiment echoed by four CSSC members and alumni, Emily Williams, Minh Tran, Theo LeQuesne, and Francisco Ferreyra who arrived on September 8th after two days of driving.

Since everyone pitches in and volunteers to help out around the camps, everything runs together smoothly even with minimal oversight. In order to feed such huge amounts of people, kitchen tents are open all day serving meals to everyone staying. Minh recalled spending much of her time preparing the huge campfire, prepping, and then cooking food for more than forty people, with dishes afterwards, some inventory sorting, and then still trying to get out to post to facebook and other social media outlets trying to raise more awareness and donations. Theo would regularly spend four to five hours a day sorting through endless piles of inventory and donations to be distributed amongst the camps. Francisco helped with inventory and organization, as well as checking the countrysides with some of the Natives, looking for edible berries and mushrooms the Sioux have collected for generations in preparation of a very long stay. Emily spent even more time driving after her initial two day journey, transporting and receiving goods and making general supply runs before helping the others with inventory and cooking. EMT services and medic tents were set up by those with training, as well as classroom tents so children can continue to receive education during a prolonged stay.

Movement, Not a Protest:

Such a huge influx of people, and outpouring of public support seen at Standing Rock is “more than just a protest, it’s a movement,” expressed the visiting students when asked what made them decide to come all the way from California. Groups and representatives from hundreds of tribes have showed up to pledge their support and solidarity with the Water Protectors, as they often call each other amongst themselves, at Standing Rock. There has not been a gathering of Native American tribes of this size in generations. Men, women, and children of all ages and tribes are meeting up with ancestral relatives they have never before met. Rekindling old familial friendships, and uniting under one common cause: protecting the waters and lands of the Earth we all share. Furthermore, saying enough to the constant ignoring of treaties and promises made, and of having their rights ignored.

Committed to Nonviolence:

Despite having their water shut off by authorities, and roads in and out constantly blocked; despite having their sacred burial grounds bulldozed while the lands were still being disputed in the courts; despite having many of their members pepper sprayed and bitten by dogs (one a child) at the hands of a private security company, and despite seeing the pipeline continuing to be constructed just miles away from the river that to them means life, the Natives and others involved in the movement at Standing Rock remain dedicated to nonviolent activism. Emily noted that the violent actions perpetrated on members of the movement only served to further solidify people’s resolve in nonviolence, peace, and prayer.  According to Theo, along with CPR and first aid training offered at the camps, there was also nonviolent direct action training, which was compulsory to attend to be allowed near pipeline construction areas or pipeline workers and security forces. Francisco attended a training session to treat pepper spray victims.

(Caption: Top to bottom: A row of guard dogs with their handlers, deployed against civilians by a private company. A handler trying desperately to control his dog as Natives march in remembrance to their now desecrated sacred sites. A woman having her eyes rinsed after being pepper sprayed, again by a private security company, not law enforcement officers. Images from a video posted by, video may be graphic to some)

Youth Voice:

The Youth of the Standing Rock Reservation were among the first to respond to the encroaching pipeline. In April, when the camps were starting to form, it was largely youth who arrived first. In May, youths from the Standing Rock Reservation ran 500 miles first to appeal to the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with petitions signed by over 100,000 people to no avail. They then ran another 2000 mile relay to Washington DC where they appealed directly to the USACE headquarters before holding a rally filled with song and prayer outside the White House. Since then youth at the Standing Rock camps have formed the International Indigenous Youth Council (IIYC) where they correspond and organize with indigenous youths and other environmental organizations around the world. Emily and Theo both mention sitting in on one of their council meetings and feeling and witnessing the energy and determination of these young people as one of their most memorable experiences of their stay. Francisco spent a lot of his time working and talking with people in the IIYC, “Everyone always talks about the impact to the youth, or taking care of the youth, but here they are standing up and taking things into their own hands,” he says regarding why he was so drawn to the group. From daily council meetings, to sorting through letters from around the world, to inviting elders to speak and share their wisdom, Francisco’s description of the Council is that of a well organized and highly motivated group of youths dedicated to having their message heard.

Preparing for Winter:

Construction for the DAPL is currently halted near the Missouri River. While the water protectors maintain an ever vigilant watch to ensure no further bulldozing or construction continue, Standing Rock has another challenge on its way, the coming winter. Winters in North Dakota frequently reach subzero temperatures. Combine this with the fact that most people are staying in tents and you have a recipe for disaster. Many people have been forced to leave the area for now, but still many remain, resolute in their cause. After returning back home, Theo and Emily set up a gofundme page and successfully raised over $2100, purchasing a high quality winter ready medic tent to be sent to the camps, but still more help is going to be needed if this movement is going to make it through the winter.

How to help:

If anything you have read moves you to want to donate or support the people of Standing Rock here are a few places recommended:

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s official website with a DAPL donation fund link at the top of the page

Legal fund for the Red Warrior camp, the frontline camp where protests are often staged from. Funds go to provide legal representation for those arrested or injured

A gofundme page for the members of the IIYC to purchase equipment and supplies for the harsh Dakota winter so they can maintain as large of a youth presence as possible

A list of needed supplies has also been released from the Sacred Stone camp if you would rather send supplies than money

If you feel so inspired as to want to show up and help with the movement in person, remember what this is. This is not some weekend festival-type protest where people show up to make their voices heard and disperse afterwards. This is about making a commitment to protect our water, our lands, and our future. Also remember where it is this is taking place. This is not happening in some mostly unused wilderness campsite or barren desert, this is taking place on Sioux Reservation land, near and even on top of sacred sites and burial grounds as old as the tribes themselves.

Lastly, you can help at home. Here is a diagram showing which banks and financial institutions are invested in the pipeline construction, and how much they have invested. If you have money with any of these institutions it might be time to consider what exactly it is they are doing with it.

Jackie Fawn: A Native American/Filipino Woman Challenging Injustice through Artivism

Jackie is a Native American (Yurok and Wahsho) and Filipino, indigenous and environmental activist, and artist currently living in Ventura, California. I had the pleasure of sharing a ride with her to and from the 2015 CSSC Fall Leadership Retreat and she is one of the most energizing and engaging people I have had a chance to spend a road-trip with. On the ride, she had a bag full of zines filled with her artwork, ready to hand out to other Leadership Retreat attendees; each included piece had a compelling story of a call-to-action in them.  She was quick and eager to tell the stories behind the art and give credit to the people and the movements that inspired them.  In March of 2016, Jackie let me interview her.

What made you decided to go to the CSSC Leadership Retreat?

Jaime* invited me out to the retreat and said it was something that I would be interested in. It was an incredible and welcoming space that made me gain a better concept around sustainability. Sustainability is something that I would love to embrace more for any form of actions in the sense of – let’s say there’s a weekend long action for protecting rivers and the support group is handing out Nestle water bottles to the activists, to me that’s not right. I’m not for one time use bottles that support big corporations that are part of  macro problems.Even if it’s little changes, like water bottles, it makes a difference not only in using less plastic, but by not supporting those corporations. Because of my time at the CSSC leadership retreat, I learned new perspectives and made incredible new friends and I can’t wait to shut stuff down with everyone I met. I am really hopeful to attend the next one.

*Jaime is a member of the CSSC Board of Directors

Solidarity Action led by Jackie at the CSSC Fall Leadership Retreat

“This solidarity piece is for my friends in Hawaii and their fight for Mauna Kea. Right now there’s a telescope planning to be built on a sacred sight, which makes no sense to me! The woman portrayed was inspired by the Hawaiian snow goddess Poli’ahu.”

When did you first start getting interested in making art?

When I was 6, a classmate that I sat next to was drawing casually and I thought, “Wow, you can draw for fun?!” That’s when I truly was intrigued in practicing art and it was an incredible escape for my imagination.  I was introduced to Photoshop when I was 12 and started heavily practicing digital art when I was 16, that’s when my dad got me a graphic tablet for me.

Do you feel that art helps you communicate in ways beyond words?

For sure! Art has always been there for me. I feel like my strongest way of communication to have people listen to me is to make a visual for people to see. I get lost in words when my passion for a subject takes over and I heavily rely on my art to help me explain what I’m trying to get across. When I get into creating an illustration, I first think of the story and how I can capture such big issues and stories into a single image. I give big credit to all my English teachers in high school that were big on symbolism, which I didn’t care much for in school but I now heavily use in each image.

So from what I see on Facebook, it looks like you’ve been doing some traveling! What have you been up to?

Ahh, yes! I’ve been trying to get much traveling in as possible. Arizona has been incredible and welcoming from the O’otham/Pima territory to the San Carlos Apache territory. I had the honor to run with them for their sacred sites, Oak Flat and Moahdak Do’ag. This past week I was able to train with Greenpeace for the action training out in Florida for actions climbing. I’ve been trying to get all the experience I can to make new relationships, the more people standing together the bigger the difference!

 Jackie in a tree, displaying a banner at the Greenpeace actions camp with her mock action crew. 

How did you first get involved in this type of work?

I got interested in the idea of activism when I canvassed for an LGBT campaign but got truly invested into the world of activism when I canvassed with Greenpeace in Sacramento. From there I started showing my art and talked to everyone there. Mary Zieser, an incredible activist and warrior, was working for Greenpeace after I left the office and had invited me out to the Greenpeace arts actions training tract. That’s where I started getting into the feel of using my art to make a difference.

What was one of the most powerful gatherings you’ve attended? Why was it so powerful?

Every event I’ve been to has been incredibly powerful, but for me it must’ve been the first one. Last spring I attended a healing gathering with my dad. For our people, healing is important. I was able to heal my mindset of my need to get away from home as far as possible, now I find myself wanting to return home ASAP. I started dreaming of the Klamath, the redwoods, and the salmon more often awake than asleep. This ceremony to me was important because it was my first sweat and I had the honor of being lead by two elders that gave me the answers I needed so desperately. Because of that moment in my life, I do what I do.

