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.



UC Regents: Listen to Your Community. Be True Climate Leaders.

by: Emili Abdel-Ghany, UC Davis Class of 2014 Community and Regional Development
California Student Sustainability Coalition Field Organizer for the Fossil Freedom Solidarity Organizing Program and former Senior Field Organizer for the Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign.

Over the past three years I have seen communities rise up together across UC Davis, the entire UC, and reaching out into California and beyond, even reaching the front page of the Wall Street Journal’s Money and Investing segment. The campaign to divest our communities from the fossil fuel industry is one that resonates with folks from every part of society. I have had the opportunity to help shape the campaign on the local (Davis) level and statewide, coordinating multiple actions at the Sacramento UC Regents meetings and others. I have personally dedicated a majority of my undergraduate career to this campaign and to the education of the broader campus and California community (UC Davis and beyond). Faith communities, those fighting for racial or gender equity, scientific communities, campus departments, educators and countless students have thanked the campaign leaders for enlightening them about what UC investments are doing. I have seen how galvanizing the issue of unsustainable investments can be for students, faculty, staff, and community. Almost every time I’ve told someone about this campaign their reaction is the same: They did not know that the UC invests donations in fossil fuel industries which constitutes a lack of transparency from the UC, and they do not want the UC to be investing in or even using fossil fuels. Further, they want to have a say in the process given that UC is a public institution of research and higher education, and are strongly opposed to the direction the UC is going in its relationship to the industry fueling climate change. Although the UC has just made significant strides to advance solar, it is a moral contradiction to invest in the companies driving the climate crisis while investing in those attempting to halt it.

Image 2. Photo Credit Becca Rast, May 2014 UC Regent’s Meeting @Sacramento


Our movement for climate justice is reaching a tipping point this September, and here in California we must act to hold our flagship public institution accountable for financing climate chaos.  UC Regents on the Committee on Investments will be voting on fossil fuel divestment at their meeting September 17th meeting at the UCSF Mission Bay campus. We need as many voices from community, students, faculty, administration present. The Chief Investment Officer (CIO) recently altered his original recommendation to the Committee on Investments (COI), which would have advocated for a loose ESG (Environmental and Social Governance) framework for investing and explicitly stated recommending a “No” vote on divestment. In my opinion, this recommendation would completely disregard and even misconstrue the meaning of the work of students and the community, since it does not take immediate action to halt all new investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies, drop the current holdings, and begin to reinvest in our communities. However, because of student and community pressure (by countless phone calls to the CIO) the Task Force recommended that the decision on Fossil Fuel Divestment be assigned to the COI, ending the Task Force. This minor concession is thanks to the people power generated by Fossil Free UC.

Any recommendation that the CIO makes to the Task Force will be taken very seriously by the Committee on Investments and voted on at their Friday September 12th meeting happening via teleconference in Oakland, LA, and Santa Barbara. If you would like to be involved in the momentum around this please email CSSC Field Organizer Jake Soiffer or Madeline Oliver. Most Regents will likely defend his position. We need to keep up the public pressure on decision makers. The Regents will likely still vote yes on whatever the CIO recommends to the COI. It will be incredibly important to have as many people at this meeting supporting our campaign as possible. If you are faculty we have a template letter that we would love for you sign onto/adapt and send you may contact CSSC Campaign Director, Emily Williams for this letter. Otherwise (for non-faculty), you can send your input to the UC Regents via email, mail: Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents 1111 Franklin St.,12th floor Oakland, CA 94607 with attention to the Committee on Investments. The regent who chairs this committee is Paul Wachter, it would be good to address concerns to him since the decision is in the hands of the COI as of now. If you will be sending a letter after Friday please email it to CSSC Field Organizer Alyssa Lee and she will circulate it appropriately.

Image 3. Photo Credit Sam Gross, Spring 2013 CSSC Convergence @ UC Berkeley

Image 3. Photo Credit Sam Gross, Spring 2013 CSSC Convergence @ UC Berkeley

Divestment from these companies will apply the appropriate amount of public pressure on them to either change their business model or make room for sustainable and just solutions to the problems they helped create and continue to profit off of. The CEOs of the dirty companies the UC is investing in know exactly what they are doing. Exxon Mobile’s CEO, Rex Tillerson, claims that humans will adapt to climate change blowback. As I have learned in my Community and Regional Development class at UC Davis this summer, this is what is known as an ecological fallacy, to apply theory from one level of understanding (adaptation of species) onto another completely different level (the political economy). However, if we run with his theory and say that humans can just change their structures to weather climate change, it would actually be much more expensive for citizens and cities, but maybe not the CEO of Exxon Mobil. Yet again from what I have learned from leading scholars at the UC, we must examine who receives the burdens and benefits of our systems, namely our economic system, and why. It is a farce to say that each person has an equitable say, but rather we should recognize each entity deserves this and are systematically disadvantaged or privileged based on social identity/affiliation. CEOs of the top 200 most polluting fossil fuel companies did not earn their status, they did not rightfully gain the ear of politicians and UC Regents based on their character, to put it bluntly, they purchased that time with money “earned” from extraction and exploitation. What the youth of today are working towards is an appropriate seat at the table, a say in how our institutions are run. Changing our structures to appropriately reflect the population is difficult but it is one of the most worthwhile challenges of our time. This will help us move towards a future that is empowering for the wrongfully disempowered, healthy for all, and appropriately representative of the world we can to thrive within.

Image 4. Photo Credit Fossil Free UC, May 2013 UC Regent's Meeting @Sacramento

Image 4. Photo Credit Fossil Free UC, May 2013 UC Regent’s Meeting @Sacramento

The Regents of the UC have taken bold action on divestment throughout history, namely with divestment from South African Apartheid. Solidarity shown from the US, namely the University of California, proved to be such an influential move that Nelson Mandela came to the US, to UC Berkeley, after he was released to thank the students for their dedication. I had the opportunity to visit South Africa this summer with UC Davis Study Abroad, partially inspiration by my work on the Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign through the California Student Sustainability Coalition. It was there that I learned how very important it is that we show international solidarity, and that those who have the ability to influence large-scale change do just that. I was able to go on a Toxic Tour of the Rustenburg mining communities in South Africa through the Community Monitors Action Network. This place is one of many where free trade, exploitation of land and labor can be felt and witnessed in a way that shakes a person to their core. It is impossible for me to forget the impact of our extractive economy on the lives of some of the most vulnerable. Most of the companies, like Anglo-American, are from western nations like the U.S. or the UK; this means any profit gained from exploiting places like these go to CEOs and shareholders in the US. It is often called the Resource Curse when a valuable resource is found since it results in the exacerbation of current oppressive systems and dramatised wealth disparity.


Image Credit: Emili Abdel-Ghany July 2014
On August 16th, 2012 34 miners were killed for fighting for their right to exist and thrive (78 miners wounded) at the Lonmin Platinum mine in Marikana, Rustenberg, South Africa. This is a photo from the mountaintop where many were slain, the memorial that remains, and the mine in the background. The extractive and exploitative economy steals money, earth, and most importantly, innocent lives. ‪#‎remembertheslainMarikana Solidarity campaign.
Watch this film to learn more:

Rustenburg is a microcosm of the larger issue of our time. The Fossil Fuel Divestment campaign targets the top 200 companies who own the most carbon reserves because we recognize that the extraction, distribution, refining and finally burning of carbon has an especially devastating impact on the lives of every person on this planet. Climate change has effects that are happening now, it is not just a looming threat in the future. If a person is not feeling it, that does not negate the fact that counties have run out of water in the U.S., that people have died from fossil fuel explosions, that indigenous land is being stolen and stripped, that the youth of today are afraid of bringing new people into this world because of how much worse they fear it will get. We are fighting for our future, yes, but we are also fighting for today.

The UC has to lead. We have to act now. The Regents have the opportunity of a lifetime to listen to the outcry of the people and divest NOW!

For more information follow:
To be added to listservs email
Alyssa Lee.

You can find an excerpt of this essay on the UC Davis Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability Department’s

A Thank You Letter to CSSC

I moved to California in the fall of 2010 to attend UC Berkeley. By spring, I had found CSSC.

It’s actually a funny story.In the spring of 2011, Energy Action Coalition held its third ever Power Shift conference in Washington DC. I had gone to Power Shift in 2009 when I was in high school since I grew up in the area. But out in California, I decided I couldn’t justify the carbon footprint of a cross-country flight to go to an environmental event (since then my views on purposeful airplane travel have fluctuated). I didn’t go, and all through the weekend of the conference, I was so bummed out that I wasn’t there, as I tuned in to the exciting updates on social media. But that very weekend, I received an email from the Berkeley Sustainability Team list serve. It advertised something called a “convergence” hosted by the California Student Sustainability Coalition, happening in about a month at UC Davis. A chance to meet activists, get inspired, see a different part of the state, learn? Knowing close to nothing, I registered that night.

As the event neared, I began to wonder how to get to Davis. I had never been before and I only kind of knew where it was. Not long after I began wondering, I received an email from a woman named Tia. “Do you need a ride to the Convergence?” she asked. Yes! My first CSSC carpool. Convergence weekend came around, and I took the BART to El Cerrito to meet Tia. Another Berkeley student, Chris, met me there. We got in the car with Tia, Kayla, and Dominic to drive to Davis.

That weekend was a whirlwind. I heard amazing keynote speakers (Tim DeChristopher, for one) and attended thoughtful workshops. I had never heard of permaculture or aquaponics before! There was an epic Saturday night bonfire and jam sessions sprouted up through the cracks of the agenda all weekend. I met people from all corners of California, corners that my east-coast self had never heard of. Faraway places like “Butte” and “San Luis Obispo.” The people I met were different, special. They dreamed big, acted real, and were so open to new ideas and people that every conversation opened up a new world. I had participated in sustainability events before, but none that felt like this, none that were so community-oriented. I left feeling dazed, overwhelmed, and determined to find my way to the center of this clearly wondrous organization.

 It took me a little while, but I found my way in. I am proud to say I served as the Online Content Manager on the Operating Team for over two years, but my connection to CSSC runs so much deeper than that. It’s my family.

Managing the website and blog may have kept me behind the scenes, but looking back, my position gave me an unforgettable opportunity to connect people from all over the state of California and beyond. I stepped into the shoes of storyteller, and the stories I witnessed and broadcasted constantly kept me inspired and grounded in what truly is the grassroots movement. From “big” things like Power Shift and UC-wide divestment, to smaller things like grilled-cheese funkraisers and water-saving technologies, I found myself in tune and in touch with a spider web of greatness and power.


Winter Leadership Retreat 2012

When I started, I didn’t know anything about WordPress or websites. As writer Annie Dillard put it, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” And that’s something very special about being part of a grassroots and student-run organization: anyone with passion and interest is given great power and stake. The only thing that limits what one student can do in CSSC is their own prerogative. No one tells you no.

By being a part of CSSC, I feel that I feel lucky to have grown into a progressive belief-system and culture. Not all organizations are keen to discuss and incorporate the intersections of social and ecological justice, how institutions like classism, racism, and feminism fold themselves into environmental issues. It is a privilege to spend time with organizers who are deeply committed to justice of all kinds, who earnestly hunger for solutions that are deep, honest, and beneficial to all people. The people I’ve met in CSSC are on the cutting edge of the sustainability movement, and I think they’re on to something.

 Four years later, I feel Californian. Thanks to CSSC I have traveled all across the state: to Davis, Chico, Humboldt, Santa Barbara, Fremont Peak, the San Jacinto Mountains, Sacramento, and more. As Development Director Zen Trenholm likes to put it, “CSSC is the best couch-surfing network in California.” I feel incredibly lucky, because I don’t just know the places I’ve traveled to in California for their landscapes and cities, but for their best and brightest student sustainability activists. I know Los Angeles for its DIY dumpster divers, I know Butte for its epic jam sessions and radical thinkers, I know Humboldt for its farmers and alternative techies, I know Shasta for its urban lettuce growers. The California that I know and love is the best of the best, thanks to CSSC. In creating an intentional community, this network organization is the change it wishes to see in the world.


For giving me power, wings, and so many incredible friends and partners-in-crime, I am forever grateful to the California Student Sustainability Coalition. I’m passing along the website and the blog, now, to some fantastic new folks. But don’t worry: once a sustainabilibuddy, always a sustainabilibuddy!


2 Weeks In! The Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign wants your support!

Image borrowed from Occupy Oakland Media <>

Wow! We are already 2 weeks into July and our Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign! For all of this month and August, we are asking anyone who is affiliated with the UC, whether they are students, alumni, faculty, or even California taxpayers, to write in to the Regents and President Napolitano with a strong message:


We are asking ALL OF YOU to write a short 3-4-paragraph letter to the Regents urging them to vote YES on DIVESTMENT in anticipation of the September meeting. Every single day in July and August, at least 1 handwritten or typed letter will be mailed to the Regents so that the message does not stop.

If you want to support, please sign up HERE for the date that you will commit to send your letter!

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

This week, we are featuring a letter from Jane Vosburg from Sonoma County who has written to President Napolitano requesting the same leadership from the UC as they showed in the 1980s when they divested from the apartheid government in South Africa. Vosburg’s letter makes a powerful case for the ethical argument for divestment but also gives a strong presentation for why it is economically beneficial. Please check it out below!


Dear President Napolitano,

The images of Nelson Mandela returning to Berkeley to thank the student body for its help in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa demonstrates the power of a campaign run by students with conviction. The injustices of apartheid were reprehensible and the good fight was fought and won.

Today, students find themselves in an even more reprehensible situation. They are faced with a fossil fuel industry which is determined to burn all the fuel it has in its reserves thereby causing climate catastrophe and heating the planet to a level unconducive to life. To prevent this scenario, the fossil fuel industry must keep 80% of its reserves in the ground. At the current rate of emissions, the carbon budget will be depleted by 2040. Humanity has never faced such a dilemma.

The moral argument alone should convince the UC Regents to divest the UC’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry; but, equally compelling are the financial reasons to divest. Beavis Longstreth, former commissioner of the Securities Exchange Commission cautions in his article “The Financial Case for Divestment of Fossil Fuel Companies by Endowment Fiduciaries,” that “For fiduciaries, the planet’s present condition and trajectory pose major, and growing, portfolio risks.” Republican Henry Paulson, who was secretary of the Treasury when the credit bubble burst warns, “We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing as the risks go unchecked….This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore…. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course. We need to act now….”  I would argue that inaction by the UC Regents would in fact be a breach of their fiduciary duty.

It is only a matter of time before prestigious colleges begin their commitment to divest their endowments from fossil fuel–Stanford has already committed to divest from coal. Therefore, I urge you to embrace the leadership of the students who are fighting to prevent climate catastrophe.  Make the University of California the beacon of justice once more by divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies.


 Jane Vosburg


The Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign has kicked off!

It has been two days already since the start of the Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign! As we come upon the last Regents meeting before the September vote on divestment, it is critical to get hundreds more voices in the conversation and not just at these meetings! We need to begin making a presence on the phone, in their inboxes, and in their mailboxes!

This July and August, we are calling on students, faculty, alumni, and supporters of the UC to tell the Regents nonstop to divest from fossil fuels! We are asking ALL OF YOU to write a short 3-4-paragraph letter to the Regents urging them to vote YES on DIVESTMENT in anticipation of the September meeting. Every single day in July and August, at least 1 handwritten or typed letter will be mailed to the Regents so that the message does not stop.

If you want to support, please sign up HERE for the date that you will commit to send your letter!

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

Furthermore, every week, we will be featuring a letter from that week by a student, alumnus, faculty, or UC supporter! Since our project has just started, this week’s featured letter is from myself!


140702 FFUC Letter to Regents (5)


As a recent graduate from UCLA, it was easy for me to channel my experience as a student and the expectations of integrity and accountability that I felt were made clear to me. However, as an alumnus, I am also deciding how, if any, I want to continue to support the UCs. I do not want my donations and the credibility of my education to be sullied by continued financial investment in companies whose purpose is to make money at the expense of this planet, its people, and our potential. I also spoke about joining the Donors for Divestment campaign. Until the UC agrees to divest from all fossil fuels, any donation of mine is staying put in my bank account! Find out more and watch our video here!

Your letter is your first step in making your voice heard – we are gearing up for a huge win or a huge opportunity to escalate and point our fingers at the Regents. It only took me 15 minutes to handwrite my letter – please sign up for your own letter today!



140702 FFUC Letter to Regents (4) for Facebook (1)

July 2, 2014

Dear UC Regents / President Napolitano,

My name is Alyssa Lee and I am a (very) recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. As a new alumnus, I am deeply troubled by the state of our endowment and its implicit support in funding companies whose for-profit mission is unequivocally driving climate change. With strong urgency, I ask that you consider the well-being of MY future and vote YES on divesting the UC General Endowment Pool from fossil fuel investments this September. Take this step and show that you are fully committed to your demonstrated leadership in a sustainable future.

I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics.

As a student of, I know how valuable my education is and how critical it is for me to take away the knowledge, skills, and values taught to me at UCLA by UC professors, staff, and students and to utilize them to improve the world, whether it be through disease prevention, developing feedstock plants for biofuels, discovering new antibiotics, or through community health sciences. I have spent four years investing time and money into this education so that I can proudly say that I am helping to found a better and more livable future. And countless others have invested in me as well – my family, friends, and colleagues. I am appalled by the hypocrisy of an institution that pushes and inspires me to ‘be the future’ and contribute my education back to the world, and yet does not use its social power and wealth to uphold the stewardship of the very Earth I am to supposedly lead.

Divesting the UC from fossil fuels aligns with your – with our – mission. It allows you to have credibility in your commitment to sustainability. You have said, “We will need to change to meet the demands of the century ahead. And that change must be imagined, sketched, questioned and agreed to publicly and accountably.”(1) By divesting, you are affirming that you will put into practice the accountability and integrity that are embedded in and considered core to our education. By divesting, you allow me to feel proud of my education and to know that the benefits I have reaped (and the future gifts I will give) do not come at the expense of this world and its creatures whom I hope to serve. You allow me to honestly defend my education and identity as a UC alumnus.

Because of this, I am joining the Fossil Free UC DONORS FOR DIVESTMENT campaign. I am pledging a gift of $50 to the UC that I plan to give and increase yearly, but if and only if my donation will be fossil free. Please consider the futures of students like myself and the millions more to come. I urge you to vote yes for the UC to divest its endowment from fossil fuels and put funds toward community-based climate solutions.


Alyssa Lee

UCLA, Class of 2014

B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics



CSU Board of Trustees Approves State-wide Sustainable Food Policy

Michael Clemson, CSU Chancellor’s Office, 562-951-4291
David Schwartz, Real Food for CSUs Campaign, 401-601-5545

 $20+ million to be devoted annually to local, sustainable farms and food businesses

Long Beach, CA – As the state of California struggles with record droughts and wildfires, today the California State University Board of Trustees, including Governor Jerry Brown, approved a long-awaited sustainable food policy will govern the more than $100 million spent on food across the 23-campus system.  Under the new policy, each campus will have until 2020 to ensure that at least 20% of all food spending goes to farms and food businesses that meet Real Food Challenge—a national student group advocating for just food systems—guidelines: local and community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and/or humane.

“The sustainable food service goal in the university policy demonstrates the power of student participation,” said Michael Clemson, Associate Energy Analyst at the California State University Chancellor’s office. “Trustees supported student leadership on this issue and we at the CSU Chancellor’s Office are excited to continue working with the Real Food Challenge.”

The sustainable food policy has been in the works for more than a year, and was adopted as part of a wider sustainability policy, which also includes sections on energy, water, buildings and transportation.

The food section of the policy responds directly to the advocacy of a student campaign, “Real Food for CSUs.” In advance of the May 21 vote, the group gathered petition signatures from more than 1,000 supporters across the state, coordinated actions on 8 CSU campuses and won endorsements from the Cal State Student Association and the California Student Sustainability Coalition. The group has given testimony at all five Board meetings this year.

“This is more than just a passing of a policy. Today the CSU Board is answering a call to change from students, faculty, and community members alike, all across the state of California,” comments Kristin Ouimette, student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a leader of the Real Food for CSU Campaign.  “This vote is huge because students have a right to have access to quality food that not only nourishes our bodies, but also our communities.”

Already, many CSU campuses have developed models that will aid state-wide adoption of the policy. CSU Chico, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly SLO and CSU Monterey Bay are now using the Real Food Calculator, a student-designed assessment tool to research what percent of their school’s current purchases meet the ‘real food’ or sustainable food criteria.  Cal Poly Pomona has also developed a for-credit course for students to research and make recommendations about how their campus food service can improve.

# # #

The California State University Systemis a leader in high-quality, accessible, student-focused higher education. With 23 campuses, almost 447,000 students, and 45,000 faculty and staff, CSU is the largest, the most diverse, and one of the most affordable university systems in the country.

The Real Food Challenge(RFC) is the largest national student organization working for a more just and sustainable food system.  RFC’s primary goal is to shift $1 billion of higher education food spending away from industrial agriculture and junk food and toward healthy, local, fair, and sustainable farms and food businesses.  Every year, Real Food Challenge student leaders take action on more than 300 campuses.  To date, 25 colleges and universities plus the University of California system have adopted RFC’s 20% by 2020 ‘real food’ policy.  150 campuses nationally use the Real Food Calculator to track progress towards their goals.

Fossil Free Moves Forward: May Regents Meeting Account

by Alden Phinney, UC Santa Cruz

We piled, enthused but bleary-eyed, into a gas guzzling old Volvo on the morning of May 14th. I contemplated, as I feel obligated to do, the net emissions of traveling from Santa Cruz to attend the UC Regents meeting in Sacramento: 150 miles, each way, 15 mpg… The only way to get more depressing metrics is to calculate your mileage in polar bears. But I came to the same conclusion I always do: this is a necessity.

          We’ve been sold a fallacy, a DIY or the highway option, that living green takes nothing more than constant conscious effort to minimize consumption; bike, don’t drive; turn off the lights; maybe you should drop out and start a kale-farming commune. Save yourself to save the world. I’d argue the merits of all those things. I love my bike and I love kale. It’s an appealing vision when you look at the systematic suppression of sustainability perpetrated by our consumptive economy. But it falls far short of dealing with a climate teetering on the brink of chaos, and we can no longer live in our backyards.

         We arrived at Cesar Chavez Park to organize ourselves. Forty, fifty, sixty, students, faculty, alumni, and other allies kept thronging in; the energy was palpable. A mass of energetic orange bent on liberation from fossil fuels, ourselves fueled by caffeine and tofu scramble, we will change the world. Roles were divvied, speakers prepped, signs scrawled. As we started marching the few blocks to the convention center, the streets stared. We have their attention.

We stationed ourselves outside the Sacramento Convention Center before the meeting, chanting, singing, genuinely hoping to engage with the Regents entering the building; we had a timeline, we had photo ops, yet the UC administration decided to take the back door. But our 5 foot clock was not wasted.


The incessant honking told us power lies with the people. Regents hold the decision to divest, but we have accomplished the most important facet. Our society is aware. We have woken up to the dangers posed by untrammeled emissions, to the toxins pouring up from the depths into company coffers; we have realized that is not a sustainable business model just as it is not a sustainable way of life. Divestment is inevitable as investors realize they cannot afford to hold onto plummeting stock values and bonds rendered junk stranded assets, but we don’t have time.

They didn’t give us time. As we were subjected to two searches, pat downs, and bag checks to speak during public comments, we were informed we’d been allotted 8 out of the 17 minutes we signed up for. We’ve given this university 2, 3, 4 years of our lives, and they refused to give most of us even 1 minute to address them. Further, there was no room in the chamber for those not speaking. We were told that we weren’t allowed in the public comment hall because we presented a fire hazard, and that the empty chairs inside of the room did not exist.

The indignation and shame of not being able to speak during a public meeting of a public university on a public issue is astounding; we are your students, don’t make us say we are your customers. Will you listen either way?


          We spoke after community members, labor leaders, concerned and irate graduate students. I could not believe the solidarity. They were with us, and I wish we had stood more firmly with them. Our comments were hectic and necessarily rushed. We had phenomenal speakers, slow and forceful; they inspired though I quavered. We tried to hit with a double edged sword, shows of strength tempered by respectful willingness to play their game. But we have played their game for too long.

          They tried to close comments after a showstopping account of sexual assault on our campuses presented by a FFUCer. We were not to be silenced. A mic check hullabaloo broke out in the cordoned-off public comments section, demanding divestment (as usual) and an extension of our time to speak. We expected to be cleared from the room when the disruption started, but we actually ran out of things to chant because they were listening. There were over thirty unassociated individuals who were not given time to have their voices heard because we had passed the allocated twenty minutes of condoned free speech. “Extend public comments! Extend public comments!” became the cry everyone could agree upon.

The vox populi got ten more minutes to speak on issues that matter, not just to us but to stakeholder communities across the UC and across the state. It was an unequivocal reminder of people power in a system that encourages you to believe you have none. The telling response will not be an off the cuff buckling, however, but a coordinated and tactical effort to sever our financial ties with an industry that has proven time and time again they value profit at the expense of people and planet. The Regents have the power, some have the willingness, but we need the posthaste formation of a task force, metrics tailored for the UC endowment, and a vote in September to show our leadership in steering the climatic and economic systems to a sustainable future.

          The climate crisis will not be appeased by bureaucracy, meetings, foot dragging and future actions. I looked over the blog post from last year’s Regents’ meeting, and it contained many of the same stale promises of support. “We will look at it.” “We are convening a task force.” I want to believe in the goodwill of the UC Regents, in their desire to foster student engagement and tackle an existential threat to communities around the globe. But theoretical goodwill is nowhere near enough.

          We came back this year to say this lackadaisical stumble towards progress is not fast enough. As students with our future on the line, we will not stand idly by while fossil fuel companies leverage enormous money and influence (Chevron-UCD partnership anyone?) to arrest our efforts in building the clean energy future necessary to sustain human life. In a panel the next day at UCSF, the chairman of the board of Regents Bruce Varner stated “We’ll have some definitive recommendations or comebacks for our meeting in September,” adding, “I want the students to know we’re following up on that.”

So we have been heard. They’ve given us our reasonable demands, but like last time these words rings hollow without action. The UC system prides itself on climate leadership, and we are offering the chance to prove itself a leader to youth across the world. Don’t follow Stanford, exceed their safe bet. Remove this scourge from our investment portfolio, stigmatize the industry, save money, safeguard the planet. Know this: we are unstoppable, another world is possible.

Action Alert: Real Food Policy for Every CSU Campus

Guess what, CSSC students and supporters? We are VERY close to passing A REAL FOOD POLICY for EVERY CSU campus! 
Nationally, the goal of Real Food Challenge is to empower and engage student leaders on their college campuses to collaborate with campus stakeholders, together using the institution’s tremendous purchasing power to support a healthy food system which strengthens local economies, respects human rights, ensures ecological sustainability, and facilitates community involvement and education.

 This past academic year, student leaders within the California State University system have engaged in a statewide campaign effort, Real Food for CSUs, to promote the inclusion of a sustainable food policy within the greater CSU sustainability policy, as it resurfaces for an update. A team of student leaders from 8 CSU campuses have been in collaboration with CSU policy system-wide analysts to discuss the exact language and implementation of this proposed policy section.

 Currently, 7 CSU campuses involved in this campaign are applying the Real Food Calculator purchase tracking software and establishing student leadership to implement our policy asks. Our proposed method for tracking sustainable food purchases and making product shifts on college campuses is currently being implemented on130+ university campuses across the nation, including Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, andCalifornia’s very own CSU Monterey Bay, CSU Chico, Cal Poly Pomona, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo!

 As the final vote to pass an updated CSU sustainability policy comes up for a vote this May 20th-21st, 2014, we need you to attend in support and see this amazing policy proposal become reality!

Who: YOU!
What: The CSU Board of Trustees Gathering
Where: CSU Office of the Chancellor, 401 Golden Shore, Long beach, CA, 90802
When: May 20th-21st (Meeting times TBA)
Why: To support this campaign, and learn how to reform your campus food system!
How: Contact us at the information below!

If you are interested in participating in this historic event and/or want to learn more, please contact us at:

In Defense of Earth Day

On Earth Day, my friend Jashvina and I sang Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” on the Mario Savio Steps at UC Berkeley. It was a part of Berkeley’s yearly Earth Week festivities, a week that changes shape each year according to the values of students and how they’d like to celebrate what has become a staple national holiday. We chose “Change Gonna Come” as a song of hope amidst deep-rooted injustice in the 1960s. We wanted to honor the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that paved the way for all justice movements that have followed. Singing felt so good and joyous, both of us dressed colorfully, smiling big.


Is the environmental movement allowed to celebrate? I hear discourse these days of Earth Day being a joke, a scam, a detriment and a disgrace to the real crises at hand and the types of movements and actions we need to address them. I hear these concerns. But I still love Earth Day, and I think I always will. Can’t  we take one day out of the year, to step back from our daily struggles, our serious fights for divestment and environmental justice and new economies and political power, to breathe, celebrate, and feel gratitude? For me it’s a day to remember that amidst the environmental disasters that humans are causing and will cause, environmental miracles are also happening all the time. The poppies are blooming, new seedlings are sprouting, art and music are bursting from the cracks, and people are coming together in all sorts of new ways. And don’t forget – the sun rose this morning!

Amidst an environmental movement that is increasingly focused on addressing the system of environmental and climate injustice (which is definitely a move in the right direction), it’s important to remember and pay homage to the actual earth under our feet. Each of us lives in a specific place, a unique niche, that supports life like you and me. So what’s the harm in taking a day to gather and smile together?

Personally, I don’t want an environmental movement that is solely about tackling systemic issues. I also want an environmental movement that has its roots in the earth, in its living, breathing form. I want and need both types of movements. Maybe we all do. And so I want a day to join my fellow humans in expressing gratitude to the earth and its communities: human and non-human. Connecting intimately and genuinely with the non-human world is part of what it means to fully realize our existence as humans and live resiliently. The soil and trees and wildlife and watersheds deserve podiums on our human stage, and Earth Day provides that podium.

I don’t think that Earth Day needs to represent the entire environmental movement, as it is too often challenged to do by the media and popular culture. In fact, in 2014, there is no single environmental movement, and the mosaic of ideals and strategies that are out there could never be captured in just one day. But there is one earth, and it deserves our intentional gratitude. I know that we all should live like every day is Earth Day, and it is my idealistic, optimistic belief that we are moving in that direction. But until everyone’s hands are in the dirt, everyone knows the names of the plants around them, and we’ve all cleaned up our act, let’s keep using this special day to draw more attention and intention to a world worth fighting for. To a world worth knowing, loving, and celebrating.  Change gonna come, oh yes it will!

Documentary concerning climate change activist ​Tim DeChristopher

Story of student who committed civil disobedience to safeguard pristine Utah land

Interview by Gary Nelson, CSU Chico

On March 27, approximately 60 people came to watch a community screening of the documentary “Bidder 70” presented by its directors, George and Beth Gage, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church in Chico.

According to its website and directors, Bidder 70 centers on an extraordinary, ingenious, peaceful and effective act of civil disobedience demanding government and industry accountability. In 2008, University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher committed an act which derailed an illegal oil and gas lease auction, and he was jailed through an arguably unfair trial. His act would redefine patriotism in our time, igniting a spirit of civil disobedience in the name of climate justice, and he would come to be recognized as a prominent climate change activist and leader.

Chico State student Patrick Harrington, a senior criminal justice major, attended the screening because of an extra credit opportunity for his criminal justice ethics class, as well as out of personal interest.

This film was a great demonstration of determination, sacrifice, and courage,” said Harrington. “I really enjoyed witnessing someone stand up to the big oil companies and corporations. Tim DeChristopher displayed how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and fight for it.”

After the film the directors stepped aside to answer some questions, mentioning that the response from the Chico audience was worth the five hour drive.


What first drew you in to Tim DeChristophers case?

Beth Gage: I read about it in a local Colorado paper, and thought it was ingenious and an intelligent way to go about things. Without hurting anyone or without destroying any property, he was able to stop this illegal oil and gas lease auction through an act of peaceful civil disobedience.

Why the name Bidder 70?

BG: It was Tim’s number in the auction. By making bogus bids of 1.8 million dollars, Tim was able to win 22,000 acres and managed to stop the auction so it never resumed, and those parcels and many others totaling 150,00 acres were never really auctioned off.

Did he actually pay for the lands?

George Gage: He raised the money to pay off the auction by calling activists with connections, and they worked the social network pretty hard. They raised the $80,000 for the down-payment, but the government didn’t accept the money because he wasn’t deemed a legitimate bidder.

Could you define civil disobedience?

BG: You’re doing something that is not allowed by our government, but is not violent. It’s civil, as opposed to criminal.

Do you feel civil disobedience is ever justified?

BG: Yes, especially non-violent civil disobedience. I don’t feel like violent disobedience has very much credibility, because fighting violence with violence furthers the problem. As Gandhi and Thoreau gave us examples, it’s a very good way to counter something you feel is not the way the way it should be and is not changing because of the normal way people go about changing things, through courts, law, and petitions.

So do you feel like he was offered a fair trial?

GG: I don’t think the trial was fair at all. First of all, a few pieces of information were held from the jury about the proximity of the parcels to national parks, the intentions to exploit the land, and that the auction was illegal..

Disrupting this auction, should have been seen as the lesser of two evils, less than having the lands destroyed. Also, he wasn’t able to get a speedy trial, and had nine postponements spanning 2.5 years, which basically put his life on hold, on trial, for that time.

There’s so much that went down during this time that wasn’t fair. I’m from a different generation. Our generation grew up thinking that everything that the America government did was just. Everything in this particular case with Tim said otherwise.

How have you seen Tim grow?

BG: When Tim first took his action, he and the people around him didn’t really see him as a leader, they just saw him as a smart young man who had seized an opportunity to take an action that worked. For years he’d been waiting for a environmental or climate activist, a leader that he could follow. Nobody appeared, so he took action. He’s learned that he really has a sort of gift to speak out, lead and bring people together.

Why is this an important issue for people to be aware of?

BG: It’s so important to make people of all ages understand that they have the power to make changes if they feel passionately about those issues. To see what Tim did didn’t actually ruin his life, like some people thought. It’s important that people take seriously the problems that we have in the world, and that they feel empowered to address them.

GG: His life is so much better today that it would have been had he not taken the action. It’s much better for his soul, having saved the land, and moving on with his education to become a minister.

What have you learned through making this film? What do you hope people take away from it?

GG: I learned that if people get up and take a stand, they can make a difference. If they learn to push themselves a little beyond their comfort zone and do a little more– which doesn’t necessarily mean getting arrested – they will feel better internally and get more accomplished.

There’s an organization that was just formed called Global Climate Convergence. It’s all about what activism we can do that’s a little beyond just writing our congressman and sending emails and so forth.

Anything else you’d like to add?