“…This piece is about my home, Klamath. We need to un-dam that river and revive the lifeline that is under siege. I grew up fishing on that river with my dad, generations of my people before me as well. Rivers are the veins of the planet!”

Can you tell me a bit about how your heritage has propelled you forward into different types of action?

I definitely feel and know in my heart that because of my ancestral roots, it’s not only an obligation but it is in my blood that I have to take a stand not for my people, but with my people. When I was a kid I wanted to run as far away as I could from home, but the further I ran the more I saw how afflicted other communities were and the all of the heart breaking struggles. Because of that, I started realizing how important it is to take a stand for indigenous issues and have your voice heard. The river and ocean, the salmon, the redwoods, it’s in my people’s blood and it’s because of all that richness of the natural world engraved in my people’s roots, I can find the strength and courage to put myself out there. Many people forget that there are people indigenous to this land still living here and that we are not sitting back any longer having the little left, taken from us. I am honored and blessed to take that stand with my brother and sister nations as well as my own. I am still all new to this world of activism but I trust what my heart is telling me to do because of what’s at stake. And because of this growing need to stand, I am looking into moving back north and applying for Humboldt State University.

A piece Jackie did for World Wildlife Day: “The story behind this one was inspired by the story of the blind men and the elephant. The six men were each given a different part of the elephant to describe and all it brought about was unending arguments over who was right. The six butterflies in this piece represent their respective continents and while the world is in disagreements over such issues, the elephants are still suffering. The child presented is the only who can see the beauty and importance of the elephant with no judgement. We are losing our elephants at an alarming rate. To protect our futures and our children, we must protect our elephants and all wildlife.”

How does your appreciation for the environment tie in to where you grew up?

My fondest memories was when my parents would leave us with our auntie Pam, who lived on a hill nestled beneath the redwood as well as late summer and early fall days my father would take us fishing for salmon along the Klamath. Being the daughter of a fisherman and learning of the secrets hidden amongst the redwood as a child has stayed with me and has been a constant reminder of why I must continue to stand so that I can share these memories with future generations where they can experience it personally rather than a story of the past.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on Jackie’s work please like Jackie Fawn Illustrations on Facebook!


Goodbye and Good Vibes to Longtime CSSC Leader: Emili Abdel-Ghany

After years working with CSSC in many different roles and capacities, Emili Abdel-Ghany is saying her goodbye to the organization. She is departing to focus on the health of herself and her mother. In a country without an adequate healthcare system, taking care of each other is crucial. As Johanna Hedva voices in “The Sick Woman Theory”

“The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, caring. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care.”

When I spoke with Emili, she communicated a range sentiments and concepts when looking back at her time with CSSC: friendship, growth, empowerment, kinship, family, excitement, highs, and lows.

This mixture of feelings is understandable when you realize how CSSC influenced Emili in a way that shaped her as a person. Through her experiences, she was able to personally feel that she could accomplish much more than she had envisioned for herself. CSSC has connected her to people and movements even bigger than the individual. It challenged her perceptions of sustainability and environmental work while always being a welcoming place for her, helping her to find a voice for herself. As she grew, she was able to pass that knowledge and strength onto other student leaders.

She was introduced to CSSC as an undergraduate with a job at the UC Davis Campus Center of the Environment. Part of this job was to be a council representative for the university where she spent the first term getting students out to convergences and starting the Fossil Fuel Divestment chapter through the UC Davis Chapter and their Sustainability education program.  She volunteered at her first CSSC Convergence, which was the 2011 Davis Convergence.

Before she was introduced to the CSSC chapter at Davis, she had come to the university excited about environmental work and social justice, but had never taken a leadership role. The folk in the Davis chapter were warm and welcoming and encouraged her to try out different roles, to do projects of her own, and connected her to others. For her, it left an impression to see older students to nurture younger students and investing in their growth as leaders, and personally encouraged her to embrace what CSSC could offer.

Emili is particularly proud of her involvement with the 2014 Davis Convergence as well as organizing Regents Meeting Actions with Fossil Free UC. These actions spread between 2013 and 2014 and Emili was a part of organizing travel and housing logistics as well as holding demonstrations inside and outside the meetings. During the Regent’s Meetings, Emili and other students wrote and held public comment, organized a mic check, and extended the time they were given to have more people speak. Some people did silent direct actions outside, while others set up props that represented of fossil fuel industry. Many groups came out and gave their support. On campus Emili showed solidarity with UAW and Students for Justice in Palestine, among other groups, as the interconnectedness of our causes became apparent. These were empowering moments and important to the overall sustainability movement on the larger perspective.

Also, in recognition that the focus of solving sustainability issues should be approached through an intersectional framework, Emili created a new CSSC Program called the Solidarity Organizing Program to actively involve anti-oppression into all aspects of CSSC’s work. As a statewide network, CSSC has the potential to influence the sustainability movement as a whole. By providing a structural example of actively institutionalizing anti-oppression into our work, we provide a framework to our peers and partners that extensively and holistically address the three E’s of sustainability (Equity, Ecology, Economy).

To work through these goals, SOP moves forward on two strategy tracks: educational training and developing networks. Emili will be an active part of the process to bring on her replacement.

Emili urges that if you are new to the sustainability or social justice movement, that you remain curious and ask a lot of questions. She emphasizes that it is vital to think critically about your relationship to sustainability and the changes you want to see. Think about the different things you care about and look to see how they connect with each other. Come from a place of curiosity and openness to what interests you. If you’ve been here awhile, she advises that you nurture new leaders and invest in the potential of others.

The last thing Emili left me with made a strong impact:

“The world we want to see may not exist in our lifetime but everything we do is essential and important to value. “

Thank you for your work with CSSC Emili and we wish you luck in all that you work toward for yourself, your family, and your aspirations.

Welcome to the CSSC Board of Directors Jaime Gonzalez!

Change can be exciting. Change is especially exciting when it brings wonderful and empowered people into CSSC Leadership Roles. CSSC welcomes Jaime Gonzalez as a new member to the Board of Directors!

Jaime was first introduced to CSSC when he saw an announcement for the 2014 Fall Convergence.  As the President of Students for a Sustainable Future at Consumnes River College (SSF CRC), he spearheaded the action of the group to become an official CSSC chapter by the time of the then upcoming convergence. They received their chapter status two weeks before the convergence and attended with the full force of open hearts and open minds.

Before and during his work with CSSC, Jaime has gifted much of his time to the sustainability movement. As President of SSF CRC, Jaime worked as an organizer on the Take Back the Tap initiative as well as Seize the Grid. The club as a whole also worked on a variety of sustainability campaigns mostly focused on waste reduction and energy use. Outside of the club, Jaime also organizes with 350 Sacramento on the Stop Oil Trains campaign, which hits a special chord with him as his family has lived in a home situated 100 feet from tracks that carry oil for most of his life. He’s also supported the work of Restore the Delta and participates in miscellaneous solidarity actions. Most recently he participated in the January 26th Sacramento Right 2 Rest Protest of City Hall, calling on city officials to repeal unconstitutional anti-homeless ordinances. Jaime says that CSSC helps him feel supported in his work:

“I think when you do this kinds of work – environmental justice work – it’s easy to feel isolated when you’re not surrounded by people doing this kind of work. When I attended my first convergence, I found this new community and a constant sense of support which kept me around and made me want to be involved.”

Jaime continued to become more and more involved in CSSC, especially in organizational development. Using his perspective as a community college student, Jaime focused on ways to help further open opportunities for junior colleges and community colleges to work with and be a part of CSSC. His continual volunteer support and involvement led way to the natural progression of joining the Board.

As a Board member, Jaime plans to continue representing the needs and interests of community colleges and junior colleges. He feels that much of CSSC is tailored to four year institutions even though many of our active members are from community college campuses. As CSSC is currently moving through a restructuring process, he is hoping to use the organization’s transitional phase as an opportunity to strengthen this aspect of CSSC.

“It is scary and exciting, but I am glad that I am here to help be a part of that change. I have a real passion for organizational development and the board lets me see the organization at a macro level.”

Jaime also hopes to continue working on CSSC merchandising and branding. Though all of these efforts are inherently challenges, Jaime sees his biggest challenge as being a full-time student while working and being on the board – juggling it all is hard.

After finishing his education, Jaime hopes to work for an international environmental or social justice non-profit.  Taking lessons from what he’s learned at his time with CSSC to better our world. However, we won’t have to say goodbye to Jaime too soon, and he sounds like he’s happy to spend more time with us:

“[CSSCrs] are the warmest and most welcoming, brilliant-minded group of people I have ever had the pleasure to live with, work with, and be friends with. It feels like a big family when we get together for convergences and retreats.”

Thanks Jaime! We’re glad you’re with us and excited to see what you bring to the Board.

A Determined Delegation : COP21 Blog by Ryan Camero

I came to Paris representing the California Student Sustainability Coalition, in this rare and crucial point in time to decide a global agreement on collective action against the climate crisis. Because unexpected circumstances many groups, including ours, did not receive their requests for badges (they are expectedly difficult to obtain), I was very grateful to be taken into the arms of SustainUS, a United States-based organization that enable youth climate leaders across the country to attend the actual negotiating talks. With my heart trying to hold everyone back home in my head, I dove into the unfamiliar.

As a newcomer being welcomed into a space that had delegates preparing months beforehand, I felt as if I was entering a new world of community organizing on the international scale.
I hold a deep love for this year’s dreamy heart breaker delegation of 21 (22 including me as the black sheep delegate!), not all pictured here:

Official SustainUS group delegation photo.

A typical meeting for our delegation involved us huddled up together in the corner of our hostel, taking turns offering our viewpoints and planning our individual and collective actions for the day. As time passed, I began to see the immense and shared passion that centered us as a team – and the very diverse skillsets and experiences inspired in me an understanding that I was in the presence of a supergroup of resilient youth representing the U.S. I was astounded at the team’s ability to produce a maelstrom of news pieces across major media, spanning BuzzFeed, Thought Catalog, the Takeaway on NPR, the Huffington Post, and others.

There were the fearless and adventurous Morgan Curtis and Garrett Blad, a duo who went on a five-month bicycling/listening tour called Climate Journey in pursuit of understanding this crisis from personal stories, having traveled through three states, two provinces, and nine countries to get to Paris.

The focused, kind, and reserved Jeremy Pivor working diligently on influencing language of the agreement, his unwavering resolve setting our reasons for being here deep into perspective: “I have a brain tumor, and I’m more scared of climate change than I am of that.

The critical and clarity-inducing Chloe Maxmin whose thoughts on youth power and powerlessness revived my spirit in such a withering time.

And the examples grow endless.

Mountaintop removal in Virginia. Fracking rigs in Vermont. Tar sands pipelines in the Midwest. Students from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, Oxford. Migration research for the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. Canada’s Top Environmentalist Under 25, galvanized through firsthand experiences in the Arctic. Every story I learned about I held tightly, as my barriers of insecurity gave way to bridges of solidarity. Every beautiful human being in our delegation was fighting from every angle, and fighting hard.

I kept grappling to understand the reality of our conversations. Every single person who was here in Paris, inside the negotiations or outside, were carrying narratives that we never thought would play out. These were such difficult conversations. And it still continues to be a never ending process of learning. Every sentence, story and article contributes to a vast and endless consciousness rising out of society; all waiting, worrying, wandering, wishing for a better future than the path we are currently on.
These thoughts propel energy for the changes we need to see- the ones that reach not just some of us, but all of us. And it’s with these moments that I am feeling, more than ever, that our shared awareness is unearthing a undeniable movement of movements.

In the streets at the D12 (December 12th) protest, where thousands gathered. Photo by Joel Lukhovi.

Movement is a beautiful, multi-faceted concept. There is an absolutely inspiring and incredible video called Orgesticulanismus, by Belgian animator Mathieu Labaye that I deeply encourage anyone to watch. Labaye made this nine-minute animation in tribute to his father Benoit, who suffered from a multiple sclerosis that turned him paraplegic. His work celebrates his father’s intimate understanding of the human importance of movement, physically and metaphorically. I find so much beauty in these words, narrated in the video:

“I think it’s by the movement you appropriate your own life. By the freedom to come and go, to have gestures of love, tenderness, anger, whatever. When you are deprived of movements, as I am and as a lot of other people are, I think if you want to survive, you must reinvent the movement differently. And so what happens inside my head isn’t purely brain, purely intellectual. It’s a way of recreating an inner space which is also my freedom.”

When you live a severe handicap, when you live absolutely still, dependent, you live, in fact, something that can’t be shared, that can’t be easily expressed, which you can’t easily talk about. Because when two people talk, to be able to understand each other, they need to have a minimum of common experience between them, to speak of something they both know from some form of experience.”

The many movements of Orgesticulanismus, the animation by Belgian artist Mathieu Labaye.

“Sure, the stillness, the handicap, brings you to the conclusion and to the gradual acceptance that there’s a certain number of things that you can’t do. But conversely I think it opens a whole bunch of new possibilities, notably with inner freedom, inner space, but also with the way you can come in contact, in relation with others.

I think there is in the handicap, in the disease, a lot of potentiality. The human being have endless supplies of desire, of energy, of inner strength. And it’s something you discover with maybe more urge, more intensity, when you’re deprived of movement.” 

There is momentum in the things that immobilize us. Our scars are symbols of our survival.




A Child of the San Joaquin River at the Paris Climate Conference

This post was originally posted on the Restore the Delta Website and can be found here.

Part 1 of Restore the Delta’s artivist Ryan Camero’s blog series on his experience at the Paris Climate Conference 2015. 

PARIS – Today marks the ending of the first week of the COP21 and the beginning of its second week. More than 200 nations of the world have come together to unify and to take action against global climate disaster.

So here in Paris, at the Conference of Parties (COP21), the international negotiations seeking a universal agreement on climate, my hope is to spark positive, life-saving ideas through art and storytelling. I am here to tell the story of my hometown’s river.

I live alongside the San Joaquin River, one the major rivers of the San Francisco Bay-Delta.

For decades, the San Joaquin has supported a massive industrial agriculture industry. Parts of the river go dry partly by drought and by over-extraction. Five times more water is promised to users than actually exists, and it hardly looks the same from one side to the other in its 417-mile lifeline. There is no mystery why it is referred to by CNN as the most endangered river in America.

The last few days have been a multi-layered whirlwind, meeting some of the most inspiring and diverse youth activists gathered together from across our entire planet. We all have our hearts wrapped up in this work for our very local and personal reasons, but with a determined spirit and with a moral compass locked in stone, we all see our economic and social systems failing, and the ecological one in which we depend on is going to shatter irreversibly if we do not make this period of time worthwhile.

Through this experience, I have many stories to tell about how the global ecological crisis is impacting my home waterway. It is affirming and heartbreaking to know we all hold stake in this heavy, historic time. I hope that art can help tell my story.


I think the plight of the artist is nurturing an idea that wants to exist, and going through the process of communicating from mind to reality. Without creativity, these ideas would be trapped in oblivion without any way to express themselves.

That oblivion, full of neglect and erasure, is a terrifying space. If an idea is never known, it will never hope to be created- let alone understood.

A recurring theme I’ve grown to understand in different parts of my life centers on this oblivion- the idea of conceptual and cultural erasure, and all the reverberating effects that come with that.

I’ve started to see the concepts of forgetting and losing in terrifying ways; growing up a Filipino-American in the United States, I struggled early on with assimilating into American culture. I was bullied for the color and culture of my skin in a predominantly white-centered world, and because of that I grew up hating myself and my own ways of being. Looking back, the internalized racism I had in myself was appalling, especially as a child, and now I yearn to remember the erased history of my ancestors. Even here, where the Philippines is the third most vulnerable nation to climate change, I feel disconnected from my roots – cheering on a battle against coal-fired plants and typhoons I’ve never known.

In that same sense, California’s forgotten and mistreated waterways have felt this oblivion. Take, for example, the San Francisco Bay-Delta (the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas). These rivers channel a crucial portion of the state’s water supply, and yet their value on an ecosystem is reduced as a disposable backwater to Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed twin tunnels. These thirty-five foot tunnels stretch forty miles from Sacramento to Tracy, would extract about 60,000 gallons of freshwater per second from the waterways in order to send it to corporate desert agribusiness and oil (examples include the largest fruit and nut tree grower Paramount Farming, now Wonderful Orchards, and California’s largest oil producer Aera Energy, both Bakersfield-based) to control water in the middle of this crippling drought.

And so I am – here we are – wrestling with our hopes, in this disorienting space of briefings, meetings, acronyms and policy text. We carry our voices like pens drawing and dreaming the ideas of protecting our beautiful world from the throes of exploitation and corrupt, corporate deceit. We offer our personal fragments of climate justice story and piece together a movement of mosaics, and I can’t think of a better way to start drawing power.

Watch a performance of “Its the Same Thing” by arts activist Rachel Schragis, from Ryan here.

Ryan Camero is an arts activist and community organizer who works primarily with Restore the Delta (based in his hometown of Stockton), the statewide California Student Sustainability Coalition, and the internationally known Beehive Design Collective. He is part of the SustainUS youth delegation attending COP21, the global climate talks in Paris. Camero is also a 2015 Brower Youth Award winner, one of six leading youth environmentalists across North America.


Ryan Camero speaking to crowd

3 Reasons Why Ryan Camero Should Attend COP21

Ryan Camero is a twenty-two year old community organizer and arts activist born and raised in Stockton, California. This year, he won a Brower Youth Award, officially recognizing him as a young leader making impressive strides in the environmental movement. He is one of six youth in the entire nation to be given this award. We want to send him to COP21 (Conference of Parties), which is a United Nations-led series of negotiations that hope to reach global consensus about the response to climate change. This is why we should send him.

  1. He has dedicated his life to social and environmental justice.

Ryan wears multiple hats as the Outreach Coordinator of the California Student Sustainability Coalition (That’s us!), Delta Artivist for Restore the Delta, and a California-based “Bee” storyteller and educator for the Beehive Design Collective, He has dedicated his life to social and environmental justice, because he knows that the need for change is greater than ever before.

  1. He can and will be able to represent California’s story at an international level.


He is representing Stockton, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the Central Valley of California at the international climate talks in Paris from November to December. His  presence there will elevate California’s story of drought and water privatization as one of many across the world of ecological disasters, and uplift the urgency for the necessary positive social change that protects our natural resources, beautiful ecosystems, and thriving ways of living harmoniously for generations ahead.


  1. He uses multiple mediums to educate and communicate. 

“I am a deep lover of characters and story arcs, and these themes inform my mindset about life. I’ve spent the last five years organizing on the local and national level, and while sometimes emotionally disheartening, I feel the experience has given me resilience and perspective in dealing with our era’s most complex monsters of social issues.” – Ryan Camero


His organizing initially sprouted from arts-based projects. Stockton struggles with deep pockets of poverty, gang culture, drug abuse and violence, and he believes wholeheartedly in the transformative power of expression to achieve cross-cultural and intergenerational solidarity. In being active in this work, he gained a lived understanding of both the internal and external oppression in his community which reinforced his view that organizing approaches must be holistic

Ryan has the chance to use his passion for fighting for a better world on a whole new level. 

He needs your support.  

In the situation of many other students, Ryan does not have the funds to get to COP21. Funds gathered will go directly to travel expenses throughout the trip, housing and food, and research and preparation to participate as a delegate in the negotiations. If you donate, you also have the chance to receive some of Ryan’s Art.