GG: Earth Day is coming up, and it’ll be the first anniversary of Tim coming out of incarceration. We’re encouraging people to go to the website, buy and share the DVD, talk about activism after seeing the film, plug into what global climate convergence is doing and just make an evening out of it.

Just about every audience we have seen, bit cities, small, east to west, people have been motivated after seeing this film. He’s an encouragement to us all.

CSSC Students Featured on Spring of Sustainability Earth Day Panel

Spring of Sustainability is a free virtual sustainability education and engagement program featuring many “stars” of sustainability and joined by committed environmentalists, activists, students, and change agents across the globe who are making a difference in every way possible!This year, it launches with a full day virtual Earth Day event on April 22 that includes a variety of extraordinary speakers and panels — including a student panel to represent the voice of the next generation.

LISTEN in at 4:25 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 22 for the student panel where CSSC’s Kevin Killion and Meredith Jacobson are featured speakers, among other students from across the country.

The Emerging Storytellers: Voices of the FutureStudents from campuses around the country discuss their concerns about our world, their vision for the future, and what they are doing to bring that vision into reality.
Then join in for the rest of the program as well.
The Earth Day event on Tuesday, April 22, from 11 am – 11 pm Eastern Time and is called “The New Story for a Sacred Living Earth.” Speakers include visionaries and sustainability leaders such as Duane Elgin, David Korten, Frances Moore Lappé, Vicki Robin, John Perkins, Barbara Marx Hubbard as well as indigenous elders and representatives from many of the key environmental organizations. Listen in free live or to the replay available for two days after the event.

Then Spring of Sustainability continues with 9 weeks of programming that brings together diverse trailblazing environmental organizations and leaders into a collaborative, synergistic effort to raise consciousness and catalyze positive action across the planet. Representing nearly 3 million members, these partners include the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Climate Reality, Endangered Species Coalition, National Wildlife Federation, and Move To Amend.
Through these selected partner organizations – critical issues like Climate Change, Food, Water, and Endangered Species will be featured with a focus on how to take high-leverage actions to make a difference in each of these domains.

For more details about the Spring of Sustainability program and how CSSC students can become more involved, contact


Links not working? Please visit this URL:

CSSC Alumni: Where Are They Now?

 This is the first installment of the “CSSC Alumni: Where Are They Now?” blog series! Each month, we’ll feature a different CSSC alum to hear about their experiences and advice for current students. This month, we are excited to present Brian Croshal, who you may know as the aquaponics guru from the convergence, the guy with the solar trailer, or a member of the Tree Amigos band.

 Interview by Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager

 M: So Brian, when did you graduate and what did you study in school?

B: I graduated in 2012 from Cal Poly SLO. I studied mechanical engineering with a concentration in HVAC. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, mainly looking at those systems inside buildings to pump water, ventilate, and control temperature.

M: What sustainability projects were you involved in, and how were you involved in CSSC when you were at Cal Poly?

B: At Cal Poly, I was a member of the Renewable Energy Club, and ended up going to Empower Poly Coalition (EPC) meetings. EPC is Cal Poly’s CSSC chapter. They’d send one member from all the different green clubs, which was a treat because that one member was usually an outstanding member from each group. We’d try to plan things and share resources of the clubs, and CSSC convergences were part of that.

M: What did you work on with the Renewable Energy Club?

B: We were promoting renewable energy in all forms. We’d do it by getting out and talking to people, and we’d lure them with our solar cooker. Patrick Bernard, another club member, built a solar sandwich board for club announcements that would charge during the day and light up at night. We also had a solar generator on a trailer that I would tow around with my truck. The spring that I graduated, we had a solar jam at the arboretum for the big hoorah. There were 60 people there, two Porta-Pottys, three solar-powered bands playing, the sun was setting, the batteries kept working. It was quite the shake down…promotion of all things awesome.

M: How many CSSC convergences have you been to?

B: Santa Barbara will be my 7th! I always have to write them down on my drive down to the next one.

M: What keeps you coming back to convergences?

B: Besides the social aspect of hanging out with people that I only know from convergences, there are always relatively renowned speakers who are aware of what they’re talking about. It’s also cool to see what schools are doing in terms of systems and policies they’re pushing on campus. It’s cool to stay aware. I also think going to convergences is a volunteer thing for me…. I know enough about it, so I just walk around the crowd and make sure young people know what’s going on. The goal is make sure people know how cool of a thing this is.

M: I remember you at my first convergence at UC Davis. You were very friendly and I really appreciated your enthusiasm! So what are you up to now?

B: I graduated with mechanical engineering, and I’m still doing it. I got a job within HVAC pretty easily getting out of college. Then after a year and some I decided I wanted to shift gears, because I had gotten into aquaponics. So I started doing plumbing in buildings, which is moving freshwater and waste around buildings – potable uses, rather than heating and cooling.  I figured this was a way I could professionally develop in a direction that would let me eventually take over the world with aquaponics in one form or another. So that’s what I’m doing now… plumbing engineering in commercial buildings. I work for Integral Group; it’s a pretty well known Canadian company with a main office in Oakland, and we’re doing some cool buildings – like the SF Exploratorium. For that project, we came in as engineering consultants to help design some efficiency systems. The Exploratorium collects rainwater and flushes toilets with it, so that’s pretty cool. We look at grey water and black water… especially with the drought, it’s all the rage now, figuring out how we can plan for the future. We’re balancing the cost of water with the cost of collecting reclaimed water, and reusing to displace potable uses. That’s a big push now within design systems.

M: For the people who have not taken your aquaponics workshop at a convergence, could you explain what aquaponics is in a nutshell?

B: I’ll start with hydroponics; people are usually more familiar with that. With hydroponics you’re growing plants outside of the soil, so instead of the soil you have some other porous substrate like rocks or gravel to support the plants. Then you have water flowing through the rocks, with nutrients added to the water. With aquaponics, the source of those nutrients is a fish tank, where you’re housing and feeding fish, and the waste of those fish is powering the cycle. Their waste turns into plant food, which turns into our food!

M: Do you think it’s something anyone could figure out with enough time or resources, to do aquaponics in their own home? What does it take to be an aquaponics master?

It’s a hobby – a technical hobby. To be less than technically stoked, it can be overwhelming. If you take it one piece at a time, it’s like legos. But you have to be in to legos to devote yourself to building the millennium falcon. So for the fish, you have to be aware of the different parts of the system and you can’t just focus on one. It’s a complex clock to get tickin. But otherwise, there are all sorts of scales of it, so anyone who’s stoked enough about it, dedicated to building and maintaining it, can pull it off.

M: Good to know! So how do you think CSSC has helped you get on the path you’re on today?

B: For me, CSSC has been about the convergences; otherwise I haven’t really been too much a part of things. So when I look back, a lot of things happened at convergences…  they are opportunities for me to learn about all themes – energy, the environment, water. I learned things there that I directly bring into my job now, and also used them to get the job. Certain kinds of companies are more into developing better systems that cut down waste, like LEED certified buildings. So to design that kind of a building takes a broader view of the different elements that come into it. I think from going to convergences and workshops, I have a better understanding of what a building means for different people. It helps me keep my designs more well-rounded.

M: That’s great that you’ve been able to incorporate all that. I’ve heard that you have some connection to LEED certification….

B: I recently became a LEED-accredited professional. It means I had to show a basic understanding of the credits and the ways that they’re achieved in the design of a building. LEED certification is becoming more and more common, because it’s more commonplace to demand higher performance standards.

M: Do you have any advice for current CSSC students pursuing sustainability in their lives?

B: Try to really decide on what you want to be doing, and then just do that. They call it the law of attraction. I think about aquaponics and how it got me into plumbing, coupled with California’s recent tendency toward water efficiency, and I feel like it’s all beautiful poetry that I’ve slowly worked into in my life. So the advice would be to aware of how you feel, what you want to do, and then make small deliberate steps to get to that. That’s pretty textbook advice though.

M: It’s very sound advice that people often forget when they try to do a lot of things at once. I’m glad to hear that you’re making it work.  One last question: if you could be a vegetable, what would you be? Your spirit vegetable, per se.

B: Oh golly! I think broccoli. Cause it’s pretty dense, they say it’s really good for you, cleans your colon out, and an often overlooked fact: if you peel the stalk, you can eat that like a carrot. Then you just have a peeled stalk left: that’s the soul of the broccoli right there.

M: Awesome. Thank you so much, Brian! 


If you’d like to contact Brian and ask him any questions, email him at bcroshal [at] gmail [dot] com



Over 100 universities adopt student-designed tool to measure sustainable food



David Schwartz, Real Food Generation: 401-601-5545,

Stephanie Yee, CSU Monterey Bay: 415-306-2163

           Over 100 universities adopt student-designed tool to measure sustainable food

 CSU campuses among those leading rigorous investigations into the origins of campus food

March 19, 2014 – Monterey, California – On March 26th, the California State University Board of Trustees will gather to discuss a proposed CSU-system-wide sustainability policy guaranteeing 20% ‘real food’ purchasing. Students from 10 CSU campuses have endorsed the policy and have already gathered 1,200 petition signatures in support. They plan to travel to Long Beach, CA to give testimony at the upcoming Board of Trustees meetings.

The average student has little idea where the food in their cafeteria comes from – and little ability to find out. School dining managers looking to satisfy a growing student interest in local, sustainable food might not know where to start: it can be overwhelming trying to navigate the sea of confusing labels, claims and certifications, identifying which will resonate with customers, not to mention make a real impact for family farmers or the environment. The Real Food Calculator, a new online tool developed by a national team of student social entrepreneurs and food industry experts, is closing the gap—using the power of big data.

Four years of research and pilot testing have produced the online tool, which allows students to collect and analyze thousands of purchasing records to assess their institution’s ‘real food’ score. The app’s analysis is based on a comprehensive and rigorous set of 3rd party-verified standards for what counts as local, fair, ecologically sound and humane food. The Real Food Calculator offers a clear benchmark of how campuses are performing in supporting the community through food choices—and how to improve.

“Increasingly we’re finding businesses that understand millennials’ desire for transparency, authenticity and honesty in marketing—especially when it comes to food. What’s missing are concrete tools and hard numbers to help institutions keep up with an evolving customer base. The Real Food Calculator fills that gap.”  – Anim Steel, Executive Director of Real Food Generation

Students across the country are realizing the power of the Calculator. In its first year since launching,

  • 128 universities nationwide have begun using the application—including CSU Monterey Bay, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Cruz;
  • Over 600 undergraduate students have participated in campus assessments;
  • Student researchers have researched over 76,000 unique products, and reviewed over $69,000,000 in campus food purchases.

Many institutions have incorporated the Real Food Calculator into university-accredited courses. Others have sponsored paid student internships to complete assessments. The result: an unprecedented depth of actionable data for food service operators, a unique educational experience for student leaders, and new potential markets for sustainable farmers and innovative food businesses. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the second-largest dining operation in the country, recently completed their 2013-2014 Assessment:

“This has been an incredible learning experience for students and dining, alike. Using the Calculator, I can now tell you that 81% of my school’s seafood is ecologically sound. And we now know that, compared to other universities, we could source more fairly trade items, such as rice—the item we buy the most of.  Such a switch could have an exciting economic impact and serve as a campus wide educational tool!” – Anna Hankins, Class of 2017, UMASS-Amherst.

The metrics data analysis provided by the Real Food Calculator’s has already led many schools to make purchasing shifts. Carleton College in Northfield, MN has transitioned from conventional bananas to fair trade, organic bananas, an investment in the health and well-being of farming communities abroad. The University of New Hampshire is piloting a purchasing relationship with a consortium of local fisherfolk to increase both local and ecologically sound seafood and boost the University’s real food score.

The Real Food Calculator has been buoyed by the public endorsement of major food service companies Bon Appetit Management Co. and Sodexo USA, which together manage cafeterias at over 700 colleges and universities and hundreds of other sites, nation-wide. In the coming year, student developers of the Real Food Calculator expect to see the program expand beyond the higher education sector, to hospitals, resorts and corporate cafeterias, where demand for these services is high.

The CSU student coalition is excited to see this kind of transparency on a larger, state-wide scale. Many of them already use the Real Food Calculator to understand their campuses’ current food purchasing, and potential to support more real food; The students are eager to see the Board of Trustees vote on a policy to guarantee 20% real food purchasing for the CSU system.

CSSC Students Recap: “Don’t Frack California”

Photo by Mikaela Raphael. 

Here are four CSSC students’ perspectives on the Don’t Frack California Rally and March.

From Annie Montes, Co-President of UC Davis CSSC

On March 15th 2014, thousands gathered for the largest anti-fracking protest in the history of California. The energy and enthusiasm of this group  was both inspiring and exhilarating. Protesters came from all walks of life, providing an accurate representation of our citizens and proving that the movement to ban fracking is not limited to the millennial generation.

Representatives from Students Against Fracking, Green Peace, Fishermen Against Fracking, Californians Against Fracking, Gathering Tribes, and so many more stood side by side proudly and boldly displaying anti-fracking signs. Signs included clever slogans such as “Don’t Frack with our Water,” and “Get the Frack out of California!”.  The rally began with moving speeches from speakers including David Braun, the cofounder of Americans Against Fracking, and Huey Johnson, a former Secretary of Resources in the Brown Administration. The presence of these speakers showed protesters the magnitude and diversity of support in the anti-fracking movement. Participants were then organized to surround the capital in an embrace to show our love for California and our desire to protect our state. In our embrace we cheered for Governor Brown to ban fracking. Regrouping on the lawn we linked arms and sang for not only ourselves, but for the futures of generations to come.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is the fracturing of rock deep underground with pressurized liquid as means to extract natural gas and oil from our Earth. Not only have the effects of this practice contaminated ground water and surrounding ecosystems, but the use of fracking requires 3 to 7 million gallons of water per well.* Knowing that the average family of four consumes about 109,000 gallons of water per year, simple math shows that a single well could support sixty-four families of four for a year. In our current drought, Californians cannot afford to waste this water. It is for these reasons that so many individuals gathered on the State Capital this weekend. Together we made our voices heard to Governor Brown. We sang from our hearts, cheered from our souls and even left Brown a voicemail: “Clean energy today Jerry Brown.”

* Ramudo, Andrea, and Sean Murphy. “Hydraulic Fracturing-Effects on Water Quality.” Cornell University, 12 Dec. 2010. Print.


Butte/Chico CSSC. Photo by Emily Teague.

From Angie Shen, UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking:

Excerpt from her blog for the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC)

At the end of the rally, there was a collective feeling of heightened invigoration and determination to stop the dangerous practice of fracking. On the ride back to Berkeley, I spent some time staring out the window at the rolling yellow hills and bright blue sky found only here in California—our state, our home. I imagined the land riddled with thousands of frack wells, like a rotten wound oozing toxic fluid and reeking of nauseating smells. A feeling of disgust and devastation momentarily swept through me, and I thought: Not this state. It became clear to me that any argument about the economical benefits fracking would bring California was grossly outweighed by the tremendous, unequal burden Californians would have to shoulder with regards to their health, environment, and livelihoods.

We must stop fracking in California. We must divest from fossil fuel technology and reinvest in renewable energy. We can, and we will. Join Students Against Fracking in our mission to unite California’s colleges, universities, and local communities to ban fracking in California and promote the shift to renewable energy, for a sustainable future! Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley has weekly meetings on Mondays at 6pm in Mulford Hall. For more information, please contact Angie Shen at

See more photos of the event here.


UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking. Photo by Emily Teague.


From Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager

A classmate and activist I met while studying abroad in Santiago, Chile last spring taught me an important lesson about demonstrations. While I was there, I was lucky enough to march with the Chilean student movement,  which at times brought 100,000 people to the streets. One day, I asked my classmate Alberto if he thought the Chilean government was taking notice. He shrugged and said he didn’t think so. He said that wasn’t the point – the point was to be together. To fill space and build power through physical togetherness. It didn’t matter who was watching, as long as people were forming connections and joining together. It was about the people – not the government.

At the Don’t Frack California Rally we chanted to Governor Brown. He wasn’t in the building, but directing our voices at him was symbolically important. In my opinion,  it wasn’t about him, it was about us. It was about the intermingling on the charter buses, the dancing in the sunshine, the hugs and handshakes with new friends, the inspiration and laughs from each other’s sign slogans, the clipboards and fliers being passed around, the honks from cars passing by, the glee of running beneath the parachute and playing drums with children – our future leaders. Society tends to make us feel more isolated than we really are, and tells us feelings aren’t important. We’re pushed to be pragmatic 100% of the time. But we know better, that’s why we gathered. Feeling like we’re not alone, feeling like we’re right, and feeling like we can win… these are feelings as important as skills and actions. We came to feel good, we left feeling good: I know I did. With good feelings in our tanks, our brimming bodies can go further than we ever believed. So get involved at home – with your help, we can win this.


Photo by Mikaela Raphael.

Steve Verhoeven, Shasta College CSSC Council Representative

Even as I drove two hours from the northern valley, realizing the hypocrisy of my actions the whole time, it still made me feel like my time, money, and abilities were long term investments toward a sustainable future for our populations.  I came to represent the students of Redding, we care, and this rally was full of just that, people uniting in solidarity for the sake of ourselves and our children. UBUNTU!


Photo by Emily Teague.


Victory for UC Service Workers and Allies

Photo from the Daily Bruin, Brandon Choe

from UCLA’s SCALE (Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation)

After 20 months of bitter disagreement and 2 strikes, the UC and the AFSCME 3299 union signed a historic 4-year contract and called off a third system wide strike that was scheduled for March 3- March 7.