Fossil Free UC secures coal and tar sands divestment victory


What began in 2008 has culminated in an important campaign victory. For several years, the California Student Sustainability Coalition’s student, alumni, and staff leaders have addressed the issue of unsustainable and unethical fossil fuel investments in the University of California (UC). Having first explored responsible investment frameworks and continuing with an initial exposé on the UC’s investments in the top ”filthy 15” coal companies, the campaign evolved to demand divestment from ALL fossil fuels. After years of strategic campaigning and dedicated student organizing, the Fossil Free UC campaign has reached an incredible milestone:

Late Wednesday afternoon on September 9th, the University of California’s Investment Office announced that it has divested $198 million of the university’s nearly $100 billion portfolio from coal mining and oil companies focused on tar sands extraction. This was in addition to their commitment of implementing sustainable investing criteria across their investment portfolio.
At the UC Regents’ Committee on Investments meeting, Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher outlined: “We’ve gone one step further as part of our housekeeping and managing risks over the course of the year, and selling our direct holdings, to reiterate, in coal mining companies, oil sands focused companies.” This announcement comes just one week after the California State Legislature passed a bill requiring CalPERS and CalSTRS, the nation’s largest public pension funds, to divest from thermal coal stocks.

While we applaud their decision, let us not forget that student leadership was the fundamental impetus and catalyst for this victory.


The university administration has not acknowledged students as the reason they have divested from coal and tar sands. Having campaigned for 3 years – and cultivating political and organizing roots for longer- the UC’s decision followed in response to sustained student pressure, including powerful escalation this past spring across the country at a dozen schools including UC Berkeley, Harvard, Bowdoin and Swarthmore.

Please support the critical work of this on-going campaign by making a contribution to the California Student Sustainability Coalition


Yesterday’s divestment announcement came through the university’s Framework for Sustainable Investing, which was a product of a task force charged with investigating divestment last summer after responding to students’ pressure. “This is a hard-fought victory for students and our allies from across California who have been demanding the UC truly live up to its big talk on climate change,” said Jake Soiffer, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and leader with Fossil Free UC.
In the last three years, the Fossil Free UC campaign has passed student government resolutions supporting divestment at all ten UC campuses, as well as graduate student and faculty association resolutions at Berkeley, and support from the UCSB Academic Senate. This year, students ramped up the campaign through a series of coordinated protests across the UC campuses—including an overnight sit-in outside the chancellor’s office at UC Berkeley.
Despite student pressure, the regents are still profiting off of the oil and gas industries, which are major polluters in California. According to Soiffer, “This is a much needed first step, but oil and natural gas are the most powerful polluters in California, and we expect the UC to take robust action on the biggest climate villains in their backyard.”
Though the announcement is not accompanied by an official policy statement, students see this as a permanent shift in the operations of the investment office. “This is a big deal, and an important first step that takes $200 million away from companies like Peabody — but we need our schools to take a stance against Exxon and Shell too. They’re every bit as responsible for the climate crisis.” said Alden Phinney, undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz and organizer with Fossil Free UC.
Fossil Free UC will continue pushing the UC to divest fully, including oil and gas, and reinvest that money back in the hands of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Victoria Fernandez, recent UC Berkeley graduate and organizer with Fossil Free UC, shared, “If the regents are serious about climate solutions that means not just divesting from fossil fuel companies, but investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards the non-extractive economy. There is no stopping this movement. We have glimpsed a future of dignity, justice and sustainability, and we are determined to make it real.”


Silver Hannon, California Student Sustainability Coalition’s Fossil Free UC Campaign Director and recent UC Berkeley graduate, underscores the call to action in this moment, “Our university has said they agree we must combat climate change but disagree on the means to do so. Because of the urgency of our fight, we need to use all the tools we have to fight for climate justice. We are pushing full force to demand the UC fully divest its holding from fossil fuels and reinvest in community-based solutions for a just and livable future. Was this a huge victory? Yes. Does this mean we will rest on our laurels? Absolutely not.”
Many students who have worked on this campaign were introduced to it through the California Student Sustainability Coalition. If you would like to be part of this evolving campaign please contact CSSC’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Director, Silver Hannon.


Divestment is a tactic for a much deeper struggle for climate justice; it is our vision to utilize the UC system’s position and resources to exhibit the values and models that are essential to cultivating a truly regenerative society and equitable economy.

Please consider making a contribution to the California Student Sustainability Coalition to support our long term vision for climate justice.

What’s Next 
This Fall there are two opportunities to engage and push this campaign forward:
On November 6th-8th CSSC will be hosting a special Fall Leadership Retreat open to anyone and everyone who would like to shape the future of the organization. Divestment is one very powerful focus of CSSC; this is an opportunity to learn about more ways to engage with our statewide community of organizers and to build deep relationships with likeminded people.

On October 9th-11th in Berkeley, CA the Divestment Student Network and California Student Sustainability Coalition are co-hosting a California Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence! We want to support students who are running active fossil fuel divestment campaigns by providing in-depth training, building a regional network, and getting used to relational organizing. We hope to ground the work we do on our campuses in principles of solidarity, environmental justice, and in our relationships to frontline communities. Learn more about the tactic of divestment and see how we can play our part in the climate justice movement. We encourage women, people of color, queer/trans self-identified, low-income, undocumented, and/or people with disabilities to attend. Come be a part of the network and get trained! The deadline to register is September 11th, 2015 To register, please contact your campus lead, who will provide you with the registration form.


In community,

Fossil Free UC Students, Alumni, and Staff members
California Student Sustainability Coalition

In Recognition of the Charleston Shooting

On Wednesday, June 17th in Charleston, South Carolina, nine black people were brutally murdered by a white, male shooter. They were attending weekly prayer services at Emanuel AME Church, one of the oldest black churches in the South and an important community space serving the black community for over 100 years.

This heinous, racially motivated act of violence stole nine beautiful lives. They, who welcomed the shooter into their sanctuary, are at the core of why we are writing this letter. Alongside their beloved community, we mourn and honor the lives taken by a violent act of white supremacy.

Rest in love and peace


Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45

Tywanza Sanders, 26

Myra Thompson, 59

Ethel Lee Lance, 70

Susie Jackson, 87

Daniel L. Simmons, 74

Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49


You can read their biographies and watch this video of a prayer delivered by one of the victims, Pastor Clementa Pinckney in 2013, to learn more about their lives. The  powerful history of this church is rich and inspiring, please take some time to read more here.

Call to Action

Sign this card

Sign this card to share your support with the survivors and family members of those killed. They will be delivered in-person to the community.


The Mother Emmanuel AME Church, whose 9 members were murdered, needs your support to cover the funeral costs for the victims and counseling services for their families. Please give to support the well-being of these families. It is important to remember that mental health has always been at stake for black people. Part of extending our compassion and our solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter is to support the healing of black communities that have been deeply and eternally disrupted by white violence.


As we have seen time and time again, mainstream media misrepresents events involving race continually. Media is one of the pillars that uphold structural racism and white supremacy, and it is too often used to condone white violence. It is vital for the truth to be written and shared, although more difficult to hear. Consider writing an op ed for a large paper, a blog post, etc. If you would like some support on how to do this, feel free to reach out to Emili Abdel-Ghany.

Educate Yourself

Part of what constitutes privilege is the ability to ignore the things that don’t affect you directly with little to no consequence. It is important to recognize how colorblind racism perpetuates these systems of oppression.

Colorblind Racism is a tendency within the sustainability community to leave out critical racial analysis in favor of emphasizing the oneness in all of humanity. Although it is important to see the beauty in our sameness, it would be wrong to ignore our differences. It would be wrong because we do not live in a world where all are equitably treated. It would be wrong because it would erase the diversity of our lives. In ignoring our differences, we ignore how the world treats us differently, and in our ignorance or “blindness,” we contribute to the unjust racist system we all still live in. This is called colorblind racism.

Hold or Attend Vigils

Thousands unite at prayer vigil at Charleston AME church. Find out where vigils in your community are taking place and show up, physically and emotionally. These moments of community and healing are important and necessary. They bolster our humanity and remind us that attacks on black lives should be relevant to our own. The issue of racial oppression should be taken on by white allies as well.

Participate as an ally in #BlackLivesMatter and associated actions

This is a video of a #BlackBrunch direct action that took place in April 2015 in Charleston, SC. The group, in unison with a multi-racial group, called upon the majority white room to stand up with them if they believe that Black Lives Matter. No one stood up. It is in white silence that white violence is allowed to fester. However, we must remain mindful of our privilege and of our position as allies and not take up or demand space that should be held by frontline communities.

Talk with your loved ones

It is essential for us to discuss this for what this tragedy was truly about: Structural racism and white supremacy in America. Too often, our self-education and frustration is kept to ourselves, and we choose to not discuss these issues for fear of “awkwardness” or not being eloquent enough to describe the complexity or scale of the issue. It is critical that we share because committing ourselves to isolation not only allows the dominant narratives that condone white violence to persist, it also affects our own capacity to be as fully human as we desire to be. It is critical that we share with those closest to us, the ones for whom these conversations are most difficult. If we remain in an echo chamber, we are not taking on the role that we are called upon. It is essential that we combat the media’s diluted presentation by having earnest conversations with each other. Through building authentic understanding at home and in our community, we can begin to build shared power around envisioning a just world.

Where CSSC stands

Racism is not a mental illness as it is often presented in media; it is a social construction. Racism pervades every corner of American society’s institutions, operating on a system-wide level to benefit white people while it disadvantages and oppresses people of color at large. We call this systemic or structural racism. The Charleston massacre was not the work of a rogue “madman” or “troubled young man.” Attributing these atrocious actions to mental instability is degrading to those who live and struggle with mental illness and stigmatizes them as ‘dangerous’ and ‘unstable.’ Furthermore, it recklessly misses the main point: this was an anti-black hate crime, the latest in a centuries-old tradition of white supremacy and white racist violence. The root causes of such white violence are structural racism and white supremacy — two sides of the same coin that mutually reinforce one another. Structural racism and white supremacy are not about individual acts. Rather, they are self-perpetuating systems of oppression that drive individuals’ behaviors to perpetuate and condone violence and inequity, preventing the United States from healing our centuries long racial trauma. To learn more about white supremacy and structural racism read this resource from the Catalyst Project.