AFSCME 3299 represents 8,300 UC service workers that include food service workers, gardeners, bus drivers and custodians. Before this contract 99% of UC service workers were eligible for some form of public assistance. In fact, some full time workers still live in their cars. In addition to their economic difficulties, before the contract, workers were also forced to contend with severe job insecurity as the UC increasingly replaced these career employees with inexperienced outside contractors. Despite the difficult months of bargaining, the majority of the workers’ core demands have been met.

The four-year agreement includes a 4.5% signing bonus, a 3% wage increases for all employees, and an additional 2% increase for most employees each year for the next three years. Our UC workers also won more job security, as the new language in the contract prohibits several forms of contracting out. In addition the UC agreed to freeze Kaiser and Healthnet premiums for the life of the contract.

Student-worker solidarity and diligent organizing played a crucial role in obtaining the terms of the new contract. SCALE (Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation) has been working with AFSCME since 2013 by helping organize student demonstrations in order to provide awareness of the issues our workers face. SCALE helped organize marches for the strikes, encouraged student boycotts of dining halls in support for our workers, and informed the student body of the labor issues at the UC. Forging this student-worker relationship not only increases the bargaining power of the workers’ union here on campus but also the power of the student body. It was with workers’ support of prop 30 that Students won a tuition freeze in 2013. In the coming years it will be important to remember our struggles and our student-worker solidarity as the issues of increased tuition and unfair labor practices will undoubtedly continue. But rest assured, when the UC workers and students support each other we can help create a sustainable and equitable UC campus that we can all be proud of.

For more information, see

Daily Bruin | AFSCME union calls for strike vote after tentative agreement discussed with UC


SCALE-Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation
Join UCLA students in the fight for a fair, free, and democratic university, for us and workers together!
Meet: Tuesdays, 8 PM, Kerkhoff 414(A), UC Los Angeles
Questions regarding this article Contact:

It’s Time to Take ACTION for Real Food

Hi Real Food Advocates,

We are at a huge turning point in our campaign for real food in the CSU Sustainability Policy.  We went from not having food even mentioned in the policy to having a section dedicated to food.  We grew from a small group of dedicated CSU students and Real Food Challenge organizers to a huge network of allies and supporters.  Our network now includes the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), the Real Food Challenge family and the California State Student Association (CSSA).  We have resolutions in support of the campaign passed in CSSA Humboldt State, and many other CSU campuses in the process of passing their own. We have told our stories at the last two Board of Trustee meetings.  Yet, the vote on the policy has been postponed for months.

It is time to intensify our efforts and take action to show the CSU Board of Trustees we want real food in the CSU Sustainability Policy and we want it passed NOW (more specifically, at their March 26th meeting).  We have to let them know that real food is a real priority!

WHAT YOU CAN DO on 3.11.2014 to join the fight to get Real Food for CSUs!

Interested in participating in the Day of Action  and hosting your own event RSVP here.  Need help preparing to host your own event? No worries we have Prep Call on this Saturday afternoon, March 8th, at 1:00 PM.  The phone number for the Prep Call is 267-507-0370, access code 8236631#

Let’s make this happen!

Real Food for CSUs Core Team

How to Raise the Funk

by Kevin Killion, Butte/Chico CSSC and CSSC Op Team Chair

Funky Frackin Fundraiser, and so can you.

A funkraiser is an opportunity to combine celebration, education and amazing people together. There are lots of variables  to consider, yet funkraising is a practical way to outreach to our community, raise funds for your organization, and get your dance on! It takes a team to make this happen: we had 2 cooks, a sound tech, 3 food and drink vendors, 3 bands, 3 amazing house hosts, 4 security guards, 4 weeks to planning, a half dozen fire dancers, set up and clean up crew, 200+ guests attending, 900 invited on facebook, and so much more. After all of our hard work, when we counted the income, we found we were able to bring in an astounding $1,300 in one night.

Following the Winter Leadership Retreat, the Butte/Chico CSSC team  got planning. One of the first steps was to make sustainability education central to the planning. Get creative, and think of how you can tie local environmental issues to concepts that motivate people. For Butte County we choose “Funk to Fight Fracking Butte County”. We look forward to doing more of these events, perhaps a ‘Divestment Dance-Off’, ‘Ozone-Pollution Open-Mic’ ‘Chromium 6 Karaoke’? The next step was to find some really fun local bands that were able to draw in their friends who were not necessarily part of any sustainability groups. A key to getting big crowds to attend is to invite people that invite people that can help to invite people in their networks. FYI, Funk is being used as a Verb rather than an Adjective.  Dont feel limited to any genre, any music that draws a crowd and gets folks dancing is a great band!

Though in the future we may be in need of renting out establish facilities, the Chico Funkraiser was held as a house party. At the entrance to the event we had a table filled with fracking information and sign ups to get involved. Folks that did not have admission were encouraged to read the information and let the door keeper know what they were most excited to learn about. It is essential to have your team and any other funkraiser supporters encourage open and down to earth conversations about your theme. That means that even though you are partying, you are able to communicate the importance of your chosen sustainability issue. We had Local Fractivist and recent Environmentalist of the Year Dave Garcia speak in between bands about fracking. He stayed in the crowd and hung out with party guests explaining fracking any chance he got.

While half of our income at the door the remainder came from donations and food and drink. We made sure to provide a modest admission fee, and asked $3-10. We let anyone in the door that expressed an interest in the event, after we had them read the fracking education board. A huge success was our selling of grilled cheese sandwiches. At $1 each they sold quick! Think about foods you can get donated, cook and clean up easy, can be made in mass, and are handheld and don’t need plates or dishes. We also served two kegs of Sierra Nevada Pale Ales at $2 a cup. When planning, always be on the look for donations, whether that is cheese, homebrew, or musical talent, as any money not spent is money that goes towards your fundraiser. Be sure to get creative and have everything reflect the spirit you wish to cultivate.

This event could not have happened if it was not for the support of all the planners and attendees, who each helped in their own way. But the good news is that with a strong team and a few weeks to plan the event any team can put on a successful event. It took a tremendous amount of outreach, in person, on facebook, and to groups to get over 200 people to come. The end result was very fulfilling. Not only did we have an amazing time, but folks walked away saying that it was awesome to ‘party with a purpose’. Though we are exhausted, we look forward to putting on another one very soon.

Youth have an obligation to reject the Keystone XL pipeline

by Ophir Bruck, UC Berkeley Fossil Free

Cross-posted from The Daily Californian.

The U.S. State Department recently released its Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a project by Canadian energy company TransCanada, that would carry close to 1 million barrels per day of the world’s dirtiest oil from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico for foreign export. Feb. 5 marked the beginning of a 30-day public comment period followed by a 60-day review period, after which President Barack Obama will make what could be the most important environmental decision of his presidency: whether or not to approve the Keystone pipeline.

On March 3, I will be risking arrest at the State Department building in San Francisco alongside over a thousand other young people across the nation. We are participating in XL Dissent — the largest act of youth civil disobedience regarding the environment in decades — to deliver the following public comment to Obama: Reject Keystone XL!

The science is clear: Sixty percent to 80 percent of current fossil fuel reserves must remain underground and unburned to avert runaway climate change. Canadian tar sands — the world’s third-largest crude oil reserves — are among the dirtiest energy sources on Earth, with a well-to-wheel carbon footprint at least 14 percent to 40 percent higher than conventional crude. Leading scientists have sounded the alarm on developing the mega-polluting tar sands, including top climate expert James Hansen, who warns that it could spell “game over for the climate.” Keystone XL would be a fuse to one of the world’s largest carbon bombs. At a time when we must radically shift toward clean and just energy solutions, this pipeline represents the antithesis of sustainable development.

The State Department’s flawed and highly problematic FEIS doesn’t deny Keystone’s climate impact; it downplays it. Written by Environmental Resources Management Inc. — a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute with ties to TransCanada — the report concludes that Keystone XL could add the annual carbon equivalent of nearly 6 million new cars on the road — hardly negligible. Other studies, however, reveal a much greater impact, closer to the annual tailpipe emissions of 37 million new cars or 51 coal-fired power plants.

In a speech last June, Obama promised he would reject the Keystone pipeline should it “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” While Keystone clearly fails the president’s climate test, its proponents continue pushing with asinine arguments. They contend that if the pipeline isn’t built, Canadian tar sands oil will find its way to market at the same capacity some other way — a fallacious and logically absurd claim. This twisted logic suggests we ought to give alcoholics the keys to a brewery because they’ll probably drink anyway. Moreover, we know that Keystone is key to accelerating Canadian tar sands production — even industry officials admit as much. If Obama is to stick to his climate action plan, a critical piece to maintaining a livable planet, he has got to keep tar sands in the ground by giving Keystone the boot.

Proponents also told us this pipeline will create 20,000 new jobs and increase American energy security. Wrong again. The State Department confirmed in its FEIS that constructing Keystone XL would create 3,900 temporary jobs and a whopping 35 permanent jobs — not a whole lot when compared to the nearly 24,000 new permanent solar jobs created in the United States in 2013. As for enhancing American energy security, this pipeline would do no such thing. Canadian tar sands pumped through Keystone would be destined for more lucrative foreign markets such as China, hence its terminus at the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada refuses to promise that the oil would be used in the United States.

As the mainstream debate rages during this final review period, all too absent from it are the impacts of our decisions on communities living on the frontlines of tar sands extraction, refining and transportation — disproportionately low-income communities of color. Rejecting Keystone XL is about standing in solidarity with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation living at ground zero of tar sands development, whose land and water have been poisoned by tar sands mining and whose treaty rights have been trampled on in the name of resource extraction — all to meet the bottom line of the world’s richest industry. It’s about standing with farmers and ranchers along Keystone’s proposed route who have been bullied by TransCanada into one-sided contracts and whose water and farmland would be at grave risk from inevitable spills. And it’s about standing with the Bay Area residents of Richmond, Benicia, Martinez and Rodeo, who live in the shadow of pollutive refineries processing tar sands — among other dirty fuels — and who already bear disproportionately high rates of asthma and cancer. These communities are boldly defending their health and children’s futures daily, utilizing everything from lawsuits to direct action. Because the stakes are so high, it’s imperative that we, as people with privilege — people who still have clean water and breathable air — engage alongside them.

As the base that elected Obama, it’s on us to hold him to his promise of being an environmental and climate leader, not a pipeline champion. This is our call to action. Let’s make some noise.

Submit your public comment to the State Department by March 7, and join UC Berkeley students alongside over a thousand youth around the nation from March 1 to 3 for XL Dissent to say no to Keystone XL!

Ophir Bruck is a fourth-year at UC Berkeley studying society and environment as well as an organizer with the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

Don’t Frack LA!

UCLA CALPIRG Students Against Fracking Campaign


Jacqueline Mak – Campaign Director

Angela Kim – Intern

Angela Yip – Intern

Natalie Un  – Intern


Do you know what that means? Hydraulic fracturing, fracking for short, is a dangerous method of drilling for oil, and it’s right here in LA. For each well, oil companies pump 4.6 million gallons of precious water, sand, and toxic chemicals deep into the ground to break open the shale and release the trapped oil and methane. Culver City, UCLA’s backyard, is one major site for this dirty practice. Fracking intensifies the drought, contaminates our air and drinking water, causes neurological and respiratory problems, and threatens our natural habitats.

In the LA city council, there is currently a proposed moratorium that will stop all fracking activities and future development in LA until the practice is deemed safe for public health and the environment. This Tuesday, the PLUM committee approved the bill to move forward for a full vote at the council meeting on Friday. This vote is just the next step for halting fracking activities in Los Angeles!

CSSC supports UCLA’s CALPIRG in urging the city council members to vote yes on the moratorium. We should move away from fossil fuel dependence and invest in clean energy. We concerned students will not stand to have our land, water, air and health compromised by fracking.

Contact City Councilmember Tom Labonge to ask him to pass the moratorium: Phone: (213) 485-3337


Conserving Our Most Vital Resource: Confronting the California Water Crisis

by Annie Montes, Co-President of UC Davis CSSC


I sit through my classes everyday waiting for time to creep by before I can get back to what I personally like to call “the stuff that really matters.” And my friends, I am sure we all value our grand education system… but how can I concentrate on my homework when every fiber of my body craves to be devoted to the nurturing of our Earth? In asking this question I feel anxiety flood my stomach as I once again become all too aware of the ebbing resources available to humanity.

I remember in high school listening to adults talking about running out of oil, natural gas, and coal in my lifetime. Never did I hear anyone mention the depletion of water resources even though existence would not be possible without them. Water, our most valuable and essential resource, has been exploited, polluted, relocated, and wasted with no visible repercussions. Only now, in the midst of crisis, do I hear the words “water” and “conservation” in the same sentence, and rightly so.

As I am sure most are aware, California is indeed experiencing a water crisis. Conditions are so severe that this is the driest drought in 500 years.  Radio and news stations have all reached the same disturbing conclusion: California will have no water in approximately three months*.  We will be completely dry before the first day of summer. This is why it is of utmost importance that immediate action is taken.

Action, of course, begins at the individual level. Citizens can eliminate unnecessary toilet flushes, decrease shower time, turn the sink off when brushing teeth, and neglect to water lawns. These activities can extend the availability of precious water and are among the easiest to implement. They only require public awareness. The UCD chapter has designed and printed over 200 copies of a flier to spread awareness throughout our campus and community. An official flier is awaiting approval by the UCD Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC). This should happen in the next week.

We have also began to focus on the bigger issue at hand, Agriculture. Agriculture uses the majority of California’s water resources, and being a part of an Ag University, the UCD CSSC has taken the reins on leading our campus and community to conserve water. Working closely in hand with EPPC and David Phillips, Director of Utilities on campus, we are aiming to reduce water use by 20%. A resolution for full campus support is pending with our academic senate. Most importantly we are making efforts to reach out to our state government, asking officials to confront the water crisis more vigorously. Members of our chapter are writing letters directly to Governor Brown.

Even with all of these efforts I find myself asking: Will they be enough? And sadly I must face the brutal truth; this crisis is here to stay. Fortunately from every great calamity wisdom can be amassed. Efforts made now will extend the accessibility of water and will hopefully create habits of conservation that will benefit us in the future. Let this crisis be a lesson that opens the eyes of Americans to the fragile system we so heavily rely on.

*Nagourney, Adam, and Ian Lovett. “Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly votes YES on Divestment!

by Ophir Bruck

On Thursday, February 6th, saturated in coffee and cardboard pizza, the Graduate Assembly of the University of California Berkeley (GA, basically the graduate students’ Senate) voted two-thirds majority in favor of UC Berkeley and UC system-wide fossil fuel divestment. The adopted resolution, 1311B, also calls on the GA to divest its own funds, around $475,000, a fraction of the $3.3 Billion UC Berkeley fund, from fossil fuels. The GA will begin immediately working with the Berkeley Endowment Management Company (BEMCO) to complete the process within 5-years, more than enough time.

Passing the resolution through the GA, my first experience navigating student government, proved nothing short of an entertaining ride and a rich learning experience. What I, and the GA Environmental Sustainability Committee who sponsored the bill, thought would be a smooth and painless show of support, turned out to be lengthy process that revealed the more conservative nature of some of Berkeley’s graduate student community. The resolution went up for a vote back in December, and was tabled after a number of students passionately asserted their concerns around potential impacts to the university’s endowment returns, and, more close to home for some in the room, to research funding from fossil fuel companies.

Over the next two months, to my surprise, I was fielding emails and phone calls and meeting for coffee with concerned graduate student delegates who wanted to voice their thoughts and feelings and discuss what this resolution could mean for their department’s fossil fuel industry-funded research. One Chemical Engineering PhD student said she supports divestment and the need to take a political and symbolic stand against the fossil fuel industry, but as long as it doesn’t affect her or the department’s research funding. Another Chem E student, who is employed by BP to research biofuels, was adamantly opposed; he felt as though this resolution equated him and his colleagues with the South African apartheid government, and that in addition to putting his research funding at risk, fossil fuel divestment would be ineffective in pushing for a carbon tax.

Instead of getting up and leaving these conversations frustrated and jaded with Berkeley’s grad students, I stayed and dug deeper to hear where they are coming from, which turned out to be a really valuable learning opportunity. After some digging, I learned that the first student felt stuck between a rock and a hard place given her department’s close ties and reliance on the industry, and wanted to know that we are carrying out divestment responsibly. The other student acknowledged that, while some fossil fuel companies might be slightly better than others, as a whole, the industry is blocking the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy. Turns out, as an international students, he’s also just really cynical of the U.S. government and feels that a carbon tax will not happen in time, or at all, and therefore divestment to him is a waste of time: “When I see a carbon tax,” he said, “then I’ll know that divestment was a good idea.”

With eyes glazed over after hours of debating how much funding to allocate to lunch-time meals for events, among other exciting topics, the roughly 80 delegates in the room perked up for what turned out to be a lively debate about the utility of fossil fuel divestment. It was democracy at its finest and it all ended with an electronic straw poll.

And so, the UC Berkeley graduate students have spoken: DIVEST!

Congrats to the GA for becoming the first graduate senate of the 10-campus UC system to step up and stand on the right side of history, joining 8 undergraduate student senates and the UC Santa Barbara faculty senate.

With the recent formation of a Regents’ Task Force on Socially Responsible Investing, tasked with immediately looking into the feasibility of divesting the UC system’s $11 billion endowment from fossil fuels, we will continue building power on and off campus so that Berkeley and the UC also come around to stand with students, faculty, and alumni on the right side of history.

The Fossil Free UC Retreat at SLO Ranch

by Emili Abdel-Ghany, Fossil Free Intern at UC Davis

Inspired. Connected. Informed. Supported. Reinvigorated. I can feel the revolution in the room. This weekend is a landmark for the fossil fuel divestment campaign in the UC.

Representatives from Davis, Berkeley, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles including representatives from student governments and UCSA, gathered in San Luis Obispo for the first ever Fossil Free UC Organizer Retreat in solidarity with one another for a weekend of peer education, visioning, and strategy. What made this weekend different from any other aspect of the campaign was the shared energy and cohesion of so many campuses in one focused space for so long. Having worked on this campaign in so many venues for over a year and a half, I have never spent this much time with so many people working on the same cause. There was strength in our dedication to the space, the campaign, and to each other.


Facilitators used a diverse set of styles to discuss and explain a range of topics for the campaign, including the history of the Fossil Free UC campaign, the structure of the UC administration, intersectionality and coalition-building with frontline solidarity, endowment and investment basics, the ask/reinvestment and the political imperative for divestment. This allowed people at any stage of the campaign to plug in and gain something from the space. Madi Oliver is a first year at UC Davis and part of the on-campus CSSC chapter. When asked how she felt about this weekend, she explained:

“As a freshman and someone who is new to this kind of professional activism, I feel like I have been empowered with more than just the excitement of change but the knowledge of what my campaign is working against.”

Excitement of change and knowledge are exactly what each member of this campaign will bring back to their campus and to the UC work as a whole. After learning the basic and more advanced tools for understanding this campaign, campuses were able to envision ways in which they could strengthen their campaigns and, thereby, invigorate the climate justice movement. Campuses strategized tangible applications of knowledge and excitement to bring back, and bonds were strengthened between organizers.

This retreat was a dream and a necessity for a very long time. Being one of the only schools in the world to have multiple campuses spread across hundreds of miles, working together has been inherently difficult. When each person first voiced his or her reasons for being there and part of this campaign, the commonalities were overwhelming.  People were snapping and smiling in agreement, resonating with new and old friends alike. We are constantly moving forward with every question, goal, share, laugh, diagram, and post-it map.

This campaign is creating avenues for students to have more power in administrative decisions of our UC. The recent agreement to create a task force on fossil fuel divestment within the UC Office of the President comes as exciting news at a crucial time.  We need to act now if we are to stop any more egregious human rights offenses by the fossil fuel industry. The UC can win this campaign – many more know and believe this after this weekend. However, our campaign is just one part of a larger climate justice movement, a movement towards fossil freedom.


Check out CSSC’s Fossil Free page to get more info on this incredible campaign. 

Perspectives on the 2014 Winter Leadership Retreat

*All photos included in this post were taken by and are property of Emily Teague. 

This year, CSSC held its Winter Leadership Retreat at UC Santa Cruz, January 16th-20th. CSSC hosts leadership retreats twice a year, in winter and in summer, to train new leadership, develop plans and strategies, get to know one another, and build the inner core of the organization. New and old members of the Council, Operating Team, Board of Directors, and Staff gather in one physical space, a rare occurrence for CSSC, which proudly spans the 800+ miles from San Diego to Humboldt.

Board Member David Shaw graciously made it possible for the retreat to take place at Kresge College, home of UC Santa Cruz’s Common Ground Center and a beautiful permaculture garden. While the retreat held to a tight schedule of trainings, discussions, meetings, and one-on-ones, participants took advantage of the beautiful setting by wandering through the redwoods, chatting in the garden, taking group trips to the beach, and stargazing in the meadow.

Retreats are essential for CSSC, a non-hierarquical organization that depends on co-collaboration to envision and enact change. Here are some of the sessions that went on at the WLR 2014:

  • Group get-to-know-each-other and icebreaker
  • CSSC 101 Presentation and Taboo Game
  • Collective liberation training
  • Convergence Planning with Santa Barbara Convergence Team
  • One-on-one check-ins with new Operating Team and Council members
  • Campaigns and Programs Discussion
  • Budget and Finance Discussion
  • Council Training
  • Media Standard Operating Procedure Presentation
  • Talent Show
  • Organizational development and strategic planning
  • Fundraising Campaign Presentation
  • CSSC Contra Dance-Off
  • Web of Appreciation in the garden

How did we get all of this done? By fueling ourselves with amazing food, of course! Here’s a shout-out to Matt Deuser, who planned the menu and ingredients for the entire retreat, and spent hours at work in the kitchen. Thanks Matt, and all the amazing CSSC cooks who prepared our meals – from curries and chilis to tofu scrambles and beet salads!

Q&A with retreat participants

Emili Abdel-Ghany, UC Davis, Fossil Free Intern and Former Operating Team Co-Chair (she was one of the main organizers of this retreat!)










In your own words, what was the purpose of the Winter Leadership Retreat? 

The purpose of this Winter Leadership Retreat was primarily to provide a physical space and time for the current, former, and future leaders of our organization to gather for collective and specific training. Through the structured and unstructured times together bonds are formed between leaders from across our vast state, becoming more of a family than a traditional non profit or organization. There is something unique about being able to spend time together sharing skills, knowledge, and awareness in a condensed setting.

What was your favorite serious moment of the retreat? 

When we were each sharing in our big circle all the silly moments, all the little quirks and synchronizations that we have all experienced together, when I hear how much CSSC means to each and every person that was in that room or in our hearts that day. I did know that I was connected, that these people have changed my life, shown me ways of living I could have never dreamed of, made me believe in myself when I felt I had no reason to, gave me a reason to believe in myself, trusted me with something and someone(s) whom many have had a part or all of their lives for so long.

When they speak of life-long friendships and relationships, they mean it. They mean their entire lives together, getting things done and really getting to know each other and what each person is about.

What was your favorite silly moment of the retreat? 

I realized after I was able to look at the sign-up list for our talent show that Kevin Killion signed me up for “Sound Advice”. At the summer retreat in 2013 I did a Bill Cosby impression and gave advice to the crowd. I didn’t know i’d be performing but it turned out to be really fun. We had many duplicate names over the weekend (Kevin and Kevin, David and David, Emily Emili and Emily, Patrick and Partick, Kyle and Kyle, Beth and Bethany, Maddy and Madeleine, I think that’s it!) so I decided to recruit the two Emily’s to come to the stage and provide improvised advice in character. It was a combination of my improv talents and my ability to give advice. Very fun.


Julia Clark, Humboldt State University, Former Council Co-Chair (Aug 2012-Jan 2014)
In your own words, what was the purpose of the Winter Leadership Retreat?

The purpose was for California Student Sustainability leaders to come together, build community, plan actionable items, familiarize ourselves with CSSC and its’ operations, learn, share, make connections, and organize action.

Why did you choose to attend this year’s Winter Leadership Retreat?

I am transitioning out of CSSC leadership, but I wanted to be available to train the new leaders coming into the organization as well as offer any advice I could.

What was your favorite serious moment of the retreat? 

Sitting down at lunch with a new friend and finding that we both shared a deep connection on life perspectives as we enjoyed delicious burritos cooked up by our amazing chefs.

What was your favorite silly moment of the retreat?
The talent show had many silly moments. One of the best was the act titled “Patrick and the random jam band,” where Patrick Hassett from Humboldt State University went up and said “Anyone want to play some music?” And a bunch of folks, all previously unplanned, picked up instruments and played some killer music with him.


Pretty awesome, right?! If being part of this dynamic and collaborative process sounds exciting to you, we’d love to have you join our leadership and attend our next retreat. Sign up for our newsletter, like our Facebook, and stay tuned on our website throughout the semester to learn how you can get more involved with CSSC.


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague

Decarbonization as Decolonization: The Case of the Northern Bay Area

by Arjun Pandava, UC Berkeley student

The following piece reflects the view of the author only, and not CSSC as an organization.

 The environmental justice movement has brought important dimensions of race and class to mainstream environmentalism.  But what is often overlooked is how closely related the environmental justice movement is to struggles of decolonization–especially in the context of decarbonization and the global movement toward a zero-carbon economy. The dynamics of the carbon economy have strong similarities and parallels with the dynamics of colonialism; thus, it is crucial to analyze the ways in which the innovations and theories of anti-colonial revolutionaries can be applied to modern decarbonization and environmental justice struggles.

A meeting took place a few months ago at a prominent university in the Bay Area, California, between activists from Richmond and Pittsburg, and local students. The community activists explained the serious problems associated with the imminent expansion of infrastructure supporting the carbon economy–specifically, the rapidly growing oil industry of North America.  As I’ve written in this recent piece, this infrastructure already has a history of severely degrading the health of locals; thus, its expansion can only mean the simultaneous expansion of externalities that local communities must bear.

At the meeting, remarks were made as to how it felt like they are “being invaded by these oil companies”–companies that include multinationals like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell.  Another key observation was the domination of these companies in local politics; for example, Chevron spent around $1.2M on the Richmond City Council election in 2012.  An activist from Pittsburg commented on how these companies always find the most corrupt and malleable cities in which to build their dirty businesses, which makes perfect sense–these are the areas where bearing the costs of environmental externalities can be most easily avoided, due to more lax regulations and a decreased likelihood of litigation.

These characteristics that define the struggle of Northern Bay Area communities–invasion and domination by foreign actors, the extraction of value, and the localization of externalities–are strongly reminiscent of colonialism, and the historical practices that Europe (and in general, the abstract entity of global capitalism) took toward controlling the resources and populations of the Third World.  Time and time again, especially in the 20th century, powerful capitalists and the militarized states that backed them took control of resource-rich regions across Latin America, Africa, and Asia, exploited and repressed local populations, and extracted huge amounts of value, all while leaving locals to deal with the externalities of the value-production and resource-extraction processes.


The Persistence of Colonial Domination 

Colonization is strongly tied with the repression and exploitation of people of color.  This should be obvious to even the most historically illiterate person, given that colonialism as a historic tendency was almost always seen as the domination of the Americas, Africa, and Asia by European powers.  Or put in terms of race: colonialism was the domination of Black and Brown peoples by White elites.

(It should be noted that I use the terms “Black” and “Brown” to be inclusive of East and South-East Asian peoples.  Historically, the term “Yellow” has been used to specify these geographies; however, I believe that this term is far too intertwined with its historically racist uses to be used in a progressive manner today.  In addition, Asian radicals have also argued for “Brown” to be encompassing of traditionally “yellow” populations given the historic “negroization” of Asians in the West, as well as the undeniable “brownness” of South and South-East Asians).

Thus far, we have framed colonialism as if it was an historic relic of a bygone era.  However, this is an incorrect way to frame things; analyzing the situation of Black and Brown peoples today, we can see that the same patterns of domination persist–albeit in more hidden, more systemic, and less overt ways.  More often than not, the decolonization efforts of the mid-20th century has simply evolved colonialism into “neocolonialism”.  The term was first coined by the anti-colonial revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah, in his 1965 book Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism.  From the introduction:

The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.

An exemplar of neocolonial control is the case of Nigeria.  The Nigerian government receives around 80% of its revenue from oil rents–essentially kickbacks from multinationals like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, in exchange for lax environmental regulations and providing security when locals start to get upset that their land, water, and air are being utterly destroyed by irresponsible extraction practices.

Untitled “Show me what development looks like!”

The parallels between Nkrumah’s description of economic and political policy being “directed from outside”, the neocolonial economy of Nigeria, and the reproduction of colonial control in Western communities of color is startlingly evident in the case of Richmond.  As pointed out by the leftist magazine In These Times:

The city of 100,000 has grown up around the Chevron refinery, which is older than Richmond itself. Until 2005, the corporation was allowed to appoint its own inspectors, and last year’s fire was the third major accident to occur at the refinery since 1999. Seventy percent of Richmond’s residents are black, Latino or Asian American, and residents of North Richmond, where several public housing projects are located, bear the brunt of the health burden resulting from ongoing toxic exposure. Though it’s difficult to prove that high rates of asthma, cancer and heart disease among Richmond residents are linked to industrial pollutants—something community groups have long argued—people of color in Richmond have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than whites in other parts of the country, according to the city’s Health Equity Partnership.

Both Richmond and Pittsburg are populated by low-income people of color; postcolonial subjects battling continually expanding systems of colonialism (making the “post” of postcolonialism a highly questionable prefix).  And this modern exploitation is on top of the bloody history of the East Bay, given the genocidal policies of Spain against the Ohlone during the 18th and 19th centuries.

But the truly important thing to note here is not that both Richmond and Nigeria are colonized spaces, but that they are both colonized by the same entity.  Both the Niger Delta and Richmond, California are subordinate to the interests of Chevron Corporation and the global oil markets.  And these aren’t the only locations where Chevron has flexed its political and economic muscle.  The oil giant is currently locked in a battle with the government of Ecuador over alleged environmental pollution.  Chevron has also recently made moves in Romania, where paramilitary forces occupied a rebellious village so that the company could carry on shale gas exploration activity.


“Whose streets?” “Chevron’s streets!”

And even aside from Chevron, the infrastructure that the people of the Northern Bay Area are confronting is part of a single supply chain.  There is a good chance that the oil that will be funneled into proposed expansion projects will be coming from the oil fields of Canada, where First Nations are already dealing with pollution from oil extraction.

These observations should reveal the insidious and interconnected nature of the global oil economy: it is one that sets up tendrils of colonial domination along its entire supply chain.  The oil economy is one of repression, pollution, corruption, and poverty–a system that forms a unique nexus of environmental, political, and economic violence, and a key foundation of modern global capitalism.


Collaborators and Compradors 

We have argued that colonialism remains a prominent force in modern society, but it is also important to explore the factors that sustain it–especially the factors that can be directly challenged by those who wish to end their domination.

The process of colonization is typically depicted as a purely military affair, but it is crucial to acknowledge the massive role that local collaboration plays.  Historically, colonialism was possible largely due to local political and economic elites, who used their positions of power, privilege, and authority to sell out the autonomy of their constituents in exchange for material wealth and military support against threats to their power–whether this threat was from rival elites, or from the masses.  In other words, local elites were often bribed to undermine local autonomy so that they could consolidate their own wealth and power.  An excellent example of this is the process by which the East India Company steadily took over South Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries, pitting local rulers against one another and buying up more and more economic assets–and resorting to military force when locals decided not to play along with the company tune.  Today, however, colonial collaborators (or compradors, as this class of people have often been called) seem less concerned about taking down rivals, so much as increasing their own wealth–as seen in the aforementioned cases of Nigeria and Romania.

This tendency can be seen today in the Bay Area, as well.  One example is Nathaniel Bates, a career politician in Richmond,  who has been more than content to play fiddle for Chevron in exchange for massive amounts of campaign financing (as mentioned above).  Another good example is the Seeno family, a political and economic dynasty that runs a corrupt, mafia-esque real estate empire from their base of operations in the East Bay.  This multi-billion dollar family has unsurprisingly backed political campaigns across California and Nevada, including Pittsburg, and will likely play an important role in the struggle between Pittsburg residents and Wes Pac Energy Group over the proposed expansion of oil infrastructure.


Current Strategies of Resistance

The fact that there are specific actors who mediate the colonial-corporate domination of the Bay Area presents one obvious route of struggle–removing these compradors from office, and replacing them with people who are part of the community, and who have the community’s interests in mind rather than the interests of international capital.  This strategy of electoralism was also favored by many anti-colonial activists back in the early days of the decolonization struggle; one notable example is the movement by South Asian bourgeoisie to create the Indian National Congress, to serve as a democratic organ of self-determination.


 From this perspective, the situation of the Bay does not seem so drastic–systems of democratic governance have existed for a long time, and the abstract idea of democracy has overwhelming support among the masses.  And indeed, the fact that local organs of political power–namely, the City Councils–can play a key role in resisting encroachment by carbon corporations has long been recognized by community activists, especially in Richmond.  In 2003, locals who had had enough of Chevron and the generally reactionary nature of the city (one of these locals’ family had recently been assaulted by the police) formed the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), which rapidly escalated into a serious challenge to politicians backed by Chevron’s deep pockets.  Residents of Pittsburg, inspired by this apparent success, are also beginning to organize an electoral campaign against the current incumbent city councilors (all of whom ran unopposed during the last election cycle).  And what is especially invigorating about these recent electoral mobilizations is that they are specifically oriented against the Democratic Party–a political machine that has long since siphoned away radical currents into supporting the very capitalist institutions that generated the need for such currents in the first place.  A recent protest march in Pittsburg saw speeches condemning the Democrats as corrupt and expressing the need for a party that espouses actual democratic values, rather than the values of the elite capitalist class.

The electoral strategy has proven to be somewhat fruitful; the RPA currently has control of the mayor’s seat, as well as one city council seat (something that would have been impossible just a decade ago).  Due to this increasing organization by the people of Richmond, Chevron has been forced to deal with increased litigation for  the rampant pollution, and make unprecedented amounts of concessions in terms of local development–both signs of the company’s eroded grip on the once “loyal” company town.


Future Horizons of Rebellion–Beyond Electoral Politics

But despite the apparent success of the electoral path, its important to exercise caution against becoming uncritical or complacent.  While Richmond is definitely in a better position than it was a decade ago, there are indications that without expanding and deepening the struggle, the electoral strategy has already peaked.  The 2010 and 2012 election cycles saw Chevron truly begin to flex its economic prowess, pouring $1M and $1.2M into each respective race, as well as announcing a $15.5M community development scheme.  The 2012 elections saw two anti-Chevron candidates losing their positions, eroding the gains made in the 2010 cycle.