While only one person was the shooter, the motivations of the crime extend far beyond his singular actions, his singular ability to access a gun, and this singular moment of violence. The motivations were rooted in the communities he was a part of, the socializations he received (as a white male), and in the silence of voices that allows white supremacy to persist.

Allies should be wary of attributing this incident to the problem of gun control. It is true that guns are incredibly easy to access and the U.S. has the highest rates of gun-related violence in the “developed” world. However, more importantly, these weapons are too readily used as a tool to maintain a racist society: by police, by the military, by white men in the US with racist or sexist manifestos. It must be said that white men commit 65-87% of mass shootings in the United States. (1, 2) Gun control is an important part of the conversation, but it cannot be separated from its role in maintaining white supremacy. To learn more about the racial history of gun control, read here.

It is in dismantling this system of oppression that progress will be made. White supremacy tells us not to talk about race and to ignore it, even as the Confederate flag flies over the SC state building and over houses, and as the streets are named after Confederate generals. White supremacy tells us that race is not relevant even though black folks are reminded of their own race every day. We must speak up. We must not remain silent.

Once we stop being silent, we must move beyond speech to action. CSSC works on climate justice campaigns, we work on sustainable food systems, we work to change systems and to change our everyday lives to be in line with our morals. In this effort, we cannot ignore structural racism. In the effort to create a more sustainable world, social justice must be at the forefront, otherwise we are contributing to oppression. Although we are founded on principles of holistic sustainability (equity, ecology, economy) we must work to place equity at the forefront of our work, on a personal and institutional level.


Deconstructing the use of the word “terrorist”

In this moment, our members are deconstructing the meaning and use of this word. Although we have not come to consensus on the ability to effectively repurpose the word or not, this conversation is incredibly important and ongoing. Ultimately we assert that the shooter is a “terrorist” who acted out of racist hatred, who used violence to promote white supremacy, and who stole the lives of nine black people who welcomed him into their space. These are some of our thoughts on the word:

  1. It is important to reframe the narrative often repeated in our society about white violence. White violence is rarely condemned nor denounced as much as other types of violence in our media. Riots and looting after a sports event are referred to by the media as “rowdy crowds.” However, a peaceful protest against systematic racial violence is referred to as a “riot” if one window is broken. Focus on the larger picture.
  2. Do not lump this act in with others that have been called acts of terror. Instead, let us see the real terror as that which comes from those who will violently maintain systems of oppression.
  3. People of color whose actions are criminalized are called words like “terrorist,” “thug,” and “rioter.” These words undermine people’s value in the eyes of society and stigmatizes the individual for making a violent or otherwise “wrong” choice. However, in the rare occurrence when a white person makes the news for their crimes or acts of violence, they are framed as “mentally ill” or “troubled” or “on the wrong path,” reinforcing their “inherent” value and implying less guilt.
  4. The word “terrorism” is often employed in this country to demonize the actions of people of color who are (often through desperate measures) resisting U.S. imperialism. We want to challenge that use of the word terrorism, and recognize that racially charged murders–heinous acts that are committed for racist political gain– are acts of terrorism.

On a final note, we would like to recognize the immense power that the relatives of the victims have shown. A great demonstration of this was in their extension of forgiveness to the shooter. Bethane Middleton-Brown, the sister of Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor said the following:

“And I just thank you on the behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I’m very angry… But one thing DePayne always joined in my family with is that she taught me we are the family that love built … We have no room for hate. We have to forgive.”

This statement is incredibly powerful in its acknowledgment of her anger and in its capacity for compassion. What it is NOT is an absolution for this crime. What it is NOT is an excuse for us to remain idle. What it is NOT is a signal that their suffering is over. What it is NOT is peace. Their forgiveness is NOT ours to claim.

Black forgiveness of white violence is necessary for survival in a world that sees black people as less than human. It is necessary in order to continue to fight for justice. It is a call to action for non-black folks to fight with them. Do not let this statement of forgiveness be co-opted as an indication that this “is over with.” Our thoughts come from this great interview with Carvell Wallace, entitled “You’re Not Off The Hook: The White Myth Of Black Forgiveness.”


Who we are

This section is taken from a recent letter of solidarity written by CSSC to the organizers in Ferguson and our community.

We are a primarily and historically white, upper-middle class, educated, privileged group of organizers. We are not a monolith, however, and never have been. Although it has been a struggle to raise the voices of marginalized peoples even within our own leadership, we are making strides to do this within our own organization as well as the lives we touch. We are also a diverse group of minds, identities, backgrounds, and experiences. Those writing this statement are not all of the same identity but we also cannot speak for every affiliate of CSSC. Instead, as current or alumnus of CSSC who care deeply about this transition to incorporate social justice more heavily into our organizing, attempt to convey where we stand in the hopes that it will be a way for us not to remain silent and for others to begin to join the conversation and the fight for racial justice.

CSSC was founded on the three pillars of sustainability: equity, economy, ecology. Our Mission is to unite and empower California’s community of higher education to collaboratively and nonviolently transform ourselves and our institutions based on our inherent social, economic, and ecological responsibilities.

We have been the leading statewide student-run organization for California youth who are passionate about sustainability. Our convergences have been moving from the traditional focus on ecological and environmental stewardship toward a greater understanding and valuing of justice, uplifting economic transition and equity as the priority. We still very much value environmental and ecological stewardship but with recognition of the social and economic context of such issues.

For the last few years, we have been working actively toward embracing this intersectionality, heading up campaigns like Fossil Free UC and Students Against Fracking as explicitly justice-based campaigns working toward climate justice. In 2014, we started the first ever Solidarity Organizing Program. We strive to create an intentionally diverse space, lifting up organizers of color and those who identify as members of an oppressed community. Our organization is devoted to learning and developing our social and climate justice analysis, and we fully recognize the internal and external progress that needs to develop the radical inclusion of students dedicated to justice, equity, and sustainability.

Our work is inspired by groups such as the California Climate Justice Alliance, who paint this picture so well and help us to understand the crossroads of our work:

  1. “The tragic killing of so many young Black people, like Mike Brown, the environmentally-caused illnesses and death from disproportionate pollution in so many communities of color, and climate chaos are all linked by the same systems of racism and oppression.”
  2. “The fight for Black lives, racial justice and the incredible organizing of #FergusonOctober is inextricably linked to the fight for environmental justice & we stand in solidarity with everyone in Ferguson”.
  3. As a group with the word “sustainability” in its name, we recognize that if we are to be truly sustainable, we cannot ignore equity and justice. This is inherent to sustainability and inherent to building a safer, healthier, cleaner, more beautiful, and just world.

Continue the Conversation

If you are part of CSSC or would like to join the ongoing discussion of how various systemic oppressions intersect with our work, please reach out to Emili Abdel-Ghany: emabdel [at] ucdavis [dot] edu 310-744-5031

In community,
California Student Sustainability Coalition


Emili Abdel-Ghany, former Field Organizer

Shoshanna Howard, Campaign Director

Zen Trenholm, Development Director

Emily Williams, Campaign Director

Silver Hannon, Campaign Director

Alyssa Lee, former Field Organizer

Colin Murphy, CSSC Alumnus, Activist, Writer: Oakland, CA

Oil Spills Whose Fault are They Anyway

By: Emily Williams

“It’s not your fault.”

In the movie Goodwill Hunting, Robin Williams repeats this line over and over to Matt Damon, helping him accept that the trauma he faced, in fact, wasn’t his fault.

I can’t help that that mantra crosses my mind every time I’m confronted with anther exploding oil train or of a child diagnosed with cancer next to a power plant. “It’s not your fault.”

Two weeks ago, a pipeline that was pumping crude oil from off-shore platforms to onshore facilities ruptured in Santa Barbara County, spilling over 100,000 gallons of crude oil onto the coastline and into the sea. The slick currently spans over 10 miles of previously pristine coastline. The only silver lining is that the spill didn’t occur in a more populated area.

Yet I am completely dependent on fossil fuels. A shameless alliance of government, big oil, and king coal has ensured that our infrastructure depends entirely upon coal, oil, and natural gas. These fuels heat our homes, power our cars, produce our plastics, and power the very computer I wrote this on.

But just because we are currently reliant on something doesn’t mean we should continue to be. Our society used to rely on DDT to protect our crops from pests. Yet once it was proven how toxic the substance was, we banned it, turning to alternatives. We now know that fossil fuel extraction and combustion is more toxic to our communities and environment than DDT. When we turn on our fossil-fuel powered light, we cast an ugly shadow. At the other end of those power lines are horrendous human rights violations and irreversible environmental degradation. This spill is not an isolated incident. Exploding oil trains, oil spills, fracking-induced earthquakes, and coal slurry mud-slides have become a staple of nighttime news. Coal alone is estimated to have over $300 billion[1]in external costs; that is $300 billion worth of costs that the companies force onto taxpayers and the environment. In three weeks this year, three oil trains derailed and exploded, and in the case of the West Virginia exploding train, the fire that engulfed 19 rail cars burned for three days[2]. Over 25 million Americans live within the “blast zone” along oil train routes[3]. But the fossil fuel assault has a global front as well—climate change. According to the Climate Vulnerability Monitor, already 400,000 people die per year as a result of climate change[4]. While this number is already too high, future generations can expect a much higher figure.

These impacts are not evenly distributed to those who are the most responsible for emissions. Fossil fuel extraction and combustion occurs mostly in or near communities of low socio-economic status–primarily communities of color. These communities are plagued with elevated rates of asthma, cardiovascular illness, and cancer, and have very little political power to fight the infrastructure. However, on the few occasions when this happens next door to the companies’ CEOs, suddenly there is an uproar. When a company wanted to install a fracking water tower on the land of Rex Tillerson—the CEO of Exxon Mobil—he fought it. Turns out Rex is only interested in fracking in other peoples’ back yards.