The lesson to be had, then, is that we must return to the analysis made by Nkrumah: that even if our political institutions have the “outward trappings” of self-determination and democracy, it is very often the case that they are still controlled by powerful external actors.  The initial success of the RPA might very well have simply been a “surprise factor”; clearly, given the recent electoral bounce-back, Chevron is able and willing to leverage its economic assets in order to protect and consolidate its political power.

The electoral strategy might still be viable, given that adjacent communities like Pittsburg are beginning to organize along similar anti-carbon lines, and will thus provide a grassroots network that can increase the visibility and popularity of groups like the RPA.  Genuine grassroots organizing could still prove to be a match against raw monetary power.  However, we must also recognize that the system is fundamentally tilted in favor of powerful colonizing and capitalist entities like Chevron: as long as certain actors have enormous amounts of capital at their disposal, these actors will inevitable colonize democracy itself, and bend public institutions to their will.  Their “will” being, of course, to accumulate more capital–and thus, gain even more power over democratic structures.

This materialist understanding of politics–that economic power is the fundamental driving force of political power, and the feedback cycles associated with this dynamic–is critical if the decarbonization/decolonization struggle is to achieve its desired goals.  While the jury may still be out on whether the electoral strategy will continue to yield progressive results, discussions must be had with respect to what strategies would actually deal with the economic basis of political power.


If economic power can indeed typically overwhelm grassroots organizing and “people-power”, then the clear alternative to targeting political structures would be to target the very economic base on which the corporate domination of politics lies–that is, to engage in actions and strategies that undermine the concentration of capital and, and redistribute economic power.

This type of analysis was precisely the sort advanced by numerous anti-colonial revolutionaries in the mid-20th century.  Consider the following quotation from the Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon, in his ground-breaking 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth:

The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anti-colonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.

Fanon wrote this book in the context of French colonization of Algeria and the fact that most economic assets in the country–namely agricultural land–were controlled by French settlers.  Even if democratic structures were set up that allowed indigenous Algerians to participate, the nature of the economy would mean that White settlers would inevitable dominate the political arena–rendering political decolonization more or less useless with regards to genuine self-empowerment and bringing material gains and prosperity to the natives.  Genuine decolonization would mean the redistribution of land back into the hands of the natives, so that the political playing field is not skewed toward a wealthy economic elite.

In the context of the Bay, genuine decolonization would mean the redistribution of not land, but the means of production, distribution, and other forms of value generation.  If communities were able to generate just as much wealth as the Chevron’s refinery, then the problem of the company’s dominance in politics would essentially solve itself.  This implies a need for both the development of community economies, as well as direct actions to interfere with Chevron’s ability to accumulate capital.  The former has already been taking root in the East Bay, in the forms of solidarity economies, urban farms, and other community-based cooperative ventures.  The latter has also taken concrete forms, such during an organized blockade of Chevron’s refinery last August by thousands of local people.

This dual movement–empowering the community while undermining the corporation–presents the best way to directly engage the economic base of politics.  This does not mean that electoral politics is irrelevant; on the contrary, deepening the political struggle on the level of economics is arguably the only way by which to see gains made in parliamentary spaces be anything other than a transient phenomena.


Remarks on Internationalism

A final point I wish to emphasize is that it is essential that we frame the decarbonization struggle from an international perspective.  As argued above, the colonial tendencies of the oil industry is one that is reproduced along its entire supply chain.  This fact renders clear the ability for different parts of the supply chain to be undermined at once. Imagine the impacts if blockades, strikes, and expropriation happened in Alberta, Richmond, Nigeria, and Romania all at the same time, in a coordinated fashion.  Imagine the effects on local morale if there were clear signs of international solidarity–a solidarity not defined by Facebook “likes” or empty declarations, but one defined by concrete actions against a common enemy, perpetrated by fellow colonial subjects.

In addition, we must also recognize the disparate levels of colonial violence that different global communities have to deal with.  While we have seen that colonial systems exist across the globe, we must also recognize that certain communities (like the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta) have to face far more violent systems of repression than do communities in North America and Europe.  Therefore, it would be morally unacceptable for Western communities to throw off their own shackles, but do nothing to assist those dealing with far greater levels of violence, poverty, and domination–especially given that much of the perpetrating structures are based in the West.



The actuality of such a radical decolonial struggle in the Bay and its “devastating consequences” is probably quite far away, and perhaps might not even be necessary.  Nonetheless, the parallels between decolonization and decarbonization are clear; thus, let this be a call for those concerned about the health and livelihood of the Bay Area to engage in the study of the anti-colonial revolutionaries of ages past, and their strategies and tactics, so that we may engage in a proper decarbonization struggle: one that emancipates both nature and people.

Changing Myself, the World, or Preferably Both: New Year’s Thoughts on Transformation

by Meredith Jacobson, UC Berkeley student and CSSC Online Content Manager

Check out Meredith’s personal blog, “Meredith Saunters Home,” for more of her writing. 

If you would like to publish content on the CSSC website, please contact mjacobson20 [at]

I’m entering my last semester in college, beginning to think about “what I want to do with my life.” As an activist and a generally idealistic person, looking forward into this transition is exciting and confusing, as it is for most other graduating seniors I know.  My goal is to do whatever I can that will make the most positive impact on the world, and be happy doing it.  Oh, and survive. As my values change, the manifestations of that goal will change.

But as I think about what my options are, I feel as though I am facing a difficult, almost impossible choice: To try to live sustainably myself, or to advocate for a sustainable society. I’m not using the word “sustainable” lightly, at least in this particular train of thought. I’m talking about living in such a way that is 100% possible to sustain into the future. This means no reliance on the conventional energy grid nor the food system. This means growing my own food, no ifs buts or ands. This means not connecting my laptop to an outlet that sucks energy that was made at a coal-fired power plant. And yes, this means no car road trips to visit friends or airplane travel home. I’m talking about the real deal.

Unfortunately, to live both 100% sustainably while organizing for broader change in society at the same time seams nearly impossible. The organizing world means a whole lot of laptop action, and maybe even flying by airplane to a conference, training, or educational event. It often means living in a city. While sustainable urban agriculture is on the rise, most modern activists rely on the industrial food system in some way, shape, or form. There’s just not enough time to live the life we’d like to live, while organizing for large-scale change. That’s why I’m pulled in two directions: to the farm, and to the city (to put it in simplest terms).

Of course, there’s a privilege dynamic to this discussion as there always is. I have the capacity to go “off the grid,” work on a permaculture farm, live the life I feel is right, and feel good about myself. Not everyone has that capacity nor that desire, and that’s why it seems so much of the real work is in cities or at least in touch with civilization. Communities everywhere will still be screwed over by polluting industries while I go off and “live sustainably.”  I can go off the grid, but what does that really do for others?

A lot of modern environmentalists, sustainability organizers, and climate justice activists are moving away from the narrative that places the burden on our own backs, demanding that we live our lives differently, and toward the narrative that blames the system and demands system change. This new narrative is keenly focused on environmental justice – race, class, gender, historical oppression. It’s moving away from the idea that we each must take our own individual steps, like changing light bulbs and buying organic, and that will change the world. It’s no surprise to anyone that only a small percentage of the population is going to do that. Hence the need for widespread system change, hence the campaigns, local to global.

I think that both the narratives I mentioned are true, and necessary. We are both caught and actively participating in an ecosystem of oppression. True change requires that we work on ourselves and the system. Which is probably as difficult as it sounds to pull off.

Every activist faces that mental roadblock that tells you it’s impossible, it’s too late, there’s no point, or the solution doesn’t exist. We may put on a front of unequivocal hope, but from talking to my activist friends, I know that roadblock is real. Because the scary truth is that we don’t know if we’ll win, or even if this is a game that has winners or losers. We don’t know what it means to “win,” what that  looks like. Especially with a challenge like climate change, which is threatening all life on earth and is accelerating at a dizzying pace, with its whirlwind of feedback loops, the future can look grim. I’m of the opinion that tackling climate change means changing the world’s entire economic system and societal values. I don’t believe that sustainable development and business solutions will get us all the way where we need to go. I’m not sure how we’re going to get there, but they say all revolutions start within…

I’m a human, and some days that makes me feel all-powerful and other days miniscule. I feel miniscule when I think about how my actions don’t seem to mean anything against the huge, problematic world out there. I feel all-powerful when I think about the connectivity in that world, the networks and systems that I am a part of, the web that I tug on with my little thread. Maybe it’s time we break down the walls between individual change and collective action. I want to make choices and seek actions that do both. I want to transform my lifestyle and the system that affects the choices I am able to make. I want to find personal actions that are political, and political actions that are personal. I’m looking for ideas; throw them at me folks!

As a college student and organizer, I often find myself behind the perma-glow of my Macbook, on google docs, facebook, listserves, blogs, justifying the energy consumption with the hope that my activism might be changing some piece of the world for the better. Someday the good will outweigh the bad, I tell myself. But let me get up onto my soapbox for a minute, and give my fellow activists some advice:

Keep harnessing the power of technology for good. But please promise me that you will learn the land, inhabit real places, make a home, learn its geology and history and ecology and social landscapes, participate in its present, map its future. Engage. Put your hands in the dirt and grow real plants. Because the land surrounding you is the stage on which all this is being played. And most importantly, you are a real player with real consequences, making choices every second that affect everything.

I’m not the first to tell you that there is a hell of a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the future and our fight for global environmental justice. We could triumph, or we could not. We face the possibility of a full-on revolution, the kind that we sing in our hearts, or the climate apocalypse that we fear is quickly approaching. But something recently occurred to me that is strangely hopeful: the same skills that will serve us in starting a revolution will also serve us in the apocalypse. I think in both cases we will need to know how to grow our own food, get around without cars, make our own energy, sew our own clothes, build our own houses, make our own stuff. Learning a new skill will help you in the long run, no matter what. Bring on the DIY parties!

I still do believe in campaigns like fossil fuel divestment that are harnessing economic power to make system-wide change, to start shifting wealth into positive solutions. Divestment campaigns are making ripples wider than any one individual could ever reach. Other large-scale efforts like global climate treaties, LEED certification of buildings, anti-fracking organizing, and food cooperatives are equally awesome and empowering. But I often come back to myself, and realize that my lifestyle will have to change to fit the new societal model I’m campaigning for. It just has to. Less energy, less meat, less waste, less plastic. Learn to grow food, bicycle, build things, compost, collect rainwater, make energy. Get off my “devices” and take walks.  Learn all the skills I can that take me off of fossil fuels. It’s not a burden, but an empowering possibility to live more fully, freely, and in love with the earth.

So what am I going to do? Everything I can, I suppose. For starters, this semester I plan to learn how to grow food at the Student Organic Garden and learn how to chop my own wood with the Cal Logging Sports Team. I won’t give up my laptop; I’ll still be writing, emailing, google doc-ing, traveling, and organizing with the California Student Sustainability Coalition. But I would like to spend more time in my Berkeley hills, out and about, phone turned off, feeling the landscape. And what am I going to do with my life? Maybe I’ll strive for 50-50. Spend half my time working on myself and my lifestyle, learning skills and becoming more ecologically able.  I’d like to go work on a farm and learn all I can, learn what it feels like to live fully in harmony. But I’ll make sure to bring whatever new skills I gain back with me and teach as many people as I can.  And I’d like to live in the city, work with people, organize my community, tackle the systemic oppression that controls the way life is lived on earth.  That I am even presented with choices like these is an incredible privilege in itself, and I have the responsibility to use that privilege to help others. I hope someday this pull between two opposing choices will start to be less of a pull and more of a collective push. Let’s be as bold and demanding with ourselves as we are with politicians and CEOs, and we’ll never stop growing. 


A Strong 2014 With Your Support

Happy New Year from CSSC!


2013 was quite an exciting year.

In the last 12 months, our students mobilized to divest their campus institution’s endowments from the fossil fuel industry; organized and defended their communities from fracking; and joined thousands of students in Pittsburgh, PA in pushing to stop the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities.

Being a student run organization, we need your support to continue our work in the new year.

Please consider making a tax deductible gift to CSSC today. 

Your gift will enable students from across California to continue working on solutions to some of the most important challenges we face today.

As a student, alumnus, friend, family member, and/or community ally, your on-going support means everything to us. By supporting CSSC, you directly invest in the education and training of our students.

Our New Years Resolutions

Stop the poisoning of our communities and planet by divesting from fossil fuels, reinvesting in communities and clean tech alternatives, and blocking disastrous hydraulic fracturing.

  • Fossil Free | Divest our universities’ endowments from fossil fuel holdings and re-invest in our communities and in socially responsible portfolios.
  • Students Against Fracking | Stop the fracking industry from destroying our communities by expanding our student mobilization efforts across the state.

Train and empower students to become sustainability-focused organizers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and community members.

  • Courses and Co-Curricular Activities for Equity, Economy, and the Environment | Launch courses that link students, faculty, alumni, and civil society for public talks and dialogue around collective action while expanding leadership and activist training for students.
  • Convergences and Leadership Retreats | Provide student-led education and training focused on sharing best practices and setting the vision for sustainability activism across the state.

A Quick Recap of 2013

• 11 student governments and 1 faculty senate have voted in favor of divesting their institutions’ endowments from fossil fuels and 2 community college districts and 1 CSU have voted to divest!

• Over 225 students attended Power Shift in October.

• Over 500 students attended the Spring Convergence at UC Berkeley and Fall Convergence at Humboldt State University.

• Students have joined Californians Against Fracking by forming Students Against Fracking chapters.

  • You can always check out our blog to read about what CSSC students have been up to across the state.

On behalf of the CSSC we thank you for your support and Happy New Year!

The California Student Sustainability Coalition is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and so your donation is tax deductible!
Please make a gift today and support students in making their campuses and communities sustainable.

Our Greatest Crisis

by Mauricio David Castillo, UC Berkeley graduate

After decades of disregard, climate change is finally gaining momentum in the public sphere. Unfortunately, it is not due to a sudden moral awakening—but rather the escalating severity and frequency of large-scale climate disasters happening on people’s doorsteps. Climate change is no longer just your hypothetical grandchildren’s problem; it has evolved to an ever-present threat—one that will drastically affect your life, and the lives of everyone you know, love or care about (if it hasn’t already). The good news is that people have accepted this reality, thus we can now foster the consensus and synergy to do something about it. However, there needs to be substantial emphasis on the very limited window of opportunity to act.

We are on the brink of causing irreversible changes to the biogeochemical systems that make life viable on this planet. This year the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) stated in their most recent report that, to have a 50 percent chance of staying below 2 degrees Celsius (C), we can emit no more than 1,000 gigatons (gt) of carbon. There is about 2,797 gt in the world’s known reserves, and 531 gt have already been emitted (as of 2011)—which means that at least 80% of those reserves must be kept in the ground. In recent years, the planet has experienced an influx of some of the largest and most catastrophic climate disasters in in recorded history, due to only .8 degrees of warming (since 1750).

 A few months after the IPCC report, one of the foremost authorities on climate change, James Hansen, published a study which concluded that when feedbacks loops are considered—the 1,000 gt and 2 degree caps, need to be cut in half to actually stabilize global temperatures. He argues that because of feedback loops, 1,000 gt could take us to a cataclysmic 4 degrees of warming. Feedback loops are climate processes, which accelerate the rate of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thus escalate the rate of warming.  The longer we delay reducing emissions the stronger these feedbacks become.

While working on my senior thesis at UC Berkeley I came across some alarming revelations about forest feedbacks loops. A 2012 publication in the science journal Nature, concluded that 70 percent of trees in bioregions all over the world—have a very narrow margin of adaptability to the heat and water stress conditions exacerbated by climate change. The tendency of a tree’s hydraulic system (xylem) to fail in water stress scenarios can lead to large scale forest collapse—forest mortality releases excess carbon into the atmosphere, hinders sequestration and affects regional rainfall patterns which will in turn—lead to more mortality and warming. Forests absorb about 1/3 of global carbon emissions; decreased sequestration coupled with rapid forest collapse may convert the world’s forest from carbon sinks to net emitters of CO2. The crossing of this threshold (tipping point) is likely to significantly amplify the pace of climate change and environmental deterioration.

 Warmer oceans, melting glaciers and permafrost are other examples of feedback processes that have the potential to dramatically increase the rate of warming. These scenarios intensify the urgency of the situation and actions needed to even have a chance of mitigating climate change. There is hope though; Hansen’s study concludes that we can bring carbon levels down to the safe limit of 350 parts per million by 2100—if we begin to cut emissions by 6% a year and accelerate large-scale afforestation efforts. This is possible but will require immediate action from a local to global scale.

 The U.S. contributes nearly a fifth of global emissions, it is up to us to lead by example—we already have the talent, drive and innovation to steer the world in the right direction, what’s lacking is political will. A recent analysis led by Stanford, polled American opinions of climate change from 2006-2012. It found that 75% of residents were aware of climate change and see it as a potential danger, and at least two-thirds of residents want the government to take action in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The report stated, “When given actual prices, majorities would support raising their household bills by $75 and $150 to enact policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”.

In recent years climate change has served as catalyst for environmental and social movements across the globe. It has led to innovative, technological and economic solutions that have the potential to save the planet. Most importantly it has led to solidarity with forward thinking, scientists, economists, organizations and citizens who have put forth viable strategies to save the earth’s systems and species from potential collapse. Amongst these is’s rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which has led institutions around the world to divest from fossil fuels and re-invest in solutions. It has also led to breakthrough innovations in techonlogy that can set the world on a trajectory towards a low-carbon, renewable energy economy.