No matter our political inclinations, we all have to accept that these fuels are undermining the health, economy, and prosperity of our society.

So what’s the solution? Contrary to popular belief, we have the alternatives to actually transition away from fossil fuels and power our economy. Improving energy efficiency in buildings can cut 10% of emissions on its own[5]. Solar and wind are not only technically viable alternative fuels, but also financially feasible[6]. Germany, a country that lies at the same latitude as Alaska, and is covered in clouds for the majority of the year, already gets 30% of its energy from renewable sources[7].

It’s not our fault…entirely. The American public is being misled. While mainstream media debates are torn between the “skeptic” and scientist, alluding to the jury still being out, 97% of all climate scientists are in consensus that climate change is happening, the risk is great, and humans are the cause of it. How can this be? As it turns out, the fossil fuel industry pays big time for media campaigns to spread doubt and green-wash their businesses. This “dark money” is extremely hard to trace, but what is known is that 140 fossil-fuel-financed foundations donated over $550 million to climate change denial campaigns[8]. For a more specific look, BP invests heavily in their PR campaign to recast themselves as “Beyond Petroleum”, while the company only invested $9 billion over the last decade in renewable technology development, compared to the $341 billion they spent in the same period on unconventional methods, such as fracking[9]. Comparing those figures to the $257 billion that was invested globally in 2011 in renewables, $9 is barely a drop in the ocean[10]. To top it all off, according to the IMF, the fossil fuel industry as a whole receives $10 million in subsidies per minute, accumulating to over $5 trillion annually.

In 1961, the Soviet Union announced it would send a man to the moon. Flexing its national muscle, the United States in a mere eight years went from zero to moon landing. Back on Earth, in that very same year, an oil rig off the coast of Santa Barbara suffered a blow-out and spewed over 3 million gallons of oil into the channel.

If the United States could so quickly develop the technology, political will, and finance to land a man on the moon, then we can transition to a low-carbon economy. This feat will require our society to rethink our priorities. We’ll need to stop subsidizing the industry that actively blocks alternatives and start holding the industry accountable. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in their most recent report that to truly tackle the issue of climate change, we need investment to spur the renewable energy revolution. We could invest that annual $5 trillion of subsidies to finance research on renewable energy technology, rather than empowering an industry whose business model continues to fight the transition to a low-carbon economy.

It’s not our fault. We haven’t been given the opportunity to own our own power, to choose our own energy provider, or to be represented by a politician who hasn’t been bought out. But it will be our fault if we remain comfortably blind to the mass profiting from what can only be called institutionalized insanity.


[1]External Costs of Energy











A Critical Response to the Refugio Oil Spill

By: Arlo Bender-Simon

As someone who spends a lot of my time paying attention to fossil fuel resistance efforts, I am growing numb to the term “disaster.” I am reading pretty much every other week about a spill, an explosion, homes evacuated, waterways polluted…..makes me want to tune out. If someone asks me the question: When will these disasters end? I am tempted to answer, they won’t.

What I am doing is looking at the big picture.

When a disaster happens in a specific location, the local population notices and it is easy to get them fired up, ready to change the system that allowed this to happen. But 99.99% of the world’s population will always be NOT local to whatever recent catastrophe is in the news. For us, these local disasters will pretty much always be a small, distant part of the big picture that is the global energy system (or any piece within social and environmental injustice).

Following the oil spill near Refugio Beach on May 19, many Californians are choosing to direct their righteous anger into heightened cries for a ban on offshore fracking, as well as a moratorium on other forms of well stimulation and enhanced oil recovery. While those of us here in Santa Barbara (now folks in Oxnard and South Santa Monica Bay as well) must deal with this icky, gooey, toxic mess; our friends and family throughout California, and the United States, seek to use this disaster as an example of why more protections are needed and why we need to stop the full steam ahead drilling madness.

To me, what is most frustrating about this spill is how normal it is. Sure, it is a shock for Santa Barbara and it sure as hell ain’t normal for the Gaviota Coastline. But for the Fossil Fuel Industry, this is everyday business.

Did you read about the oil spill into the Yosemite River earlier this year? How about the five oil train explosions in North America so far in 2015? The oil storage facility that caught fire in Piru a few weeks ago? The refinery explosion in Torrance? Know that the same pipeline operator, Plains All-American, spilled oil into the streets of Atwater Village in Los Angeles last year? Oh yea, and the average number of pipeline “incidents” in this county over the past 30 years sits around 300 per year. (America’s Dangerous Pipelines, Center For Biological Diversity

I have problems with the Western States Petroleum Association WSPA, and really anyone who makes excuses and bends the truth on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. They want to make sure the local disaster and the big picture always remain disconnected. They want us to remain confused, and doubtful of the folks who confront the industry or call for stronger regulation. They want to make sure that the anger we are feeling is not put into meaningful action.

“There is absolutely no link between hydraulic fracturing and this week’s release of oil at Refugio Beach,” (

These are the words of Tupper Hull, spokesman for WSPA. He is dead wrong.

Regardless of what oil was inside of the pipeline, this is a problem of fossil fuel industry infrastructure. Infrastructure that has been in place for decades, and that is not getting any younger.

Fracking is just one form of extreme extraction techniques that are increasingly being put into use. Acidization is another. So is Cyclic Steam Injection, Gravel-Packing, Steam-flood Injection, water-flood injection……there are more.

All of these techniques seek to extend the life of existing oil fields, and therefore extend the use of the infrastructure that supports them. Pipelines are the safest method of transporting oil, and all pipelines leak….it is only a matter of time.

We need to be investing all of our creative thinking and our collective future into a renewable energy infrastructure to replace the existing fossil fueled system. Until we do, we increase the risk that in our children’s future, oil spills will remain a regular happening throughout the world.

We know that our communities, our shorelines, our relatives, our endangered species, our rivers, and more are at risk every day. But we know that’s not all that is at risk. Disasters such as this one put future profits of the oil industry in the spotlight, make us question the morality of such massive wealth accumulation in the face of such widespread destruction.

Until oil companies consider their profits less important than their moral responsibility to prevent spills from EVER happening, this will continue.

Photo Credit: Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo of the Refugio Spill

UCSB Community Holds Rally in Response to Oil Spill


On Tuesday, May 19th, a pipeline owned by Plains All American carrying Exxon’s oil ruptured, spilling over 100,000 gallons of oil, 21,000 of which made its way into the sea.  Plains All American stated that they are “pleased with [their] safety record.”

Thursday, May 28th, the UCSB community rallied outside of the university’s administrative building–Cheadle Hall–calling out the University of California for its investments in the fossil fuel industry and having financed last Tuesday’s oil spill.

The rally began with a press conference. A Master’s student, Theo LeQuesne, called out to the crowd. “To protect our society, environment, and economy, we must stop the source of these tragedies–the fossil fuel industry.”

After the press conference, students participated in street theater featuring UC Regents paying Exxon executives to dumping “oil” on students, representing the universities active investment practices and their impact on their environment and students.

“We are here to share in our anger and sadness”, called out 1st year Abi Pastrana during the mic check. “But we must channel this in positive directions.”

Miranda O’Mahony, a 1st year student, called out to the crowd, “This spill was not an isolated incident. it is just one more preventable yet inevitable instance of the fossil fuel industry’s disregard for communities and the environment.” Oil spills–and other accidents related to the fossil fuel industry–happen happen all the time, primarily in areas with communities of color. We cannot discuss the fossil fuel industry’s environmental impacts and ignore the inherent environmental racism it perpetuates.

O’Mahony said, “While Plains All American is liable, Exxon it culpable. Without Exxon’s offshore drilling, there wouldn’t be a pipeline in the first place.” Exxon Mobil contracted out Plains All American–a company with a track record of spills and violations–to transport its crude oil from Exxon’s storage tanks to a pump station in Gaviota.

The students marched from Cheadle Hall to the Multi-Cultural Center, chanting and carrying the pipeline. Student onlookers met the demonstrators with cheers joined in chanting “UC Regents lead the way, divest our UC today” and “We are unstoppable, another world is possible.”

The University of California currently invests its endowment in Exxon Mobil–alongside many other coal, oil, and gas companies. Emily Williams, Campaign Director with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and alum of UCSB, said “By consciously investing in these companies, the university is willingly profiting off of the practices and ecological, societal, and climatological impacts of the company.”

In addition to funding one of the worst perpetrators of social injustice and environmental degradation, the university blatantly demonstrates that it places its profit margins above it students. As administration decides to support the biggest climate drivers, administration is actively condemning its students to facing the worst impacts of climate change

“It’s really very simple,” said Pastrana, “We’re calling on our university to start investing in students, not in spills.”

This industry not only disproportionately impacts communities of color, but also youth and future generations. The Climate Vulnerability Monitor estimates that today 400,000 people die per year from climate change-induced disasters. That number will skyrocket when today’s youth and future generations take office.

This spill is just one example, in a sea of disasters, of the ecological and social impacts of the extractive fossil fuel economy.

We know what the alternatives are to fossil fuels–increased investment in and production of renewable energy that is community owned and operated. We also know that the fossil fuel industry will not lead the renewable and just revolution. Big oil in the last decade collectively invested $9 billion in renewable energy development, compared to the $341 billion they spent in the same period on tar sands extraction. Comparing those figures to the $257 billion that was invested globally in 2011 in renewables, $9 billion is barely a drop in the ocean.

 Photo Credit: Miranda O’Mahony

UCSB Students LEED by Example

by:Kaitlin Carney, Noah Eckhous, and Timothy Jacobs

A group of students from the University of California, Santa Barbara are wrapping up a year-long course in green building in which they worked through the process of LEED certifying a campus building. The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification recognizes Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and offers a holistic approach to green building. The building’s initial design and construction in 2006 earned it a LEED Silver Certification, but now the team has high hopes for Gold, or even Platinum.