This year largest ever climate action was held in Washington DC. An estimated 50,000 people attended the Forward on Climate Rally to take a stand for climate justice. Image Credit: Jenna Pope ©

This year largest ever climate action was held in Washington DC. An estimated 50,000 people attended the Forward on Climate Rally to take a stand for climate justice. Image Credit: Jenna Pope ©

 Collective efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. This year, a review from the Carbon Disclosure Project revealed that the five biggest fossil fuel companies are using carbon-pricing estimates in order to budget for the imminent regulation of carbon.  As author Bill Mckibben has said, “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, than it is wrong to profit from the wreckage”. Just because the fossil fuel industry’s business model is dying, it does not have the right to take the planet with it.

 Despite our most ambitious efforts there is no way to avoid all the negative ramifications of climate change. Although, how exponentially worse it will get will be determined by the actions or inactions of the coming years. Author Naomi Watts has said it best “We have the ability to stop and we’re choosing not to. The profound immorality and violence of that decision is not reflected in the language we have.” The planet is on a catastrophic trajectory—so far, world governments have failed to implement strategies that can save it. It is our duty as global citizens to build momentum and create solutions to drive the kind of policies needed.

The next two years may be amongst the most important in human history. In 2015 at COP 21—a legally binding, universal climate agreement will be set, thus 2014 will be of paramount importance in generating political pressure to ensure world leaders take ambitious actions towards solving the climate crisis. To quote Naomi Watts again, “Climate change. It’s not as “issue” for you to add to the list of things to worry about. It is a civilizational wake up call. A powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms, and droughts – telling us that we need an entirely new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability.”

John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” The nature and scale of global rising temperatures is the most profound danger humanity has ever faced, however it also provides us our greatest opportunity to collectively create a better world for present and future generations. We have the capability; it is now our obligation—to take advantage of it.


Fighting Fracking Indoors and Out

A student’s experience at a public comment hearing

by Meredith Jacobson

Two weeks ago,  I attended Oakland’s public hearing on the scope of the Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)’s environmental impact report regarding fracking in the state of California. That’s a mouthful, but an important one, so read it over again. On December 10th, I joined several peers from CSSC and Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley to raise our voices in a “controlled” setting.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow members of the public to voice what they believe needs to be addressed in a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which is scheduled to be finalized and certified in July 2015. California Senate Bill 4 (SB4) requires DOGGR to research and create an EIR on the impacts of  “well stimulation,” another term that basically means fracking, in order to regulate the process in a more scientifically informed way. The regulations put into place, informed by the final EIR, will affect the entire state of California. As fracking is already taking place in certain locations in the state, thanks to SB4, DOGGR will be putting “emergency regulations” into place in January 2014, to hold over until the EIR is completed and able to inform the regulations. You can find out more about the process, and the other hearings  happening around the state, here.

The hearing had been widely advertised by various local environmental organizations, especially Californians Against Fracking, who organized a rally outside the Oakland City Center where the comments were heard. Californians Against Fracking is an umbrella organization for organizations and activists across the state mobilizing against this dangerous and polluting extraction method. Other organizations in attendance included 350 Bay Area, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club California, and CREDO.

Not a positive word about fracking was spoken at the hearing. Of course, that’s the nature of the game – if you are pro-fracking you’re not going to take the time to go to a public hearing on an environmental impact report. Even so, the breadth of the types of comments presented made a powerful statement about the potential for coalition-building and mobilization on this issue. In attendance was a refreshing mix of young and old citizens who care about our collective future.

After a presentation about DOGGR’s timeline, the regulatory environment, and the mechanics of “well stimulation,” each interested member of the public was given five minutes to bring up issues or concerns that he or she thought needed to be addressed in the EIR. Almost everyone voiced concern about the process itself. I heard important questions raised:

  • Why are we delving into this process, which is scheduled to take more than a year, without first placing a moratorium on fracking?

  • What is the “no project alternative”? (this is a  phrase commonly used when conducting EIRs, referring to an alternative solution if the EIR provides strong evidence against the project taking place at all)

  • Can we trust an EIR researched and written by the department that is economically invested in fracking?

  • Can something as dangerous and polluting as fracking really be regulated to the point where we can call it “safe”?

  • Why are we wasting time and resources on an EIR that will be released in July 2015 when regulations are scheduled to be implemented in January 2015?

All important questions, and ones that the DOGGR officials weren’t really able to answer. Nonetheless, more than fifty people took advantage of the opportunity to make public statements that an official recorded word by word on her computer. DOGGR has to address each and every “relevant” issue brought to the table: so even if it’s a rocky, tilted table,  we can still stir things up a little.

People brought up a range of issues. Impacts on waterways. Localized air pollution from the extractive processes. Impacts on human health, especially disproportionate impacts on low-income and minority communities. Impacts associated with offshore fracking (I didn’t even know this was a thing!) Climate change, and all the associated risks and health effects. The strain on an already stressed water supply in California. Personally, as a forestry student, I brought up potential effects on the forests of California: from the fragmentation that road systems create, to water and air pollution’s impact on trees and wildlife, to positive feedback loops in climate.

[Roberta Giordano, of CSSC and Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley, delivers her public comment.]


These are just some of the issues brought up, and each five minute speech was passionately voiced. Many people made it clear that above all, they believed in a ban on fracking, or at least a moratorium until the statistics and science are out. Some people called out the inherent bias in this process. While these sort of comments were technically not relevant to the scope of this public hearing, they were still  important to voice, to get out on the table. The hearing gave every local citizen a soapbox and a little wiggle room into the bureaucracy, into that mysterious government-land. I’m not going to lie, it was frustrating to hear DOGGR admit that they weren’t quite sure of the purpose of this EIR, and clearly a ban on fracking was not being seriously considered. Even so, I’m happy I went. It felt good to speak and be heard, to be standing and addressing the Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. I was proud of all the engaged and passionate citizens around me. Clearly we will take every chance we get to make our voices, the ones that should truly matter, are heard. Hopefully, the EIR will be conducted thoroughly and honestly. Then, even if DOGGR fails to act according to the science, our anti-fracking campaigns can cite facts and figures from the report – so it’s still a step forward.

After my friends and I finished our comments inside, we went outside to join the rally. What a different world. Beautiful people were holding brightly colored signs, singing “carols” of resistance and of hope, joining hands, meeting one another, becoming stronger. That contrast, between inside and outside, epitomizes so much about this movement. We can put on our business casual and our professional voices, and bust out some show-stopping facts inside the city center. And then we can walk outside and the river of creativity flows with so much hope and no abandon. Just months into the game, the fight against fracking in California is building strong connections and momentum. It’s bringing people together. That’s the greatest strength the fossil fuel resistance has going for it.

[Activists of all ages and affiliations rally outside Oakland’s City Center.]


Do you have a comment for DOGGR about what should be included in their Environmental Impact Report? You can submit it electronically by emailing it to Find out more information about the whole process here:

Interested in getting involved in anti-fracking work?

If you’re a Berkeley student, contact Ella Teevan of the Center for Biological Diversity and Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley,  at

If you’re a CSSC student at a different campus, looking to start a campaign or get involved, contact Katie Hoffman at

Check out Californians Against Fracking to get the full picture of what’s going on in California.

Press Release: Right Livelihood College Establishes Campus in California




Common Ground partners with “Alternative Nobel Prize” to become North America’s first Right Livelihood College.

Common Ground Center

Education for a Just and Sustainable World

Founded in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as “the Alternative Nobel Prize,” honors and supports those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 

Right Livelihood College Establishes Campus in California – RLC now in 5 continents


Today, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced that the University of California Santa Cruz, will host the seventh Right Livelihood College (RLC) campus, and the first in the North American continent.

The RLC will be based at the Common Ground Center at UC Santa Cruz’s Kresge College. The mission of the Center is to create cultural change for social justice, environmental regeneration, and economic viability.

Twenty-one Right Livelihood Laureates hail from the United States and Canada. These include journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Maude Barlow, the world’s leading advocate for the right to water, and Paul Walker, the chemical weapon non-proliferation expert from Green Cross International who is one of the 2013 Laureates.

With the new campus, the RLC expands its reach for the 3rd time within two months. Shortly before its 5th anniversary in January next year, the College is now present in five continents.

It is expected that the RLC campus at Santa Cruz will enable students of the Common Ground Center to learn from Laureates through lectures and seminars, as well as conduct action research on the Laureates’ issues. Focusing on undergraduate education, the Center complements the traditional classroom approach by engaging students in advancing participatory action research and civic engagement projects, by which students develop their leadership capacities in service of the world they want to shape and inherit.

Quotes About the New RLC Campus

Paul Walker, 2013 Right Livelihood Laureate who will come to Stockholm next week for the Award Ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, said:

“We not only decide about the planet we leave our children, we also decide now if we want to educate them to be stewards of this world or merely consumers. Education is the key, and proper research into the challenges we are now facing – environmental security, sustainability, peace and social justice – is the need of the hour. The Right Livelihood College builds on this concept, and, with the University of California in Santa Cruz, I am happy to see a US campus become a partner in this network for social change.”




Maude Barlow, Canada, Right Livelihood Award 2005, said:

“This is wonderful news. The Common Ground Center at UC Santa Cruz and the Right Livelihood Award share the same values of working for cultural and transformative change. I am sure that this partnership will contribute significantly to nurturing the next generation of environmentalists and advocates for sustainability on the North American continent.”

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director,
Right Livelihood Award Foundation, said:

“We congratulate the Common Ground Center at UC Santa Cruz for partnering with us to establish the first Right Livelihood College campus in North America, giving the College a presence in five continents. We are sure that students at the Center will benefit from interacting with the Laureates as they use their research to shape social and environmental change. We wish the Center every success as our newest RLC campus.” 


Melissa Ott, UCSC Common Ground Center,
Executive Committee Student, said:

“Students at UC Santa Cruz are deeply engaged in developing ideas and actions to solve the greatest challenges facing our local and global communities. I have seen and felt a yearning to connect our collective student work with others in the world who are leading transformative change. We are calling for socially-engaged education. This partnership will provide that link so that students can take the ideas they learn and generate at our University to the rest of the world. It will connect students with leaders from global civil society and the world-changing best practices they employ, and support us in transforming our shared future. There’s no better time than now for this win-win partnership.” 

David Shaw, UCSC Common Ground Center, Executive Committee Faculty, said:

“It is a great honor to announce the partnership between the Right Livelihood Award Foundation and the University of California Santa Cruz Common Ground Center at Kresge College. This is a historic moment for UCSC and RLA Foundation as we bring our resources together in service of the socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable future we believe in. Our Center will host seminars and lectures with RLA Laureates, and provide pathways for deep and long-term student engagement with Laureates for academic research, internships, and field studies. These are the manner of transformative student experiences being called for today. A better world is possible, and I believe we will get there through collective and wise actions such as this partnership.” 

Christine King, UCSC Common Ground Center, Executive Committee Faculty, said:

“Partnering with the Right Livelihood Award Foundation will offer our youth the kind of out-of-the-box thinking, vision, and action so vital to the future of our planet and civilization. May they be inspired by the RLA Laureates to take the creative and courageous steps necessary to help change the course of humanity.” 


The Right Livelihood College was founded in January 2009. It is a capacity building initiative of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, which awards annually the so-called “Alternative Nobel Prize.” The RLC aims to make the knowledge and experience of the Right Livelihood Laureates accessible to all. By linking young scholars with the Laureates, it hopes to make the “winning ideas” of the Laureates inspire, succeed and multiply.

The existing campuses are as follows: Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia; Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund University, Sweden, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Recently, in October and November 2013, the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and the Universidad Austral, Chile, became campuses as well.

The RLC’s Director is Professor Anwar Fazal, who won the Right Livelihood Award in 1982 for his work to successfully promote and expand consumer rights in Malaysia and internationally.

For more information on the
Right Livelihood Award, please contact:

Sharan Srinivas, Programme and Research Manager at +46735506533

Email: sharan [at] rightlivelihood [dot] org




For more information on the UCSC Common Ground Center Right Livelihood College please contact:

David Shaw, Common Ground Center Excutive Committee Faculty

Email: commonground [at] ucsc [dot] edu





Apply to Join CSSC’s Operating Team

Greetings CSSC Leaders,

We are proud and excited to announce that the Operating Team is accepting Applications for Operating Team Members for the Spring 2014 cycle. This is an incredible opportunity to get involved, or dig deeper into your CSSC  involvement and leadership.

Application for Operating Team Spring 2014

Due by Wednesday December 23rd at 11:59pm

Applications are open now until December 23rd, 2013 . This means you have one week to apply for this incredible opportunity to serve and lead the California sustainability student movement.

There are a number of available positions including:

Operating Team Co-Chairs (2) Council Co-Chairs (2) External Convergence Coordinator (1) Newsletter Editor(2) Blog editor (1) Website editor (1) Social Media Managers (1-2) Note Translator (1) Safe Space Manager(1)  Outreach Coordinator (1) Graphic Designer (1-2) Regional Events Coordinator (many!)

→ see the Roles and Responsibilities document for a description of the positions ←

Benefits of being on the Operating Team include but aren’t limited to:

  • Becoming a student leader for change in a statewide student run Non-Profit

  • Connecting with other leaders and activists from across CA

  • Building relationships with our Coalition Partners (CA and National)

  • Applying your talents, passion, skills to a volunteer leadership position

  • Empowering others to lead and learn more about sustainability

  • Advancing and supporting our Campaigns and Programs

  • Having a voice in the direction of CSSC

All newly elected members of the Operating Team are expected to (and get the opportunity to) attend the upcoming Winter Leadership Retreat, January 16th-20th, at UC Santa Cruz’s Kresgie College. At this weekend long retreat participants will receive in depth leadership training, develop lifelong friendships and connections with student and alumni activists working towards sustainability, gain familiarity with the CSSC leadership bodies like the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors, as well as other Operating Team members.

Protests, Food Justice, and Cooperative Organizing – Stories from Power Shift

This blog post was written by Eric Recchia, a member of our Board of Directors. He also works as an organizer with the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), a non-profit working to network and support student food cooperatives. He recently attended Power Shift with over a hundred other CSSCers, and presented a workshop about student food cooperatives. Check out the CoFED blog and the CoFED website for more info!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join more than seven thousand youth activists from around the country in Pittsburgh for an inspiring and empowering three days, filled with peer-led workshops, panels, breakouts, and keynotes, culminating in a protest march through the streets and an occupation of the office of a local official that had approved fracking in county parks.

[Activists marching across the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Julian Ehrlich]

We came together to learn more about the different problems caused by the fossil fuel economy in communities all around our country, hearing stories firsthand from those being directly impacted. We came together to share the work that we, the people in those communities and their allies, are doing to fight back. We came together to envision what an equitable, just, and thriving future could look like and plan how we are going to make it happen. We came together to organize, strategize, commiserate, and celebrate. We came together for Power Shift 2013.

You may be asking why someone doing work supporting student food cooperatives would be attending a conference about organizing for climate justice. Good question. There are a few ways that the work I do fits within the work of climate justice organizing. First, I’m big on intersectionality. If you’re new to the word, here’s a quick synopsis: intersectionality is the way in which multiple forms of oppression interact to contribute to systemic injustice and inequality. No oppressive system or ideology is isolated in its impacts or influences from other systems of oppression and oppressive ideologies. This means that when we fight oppression and injustice, we need to ally with and understand the work of others that are fighting different but connected fights. The same systems of oppression and injustice that underlie the extractive fossil fuel economy and the root causes of climate injustice underlie the roots of food injustice and the inequities and inequalities of our economic system.

Second, industrial agriculture is one of the largest anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases, approximately one-fourth to one-third of all greenhouse gases released by humans comes from agricultural related sources. Also, the fracking boom has led to a drop in natural gas prices, which has also led to a drop in the price of petroleum based fertilizer that’s made with anhydrous ammonia, which comes from natural gas, as well as an increase in domestic production. Thus the title of my workshop that I facilitated during Power Shift: Using Student Food Cooperatives to Fight Fracking, Climate Change, and Food Injustice.

 [Myself facilitating a workshop on student food cooperatives. Photo credit: Emily Teague.]


Energy Action Coalition (EAC), the host organization for Power Shift (PS13), is made up of dozens of grassroots and large environmental and environmental justice groups. EAC has different working groups that each of these organizations come together to collaborate through and help decide the direction of the Coalition. EAC also has several members that, like CoFED, are working to realize a more just, sustainable, and equitable economy for all. These groups are organized into the Green Economy Working Group, which includes some of our friends like Green For All, Grand Aspirations, the New Economics Institute, and Groundswell. I joined with members of these organizations at Power Shift and helped facilitate a 400+ person breakout on food justice, and I helped out at the Green Economy Hub, a spot where PS13 attendees could learn more about green economy work (because “green” is such a vague and often appropriated word, I prefer the term solidarity economy, so I’ll use that from now on) and share the work they are doing.

[A nationwide map of green economy projects at the Green Economy Hub. If you could zoom in, you’d see two papers on the left, one for the Humboldt Student Food Collective, and the other for CoFED! Photo credit: Eli Sheperd.]

Cooperatives played a small but diverse role throughout Power Shift. In addition to my own workshop, there was a workshop on worker cooperatives organized by Grand Aspirations, as well as more than a dozen workshops related to the solidarity economy. Cooperatives were discussed as a breakout group within the food justice breakout I helped to facilitate, and also as part of the social entrepreneurship breakout. Within the California statewide breakout, we had a food justice sub-breakout, where we also discussed food cooperatives, along with student run farmers’ markets, campus and community gardens, and the Real Food Challenge. I’m sure there were many other spaces that I am unaware of where cooperatives were introduced as a solution to many of the challenges being confronted at Power Shift; such as consumer owned utility cooperatives supplying affordable, community controlled, renewable energy.