In addition to aiming for the highest award offered by LEED, the course itself sets many standards. Offering students an opportunity to gain hands-on, practical experience with the building certification process, the course is the first of its kind. With both undergraduate and graduate students, the multidisciplinary team represents many majors including Environmental Science, Geography, Physics, and Engineering. In addition, it is led by two UCSB alumni and LEED Accredited Professionals, Cassidy Green and Brandon Kaysen.

The project’s focus, the Student Resource Building (or SRB), was built in 2006 to provide students with connections to resources that include clubs, tutoring, and study spaces. Its initial certification fell under LEED’s New Construction standards. Now, it will be certified according to standards for an Existing Building which includes operation and maintenance.

Back in September, the students began their journey with a crash course in green building. With diverse backgrounds and varying levels of experience in the green building field, the students were exposed to the entire LEED process and familiarized themselves with the many requirements a certification entails. With input and feedback from the building users, the students split into teams and got to work on their portion of the project. This included performing energy audits, updating cleaning and maintenance policies, replacing aerators on sink faucets, and surveying the building users. One of the changes implemented by the group included adjusting an interior lighting schedule that is estimated to save about $3,200 annually. More involved modifications included an LED lighting retrofit for much of the building. Interaction with the staff and building users was key throughout the project. A survey distributed to SRB staff discovered that there was a significant issue with comfort due to excess sunlight on one side of the building. The team was able to remedy the issue by working with Associated Students to install tinting on the South facing windows, thereby increasing thermal efficiency and occupant comfort.

This course comes at a time when the University of California system has implemented a range of impressive sustainability policies, including requiring all newly-constructed buildings to achieve LEED Silver certification. As a result of its many campus-wide sustainability initiatives, UC Santa Barbara was recently ranked as the greenest public university in the nation. But with the integration of the students into the process, this course has taken it a step further. And the learning won’t end with the building’s certification in June. Now that the documentation has been sent into the USGBC, the students await the certification results with excited anticipation and have turned the focus to their own accreditation. They are now well-prepared to pass the LEED Green Associate exam and many plan to do so in the coming months.

The lessons we learned in our time working on LEED certification are not limited to the scope of our project. Without much effort, the typical tenant can implement a variety of energy conservation measures in their home. These range from simply turning off lights to replacing turf with drought-tolerant alternatives. We have provided a short list of suggestions that our readers can apply to their own living situations.

Water Reduction Tips:

  • Make sure all fixtures are fitted with low-flow aerators
  • Retrofit high-capacity toilets with an internal reservoir to reduce volume per flush
  • Replace sprinklers with drip irrigation
  • Replace nonnative plants with adaptive/native alternatives

Energy Reduction Tips:

  • Replace light bulbs with LED substitutes
  • Add dimmable controls to LED lighting (increases lifespan and saves money)
  • Eliminate unnecessary lighting, consider putting lights on a timer
  • Put outdoor lighting on a schedule or occupancy sensors
  • Install adjustable awnings
  • Apply window glazing to increase thermal efficiency and occupant comfort

General Environmental Tips:

  • Separate compostable waste from trash and compost it
  • If remodeling, look for green labels, like FSC-certified wood

If you want to learn more about LEED and their rating systems go to their website. They have rating systems for nearly every type of building including offices, homes, and new construction projects.

Sustainable Campus Life

by:David Sia

About Author: David Sia works for as a journalist. He graduated from University of West Los Angeles in Inglewood and holds master’s degree in Law.

Inglewood is an example of a multicultural town, reflecting the world in its expansive diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and ideas. I am really proud that I used to study here. I had a lot of exciting moments and loved this place a long time ago. It was not really simple for me to adapt when I was a first year international student. My philosophy is totally opposite from my roommate, thus we have many contradictions from the beginning. California offers many of the wonderful activities that are traditionally associated with student life, thus I have decided not to waste my time and concentrate on studying and self-improvement. Living at Inglewood brings surprises and new experiences every day, in an extraordinary community of creative and accomplished people from around the world. I have rented a cycle, because biking is a popular way to get around campus. I support Green Campus Living.

Each year on April 22, Earth Day, the world sets out to show support for environmental concerns and clean living through a global effort of civic engagement and public works. Originally started in 1970 as a proposed day to honor a healthy, sustainable environment with rallies and gatherings from coast to coast, Earth Day today spans the entire globe and reaches more than one billion people each year. I want to share with you with my experience on how to keep your spirit raised and achieve your aims. I have marked 8 major tips which helped me to achieve my goals and successfully get a master’s degree in law.

  • Use stairs. For those of us who are health conscious, taking the stairs helps respiratory function and can burn 10 calories each minute. Thus, whether or not you are trying to build chiseled calves, practice some civil disobedience and use the stairs. Also, you may encourage your friends to take the stairs with you.
  • Use healthy things to clean your room. Think about going green when you clean your room and make your apartment shine! Always check what’s in your typical cleaning supplies! You may be taking some health and environmental risks each time you tidy up. Some chemicals like phosphate contaminate water that flows into local streams and threatens wildlife. Most detergents contain petroleum-based surfactants, further supporting our dependence on oil. You should avoid such destroying products.
  • Use a bicycle to get around the Campus. Biking is an inexpensive and popular way to get around quickly. Public Safety provides security and emergency services 24 hours a day. Rent a bike and feel yourself happy and full of energy.

  • Set goals. Every day before going to sleep you must write a short plan what are you going to do tomorrow and what results you may get from your successful actions. Use your time wisely. Do your best to concentrate on what you really need and want.
  • Try out for a sport or join university sport team. I used to play in soccer team in my university. I have loved soccer since my childhood and supported Bayern Munich. Also, I visited Champions league final match in 2013 when Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund and became the best soccer team in Europe. I was really excited/happy, and even cried.


  • Join a sustainability club: When you have started your journey of being good to the environment it’s hard to stop! By joining or creating a sustainability club on campus you can encourage other students to work towards being more “green”, while doing fun events such as campus cleanups or hosting Farmer’s Markets to bring fresh produce to campus.
  • Take shorter showers: A typical shower uses 2.5 gallons of water a minute! You may significantly reduce the amount of water you use when you are taking the shower by shortening it to five seven minutes or even less. It will save energy if you turn off the water during the time you lather up, and then rinse off quickly.
  • Eat healthy and proper food. Eat locally grown foods. Locally produced food is transported shorter distances, uses less fuel and pollutes less. Plus, you’re helping the local economy and local businesses at the same time.

P.S. Always take care of yourself and the environment, develop self-confidence, believe in yourself, think critically and your dreams will come true.

UC to Paris Climate Symposium

by Eva Malis

On Monday, May 4th, UC Berkeley students, staff, and faculty gathered for the first time with California political leaders and UC Office of the President staff to celebrate and discuss the University of California and State’s role in addressing climate change. With the approaching 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (expected to take place in late November 2015 in Paris, France), world leaders should look to California, and particularly the University of California, for climate leadership and example. The UC to Paris Climate Change Symposium is honoring UC and State climate innovations, emphasizing university and state climate collaboration and a mutual commitment to California as a global leader for climate solutions.

The Symposium is a unique opportunity for student leaders to engage with UC climate experts and state political leaders on the future of California’s climate leadership and representation at the upcoming COP 21 through panels, conversations, research presentations, and networking, planned by ASUC Senator Haley Broder and EAVP Environmental Affairs Manager Wes Adrianson, along with a coalition of students, faculty, and UC administrators. The Symposium was a partnership between UC Berkeley environmental and sustainability groups and CSSC.

This was the first event of its kind at UC Berkeley–a vision put forth by student demand for more accessibility to political leadership. This Symposium encouraged discussion of the student role in tackling pressing issues like climate change that the student generation is prone to experience in their lifetimes, exploring potential for more collaboration between the UC system and the state government. It also ignited discussion about California’s role as a leader in international climate policy and at the UN annual Conference of the Parties. Due to the passion and dedication of ASUC Senator Haley Broder and an involved student community, especially UC Berkeley students Jacob Elsanadi and Allegra Saggeese, this monumental first step towards political accessibility between the UC’s was a huge success. Looking forward, Broder hopes to expand this event to the rest of the UC system and encourage more political leaders to attend.

Twitter Town Hall:Don’t Frack California

Curious how #fracking is impacting the #CAdrought? Tune-in to this twitter town hall to find out.

Our own CSSC Students Against Fracking Campaign Director Shoshanna Howard will on a panel answering questions during this twitter town hall. The panel will be answering questions that are tweeted until then! Follow #DontFrackCa for more information!


Hosting a Workshop at CSSC Convergence

by: Kevin Bertolero, Guest Blogger

Over the weekend I hosted a workshop at an event known as the convergence. The California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) hosts these biannual events at universities across the state. A convergence is an event for students who are passionate about and work in the three branches of sustainability; economics, equity, and ecology. It is a time for students to share their projects, ideas, knowledge, and inspiration with one another.

This quarter the convergence was held at LMU and the theme was “Strengthening Connections: Thriving Together”. They explained,

We are at the intersection of intertwining and complex social, environmental, and economic systems. By understanding how we shape these conditions we can explore new ideas and organizing models that disrupt and replace the status quo. This work will require that we cultivate strong mutualistic relationships with each other to ultimately ensure we collectively thrive and adapt to a changing planet.

This got me excited because the website I work for, OpenFarm, has goals that align directly with the theme. We are a non-profit that believes in the Open Source Movement and putting people first, and the chance to spread the good word of our work was irresistible. There were three tracks a workshop could follow: global, local and personal. I submitted an application under the global track titled OpenFarm: How Plants Unite Community and Strengthen Global Resilience with the following description:

This workshop will facilitate discussion about plants as a globally valuable resource and how we can preserve the knowledge of how they’re grown. Topics of interest may include how plant information is being preserved, why it is important to share this knowledge freely and some of the challenges that we face in a changing climate. The workshop will culminate in an understanding of the website OpenFarm and how anyone can contribute to global plant knowledge.

I wanted to host this workshop following the Popular Education principles that the convergence facilitators recommended to us. I had never given a presentation that relies so heavily upon audience contribution, one where the attendees are vital to the conversation. I had briefly discussed this style of hosted conversation with our team’s other community developer, Kat, who has some experience with popular education and “unconferences“. Without knowing exactly who would come to my workshop, I decided to make a very loose outline of the discussion, and to be extremely flexible (almost to the point of winging it) so I could engage everyone and move the conversation with them.

The Workshop

I felt like an improv artist, incorporating audience cues into my routine and trying to engage them as much as possible. About 15 people came to my talk, and I handed them our call to action postcards. I truly wanted our hour together to be useful and engaging to everyone who attended, and not be a wholly self-promoting advert for OpenFarm. So I started the discussion with some humor. “Hey everyone, I’m trying this idea of popular education. Usually the lecturer knows everything and you all sit and absorb per status quo. It’s very imperialist. Some argue, however, that you know as much as I do and have the same ability to contribute knowledge to our discussion. I really doubt it though since I’m an expert with a degree.” I asked people some easy questions, just to prove that they can indeed be a part of the conversation. “What inspired you to attend the convergence?” I quickly found out who the vocal parties would be, and who I would have to help speak up. I also got a feel for the interests and motivations of the individuals in my group.

Something this convergence planning committee made on the first day was a list of societal issues and a separate list of solutions. I liked this idea as a way to initiate important discussion, and to identify points of pain and frustration within the community. Ditch the small talk and let’s get to what we came here for…changing the world! So for my workshop I also made two lists. None of the people in my talk participated in making the convergence master list, so they could help make my list without it being redundant for them. We could contribute what we came up with to the convergence master list. Problems my group felt passionate about included: water politics, animal cruelty, deforestation, commercial agriculture, food scarcity and access, invasive species, public health, technology used inappropriately and with poor intention, the private property mentality, and economic systems used for intentional food deprivation. Some solutions we wanted to explore were: education, drip irrigation, conscious diets, restoring land rights, local/community/urban farming, the commons, technology used appropriately with positive intention, improved food access and distribution, and local and culturally specific solutions.

We only had an hour for discussion, so after hitting on these topics, and expounding upon some of them in greater detail, there were 10 minutes left. “Ok Kevin, I’ve gotta start wrapping this up and give some context to this conversation,” I thought to myself. Then I got an underhanded pitch right over the plate, for a home run. “Excuse me Kevin,” a girl in the audience said, ” I’m sorry to draw a tangent but we’ve been talking about all of these problems, and some solutions, but what can we do to actually help? How can one person contribute?” That’s when I offered OpenFarm as a model technology. Not that we are the solution, but I believe more of the solutions in the future will look like us. Open Source, free and accessible. Fun, easy, and social. Community focused, mission driven, and efficient. Any person can take part, and improve our future. Our vision is to provide people with the most liberating advice in the world…how to grow food. And we not only aim to share growing knowledge, but to connect people with each other in their own communities.


I’m glad that I didn’t have a prepared slideshow or presentation for this event. The projectors in a few of the rooms weren’t working, so I was able to give my room up to someone who needed the computer and projector. I think my talk was more engaging overall too. I made a few impromptu jokes that loosened everyone up and made the conversation feel peer to peer. People come to the convergence to break out of the classroom and the status quo method of learning. They come for inspiration and connection, and that’s truly all I wanted to facilitate. My favorite moment was when 50% of the class had all turned to each other and started their own discussion on the pros and cons of technology. They were engaging with each other in a respectful and intelligent way, and I hope with open minds.

There are some things I would change for future speaking engagements of this nature. I should’ve had my contact info displayed on the board, and taken emails of interested parties. It would’ve been good to have a volunteer plan or program should some of them wish to participate with our organization. For the sake of promoting interaction, I would re-arrange seats away from standard grids and into a circle, or get rid of seats altogether and go outside.

I am on the fence about my discussion approach. I think I would’ve liked to host something that was more useful to people, even though our website will be useful. Instead of essentially saying, “hey look at all these problems, well we built a website for a lot of them,” I’d like to leave people feeling more fulfilled. Not the promise of fulfillment, but hands on action leading to it. If I knew what that looked like in workshop format though, I would’ve done it.

If you have any comments, or suggestions for leading successful workshops feel free to share them below!

*This is a guest article.


Spring 2015 Convergence Approaches

 by:Eva Malis

Towards the end of every semester, I find myself growing restless and excited to share and apply what I’ve learned. CSSC Convergence serves as a perfect outlet for this desire for growth, and I cannot believe its already that time of the year again! With Convergence only a few days away, students from all over California are preparing to share their ideas, network their causes, build their movement, and converge on a statewide platform of sustainability. CSSC’s biannual convergences provide the space for the future and current leaders of the sustainability movement to meet, unite, and organize! It is a time for students to share their projects, ideas, knowledge, and inspiration with one another.

The CSSC Spring 2015 Convergence will take place April 24th-April 26th at Loyola Marymount University. Our theme for this convergence is Strengthening Connections: Thriving Together. REGISTER HERE if you haven’t yet!

I got the chance to speak with some of the amazing organizers of this event, Kar Ashimyam and Karina Alvarez, who have been working hard all semester to pull together every detail and element that makes Convergence as special as it is. Here are a few of their perspectives.

What is your favorite part about convergence?

Kar: The community love. The students who have a shared passion for a greater outlook on life, the wholesome view. I feel(this is the keyword here, feel) good around these students, because they want everyone to feel good. There is a clear vision with the students who attend these events. We like to have fun, we like to learn, and we like to share.

What is the importance of convergence?

The fact that its all student run. Its not provided to us by any one institution or authority, its a collaboration of all who contribute to it. We make this event possible, every piece is put together by a core team of students who follow any particular system. Not to say we don’t have community, institutional, and faculty support – we very much do, we couldnt have gotten this far without LMU administration. But its open to everyone, businesses can get involved, faculty can get involved, leaders and followers alike can get involved. It shows you that we are human and we depend on eachothers support to build a wonderful world.

We also learn to ask the right questions. We learn the ways in which we each learn. We learn how to make it all work, as different as the system is from how we each may function. Most of all we learn that the word “sustainability” has a very large scope. It is not merely recycling and composting, although those are big parts of it. Looking out for each other is as a part of sustainability as caring for the environment. Both are really one.

What do you want to see this semester’s convergence accomplish?

Inspire students and community members to do what resonates with each of them on a very deep and connected level. Follow your hearts to respect this community of life we are a part of. We all have different functions in a single ecosystem, and when we come closer to this state of solidarity and unity of consciousness we work more efficiently and harmoniously with one another. We are able to thrive here.

What has your experience on the planning team been like? Why are you doing this work?

I am extremely happy to be a part of such an admirable team. Karina is one of the most hard working individuals I have worked with in a very long time. She has great organizational and facilitative skills, and she is very happy all the time. Shes a powerful motivator and, through this experience, she’s become a great friend. I feel great knowing she is a on the operating team of CSSC. An organization, a network, more like a group of friends who in the past few months have done nothing but ask us how we are feeling and how they can help and be more even more helpful. Being under so much support takes you in a utopia. You start to see all these challenges as opportunities to reach out to one another, collaborate and care.

I am here because I want to be a part of something big and meaningful. I have worked with many organizations in my life, nothing like CSSC.

What will be special about this Spring 2015 convergence?

Its in LA.,Southern Californias most densely populated city. There is a lot of potential here for improvement. Living in LA gives you a good understanding of the diversity of global views. There is so much happening here that you really have to choose what you occupy your time with. Its great that people here have taken an interest on sustaining and taking care of the environment. And we would like to expand their ways of thinking towards global issues.

What are some topics that this convergence will cover?

It will give some global perspective to our society. It will offer opportunities to collaborate with students nationwide. We have gone above and beyond what we knew was possible with our city. We can only offer our fellow students the most supportive experience of their Earth Week(end) for 2015.

CSSC will be providing inspiring keynote speakers, workshops, caucuses, speaker panels, entertainment, two nights of housing, five delicious local meals, and an opportunity to network with students and professionals from across the state. The theme Strengthening Connections: Thriving Together, aims to “ensure we collectively thrive and adapt to a changing planet”. You can expect to participate in inspiring dialogue on critical issues, to cultivate vital connections with others who share your passion, and to have lots and lots of fun! You can check out the program here! Also, be sure to keep scrolling for Twenty Reasons to attend Convergence!

See you soon at LMU!



1 Registering is easy. FOLLOW THIS LINK!

2 You get free delicious vegetarian/vegan meals while you are there

3 While at Convergence you will learn from many others

4 After the weekend you will be motivated and empowered to pursue sustainable actions on your campus

5 Convergence allows you to grow from exposure to diverse perspectives

6 You’ll meet people from all over the state with different backgrounds and stories

7 LMU is a beautiful campus

8 Discover the environmental movement in a statewide perspective

9 Amazing speakers and panelists!

10 You get to meet leaders in the statewide environmental movement!

11 There will be a showing of “The Future of Energy” and “Cowspiracy” including a Q & A with the Director

12 Prepare for delight as you read the full schedule of the weekend

13 This event has been put together by inspiring and dedicated students just like you!

14 I’ll be there!

15 You’ll have the opportunity to participate in a giant spiral hug.

16 You will become a sustainabilibuddy!

17 You can’t miss the live entertainment of the open mic!

18 The friendliest people you’ll ever meet will be at Convergence

19 Enjoy the theme of Strengthening Connections: Thriving Together

20(a) You’ve read all the reasons to go and want to go to your first Convergence!

20(b) You’ve already been to a Convergence and can think of at least 20 more reasons to go!