[Myself, Peter Hoy, and Jennifer Roach (both with Grand Aspirations) facilitating the Food Justice breakout. Photo credit: Eli Sheperd.]

One really neat workshop I was able to attend was put on by a group of Rebel Economists that are working to reform economics programs in universities, moving away from teaching only about neoclassical models, and towards a greater diversity of economic thought. I studied economics as an undergraduate (and was very frustrated by the lack of diversity of thought that I found in most of the classes I took!), so this holds a special interest for me. Economic thought underpins much of how our society functions, and we must reform economic thought as part of the work of reforming our society. I have a lot of ideas about this I’d really like to share, so I may do so here at some point.

The highlight of the weekend (besides the great Thai restaurant we found down the street from the convention center) was definitely the day of action on Monday. My friends and I woke early to head to to a park on the waterfront of the Allegheny River, just across the waterway from downtown Pittsburgh, where the march would head later. We were meeting in-between a trio of bridges named after famous Pittsburgh natives: Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol, and famed writer and environmentalist Rachel Carson, whose bridge ironically enough ended right next to a huge glass building, the operational headquarters of ALCOA, the Aluminium Company of America. ALCOA is the third largest aluminium mining and smelting company in the world. They are also the 15th worst emitter of airborne pollutants in the US, illegally operated the dirtiest non-utility coal power plant in the country for 20 years, built 5 dams in the (formerly) largest wilderness area in Iceland (one 633 ft tall, the largest for it’s use in Europe), poisoned Kangaroos in Australia, and contaminated wetlands and groundwater in New York with PCBs. Unfortunately, our target for the action that day wasn’t ALOCA, but there were equally large evil-doers to take on within walking distance.

When we arrived at the waterfront park, there was already a large crowd there gathered. There were signs and creative protest art everywhere; a large coal barge escorted by police boats was in the river, just behind the main stage. A huge, 200+ foot banner spanned the length of the barge; on one side it read “Welcome to Coal Country,” on the other “Support American energy, support American jobs.”

[Activists gather for a rally at the waterfront before Monday’s big action. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

While the barge spun lazy circles in the distance, speakers took the stage who had travelled from the heart of coal country, the Appalachians, to tell of their struggles protecting their family homes and communities. We were there to support America, American energy, and American jobs. But we understand that in supporting clean energy, this is what we are doing. The current fossil fuel economy doesn’t support any of these three, and the stories we brought with us reinforced that. Ironically enough, Consol Energy, whose name was draped across the tug driving the barge, that same week sold their main coal subsidiary, including it’s river transportation operations (possibly including the tug and barge that sported the banner). Consol’s only remaining coal mines will be mining coal for overseas markets. It’s easy to see why some of my friends were initially confused into thinking that the barge was out there supporting us. Don’t worry though, we had a banner of our own prepared to answer their charge.

[Activists drop a banner from the Roberto Clemente Bridge during Monday’s action. Photo credit: Heather Craig.]


After getting powered up by a series of awesome, real, and motivating speakers (and youth rappers), and with a rousing urge from our MC (and friend from Green For All) Julian Mocine-Mcqueen, the march got started and we headed for the bridge. Our targets were PNC Bank, a leading financier of mountaintop removal, and UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has been criticized by local activists for not paying taxes, tax revenue which they hope could be used to support local transit services.

[Local union members stage a counter protest. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

Our spirits were high as we crossed the bridge and moved into downtown. On the far side of the bridge, just as we finished crossing, we encountered members of a local union, holding signs with peace symbols, asking us to stop the war on coal. There were a dozen or so union members there, staging a counter protest, thought once again, it was easy to get their message confused with our own (especially with the peace signs). In the end, hopefully we’ll end up being on the same side. We may be fighting a war against coal companies, but we are fighting for the future of coal country, something these companies may not really care all that much about. There were a fair share of aggressive shouts at the workers; unfortunately understandable because of the anger that many activists hold over the work we do. However, there was at least an equal number of signs of encouragement and support given to the workers as we passed. I heard a story later that an activist that was part of the march stopped to talk with the some of the workers, and their conversation ended with a hug and some tears.

[Students at a local 6-12th grade magnet school cheer on protesters as they march by. Photo credit: Julian Ehrlich.]

A brass band played lively music as the march of thousands wound around the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. We received waves of support from students and teachers as we passed a building that was a local 6-12th grade magnet school. This was the largest action in Pittsburgh since the G-20 summit had been held there in 2009. About halfway through the march, a large number of activists turned off from the main group, led by Rising Tide, to continue on an unpermitted march to support those that we involved that day in some of the direct actions. Members of the Earth Quaker Action Team managed to shut down 15 branches of PNC Bank before 7 of the Team were arrested at the only remaining open branch in downtown. We marched through the streets and around cars, passing one of these branches and members of EQAT on the way, cheering them on. Chants rang through the streets. “What do we want?!,” “JUSTICE!;” “When do we want it?!,” “NOW!.” Or a new (and pretty catchy) one I learned, “Ah!” “An-ti!” “Anti-cap-it-al-ist-a!.”

[Members of Rising Tide lead protesters through the streets of Pittsburgh as part of an unpermitted march during Monday’s action. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

Escorted by an activist with large papier-mâché hands and face, we eventually ended up at the county courthouse. We rallied in the main courtyard, before heading inside to support 11 activists that were occupying the county executive’s office. Rich Fitzgerald, the county executive and the man whose likeness the papier-mâché face was modeled after, is working to allow fracking under county park land in Allegheny County. For more than two hours, about 40 of us surrounded the office where the 11 activists had occupied all day, despite Fitzgerald’s convenient absence, singing songs and sharing our stories, while police dogs barked ominously in the background. I managed to sneak behind some of the cops to place a “Don’t Frack With Our Water” sign in one of the courthouse windows, to the cheers of those gathered in the courtyard below. Eventually Fitzgerald returned to his office, only to tell those gathered inside and out that he would be glad to meet us if we wanted to schedule a meeting, but that he was too busy to talk with us; he refused our requests to take even a minute to say anything more to us. Seeing that the police weren’t interested in arresting any of us, and after having occupied the office for the whole day, the 11 occupiers declared victory and vowed to return.

[Activists occupy Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald’s office to protest his support of fracking in County Parks. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]



[Activists gather in the courtyard of the Allegheny County courthouse to protest fracking in county parks. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

All together, Power Shift 2013 was an amazing and inspiring experience. More than 220 people made the weekend journey all the way from California (some of us spending more than 24 hours in airports, on planes, and on buses to do so). A group of us during the statewide breakout committed to continuing the work moving forward by starting a statewide Food System Working Group to network and support students working on various aspects of changing the industrial food system, from community gardens to food cooperatives. If you’d like to get involved with this effort, please email for more information. If you’re not a student in California, but you’re interested in finding out how you can work to change the food system on your campus and in your community, please email for more info, and I’ll connect you to an organizer in your area. If you’re interested in working to Shift the Power in some way other than through the food system, that’s great too! Feel free to also email me for more information about connecting with organizations, including the California Student Sustainability Coalition and others across the country, that are working to stop fracking, mountaintop removal, tar sands, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction, and are working to implement the clean energy and solidarity economy solutions that will bring about the thriving, just, and sustainable future we all know is possible.

[California Power Shift attendees gather for a photo after the statewide breakout. Photo credit: Jesse Lyon.]

UC Berkeley Student Government Passes Resolution Calling on Governor to Ban Fracking

by Ella Teevan

and Contributing Writer Roberta Giordano

Berkeley, CA, December 4, 2013 – The students of UC Berkeley have spoken their minds about the controversial practice of fracking, and their message is loud and clear: “Frack is wack!” On Wednesday night, the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley (ASUC) Senate voted in support of a fracking ban in California, with unanimous support from members present.

“The ASUC stands united in opposing the harmful and regressive practice of fracking,” said Nolan Pack, Executive Vice President of the ASUC. “Extraction of fossil fuels, including, fracking continues to do irreparable harm to the environment. The extraction and use of fossil fuels disproportionately harms low-income communities, often of color, in the Unites States, and developing nations all over the world – both through direct pollution and climate injustice. Continuing the use of fracking in California is unconscionable in a day and age when a renewable energy infrastructure should be our highest priority.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a dirty and extremely dangerous method of oil and natural gas extraction. It’s been garnering ever-increasing debate and media attention in recent months, especially in California, where the Monterey Shale is estimated to contain up to 15 billion barrels of oil recoverable by fracking and other new technologies. Fracking involves injecting a toxic brew of chemicals into the earth to fracture the shale and release the fossil fuels inside. This process threatens our air and water quality, wildlife and ecosystems, climate, and human health.

“We are inspired by the actions of the students at Berkeley and the ASUC in standing up for a ban on fracking in California,” said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity, a member organization of Californians Against Fracking. “Together, we are part of a growing grassroots movement across the state that will ban fracking.”

About ten students and activists gathered at Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting, holding signs that read, “Students Against Fracking” and “Climate Leaders Don’t Frack.” Among the groups represented were Californians Against Fracking, the statewide coalition of more than 150 organizations united to ban fracking, and the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC). These groups, along with members of several other campus groups like CALPIRG, Cal Dems, the Center for Biological Diversity, and California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), met Monday to begin forming a coalition, Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley, which they hope to spread to the state and national level.

The Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley coalition plans to meet again before the semester ends to strategize about how it can provide support and strengthen the already existing statewide anti-fracking movement. “Cal students are 30 minutes away from communities that have been heavily impacted by fossil fuel industries,” said Roberta Giordano of SERC. “The time for students to stand up in solidarity and take action alongside community members has come.”

The recent attention to fracking on campus and in the media follows in the wake of several other widely publicized student environmental protests. On Halloween, several groups, including Fossil Free Cal, held a rally on Sproul Plaza calling for the University of California to divest its funding from the fossil fuel industry. Last month, student and activist groups staged another rally on Sproul to protest the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The ASUC is the first student government in California to pass a bill calling for a ban on fracking. The vote is in keeping with the ASUC’s history of passing environmentally progressive legislation, including bills opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, calling on the University of California to divest its endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry, and divesting the ASUC’s own funding from fossil fuels.

“The ASUC’s resolution to divest from fossil fuels has been a huge strategic asset as Fossil Free Cal continues its campaign, lending the voice and strength of the student body to our cause,” said Lilly Adams of Fossil Free Cal. “I am confident that the anti-fracking resolution will give the same influence and credibility to Students Against Fracking as they seek a statewide ban.”

For questions: Ella Teevan or  Roberta Giordano

Linking Students and Communities: A Case Study of the Bay Area’s Battle Against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

by Arjun Pandava, UC Berkeley student

Contributing Writers Meredith Jacobson and Katie Hoffman

Student movements often fall into the trap of restricting their strategies and alliances to within the walls of their academic spaces.  But this restriction makes little sense, especially given that on many issues, the desires of the local community and the school are one and the same.

This is especially true when examining the struggle against fossil fuels that is currently building momentum in California.  At universities and other educational institutions all across the state, the main form of this struggle is currently the divestment movement (which recently saw the first community college district in the nation commit to divesting its assets from the top 200 carbon companies).  And while this tactic has huge promise and potential, it is one that is largely restricted to organizing among students (even though there is an increasing trend of non-academic institutions, like city councils and banks, talking about divestment).

On the other hand, there exists huge scope to connect students with ongoing struggles in local communities around the issue of fossil fuels.  From Richmond to Bakersfield to Los Angeles, thousands of thousands of people–typically low-income people of color–have to deal with carbon energy not as an abstract investment or a far-off consequence of climate change, but as a facet of day-to-day existence.  To these frontline communities, divestment isn’t about re-investing prudently for the future–it’s about struggling to survive today.

In this context, then, it could be argued that students, a relatively privileged strata of American society, have an obligation to use and exploit this privilege to transfer resources to the struggles of local communities.  After all, isn’t  the very purpose of academia to develop theories and practices to better the collective good, and especially the good of populations who have historically been marginalized from political and economic power?  The resources available to students–trained and motivated researchers, prestigious science journals, and the time and space to use it all–could prove to be critical weapons in the battles that take place at the frontlines of the war between people and Big Carbon.

Building alliances between students and local frontline communities is a critical effort that will yield huge benefits–as well as build the skills and mindsets necessary to build and progress a mass movement for sustainability.  We need to constantly be evaluating in ourselves, our organizations, and our work: what does it mean to be an ally? Working more deeply in the communities around our colleges and universities will allow us to explore this question and make truly meaningful and lasting coalitions.

Students in the Bay Area have some very unique opportunities to build networks with existing communities and their struggles against fossil fuels.  The Bay has long been a leading front in the general struggle for a sustainable and equitable society, but the rapid expansion of unconventional oil production means that the organization of resistance, and the advocacy for alternatives, must undergo a proportional acceleration.

[A longer version of this section of the essay, with a few more paragraphs and citations/links, can be found here.]

Existing Infrastructure, Existing Pollution

There are currently five oil refineries in the Bay Area, run by five different companies:

All of these refineries are located in the north-east of the Bay Area.  Four out of five of the refineries are in Contra Costa County; the exception (the Benicia Refinery, in Solano County) is located right across the waterway from the two refineries in Martinez.  These areas are populated mostly by working-class people of color; both Richmond and Pittsburg, for example, are around 80% non-White.

The environmental track record of these refineries has been less than stellar.  Many who reside in the Bay Area will remember the explosion and resulting fire at the Richmond site that occurred during the summer of 2012.  There was also a similar incident that occurred at the Tesoro’s Martinez site in late 2011, when a power outage caused most of the refinery’s systems to fail.

Accident at the Golden Eagle Refinery, Martinez–2011

Accident at the Chevron Richmond Refinery–2012

Another view of the 2012 Chevron Richmond Refinery accident

And these are not just one-time incidents; even when not exploding or catching on fire, oil refineries present constant and ongoing sources of pollution for local communities; indeed, air pollution violations are basically the industry norm:

Chevron had 95 violations, while the low was 87 violations for the Shell oil refinery in Martinez, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.  Valero in Benicia (Solano County) had 224 violations, Tesoro had 164 and ConocoPhillips had 130 violations, the air district reported.  The violations include technical errors — such as a monitor not working correctly — as well as excessive emissions from the plant.

The high rates of pollution from Bay Area refineries results in dangerously high levels of toxin exposure to local residents.  A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009 found that “Indoor air in nearly half of Richmond homes exceeded California’s annual ambient air quality standard for PM-2.5, often considered an aggregate measure of air pollution.”  Indoor concentrations of pollutants and toxins were also extremely high when compared to a control case, and concentrations of nickel and vanadium were “among the highest in the state.”  (Brody 2009: 600-609)

And going outside to escape poor indoor conditions accomplishes little; the air quality in Contra Costa County is absurdly low, at 25.3 on a scale of 100 (the average score for the US is 82.8).

Impacts on Local Public Health

The proximity of Bay Area refineries to residential areas means that for thousands of people, environmental externalities are a fact of daily life–rather than an abstraction that such issues are often reduced to in green activist spaces.  Sandy Saetuern, a South-East Asian refugee and resident of Richmond, describes the experience of going to school within a mile of the Chevron refinery:

“At school, along with earthquake drills, we were practicing chemical explosion drills.  I remember once coming out and the playground was enveloped in smoke. The smell was really awful, a strong, sort of gassy smell, and you couldn’t see a couple of feet in front of you. We were all coughing.”

As one might expect, incidents like this–as well as the more constant and structural release of toxins and pollutants–results in disproportionate health outcomes for locals.  For instance, there is a persistently high rate of asthma for residents of the East Bay:

Exposure to pollution has long been a concern for families across the Bay Area, from the waterfront industries in Oakland and Pittsburg to the oil refineries in Benicia and Martinez to the clogged freeways that traverse the South Bay and Peninsula. In Alameda County, the asthma hospitalization rate — 20.3 stays for every 10,000 children — is nearly twice the state average and the third-highest in California, next to rates in Imperial and Fresno counties. Some Oakland neighborhoods sent children to the hospital two or three times as often as that.

Asthma isn’t the only health effect that locals have to worry about;  the chemicals that are routinely released, and end up in people’s homes (as found by research like the 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health), are consistently linked to health problems ranging from chronic bronchitis to cancer.  The fact that there aren’t consistent efforts to study and document these effects, especially in the context of future plans to expand existing petrochemical facilities, constitutes structural neglect for the communities who bear the brunt of industrial externalities.

Expansion Plans

It is bad enough that the communities in the northern Bay Area have to deal with the presently existing fossil-fuel infrastructure.  However, the recent boom in the North American oil industry–brought on by technological innovations in oil extraction such as hydraulic fracking–is putting even more pressure on these already marginalized communities as fossil-fuel corporations are now attempting to expand their operations and invest in even more capacity to process new and dirtier forms of oil.  Some of the impending expansion plans are listed below:

  • Chevron Richmond Refinery, Richmond: Chevron has plans to invest $1B into its Richmond refinery, in an effort to upgrade the site to be able to process high-sulfur crude oil.  Chevron officials claim that emissions from the site will not be increased; almost everybody else has serious doubts about this claim.

  • Benicia Refinery, Benicia: Valero is attempting to build up capacity to import oil by rail, which will likely be dominated by tar sand imports.

  • WesPac Energy, Pittsburg: Wespac, an energy infrastructure company, wants to expand its existing oil terminal and storage site to deal with the expected increase in the transportation and refinement capacity of Bay Area oil infrastructure.

And in general, as Contra Costa Times reports, the expansion plans are heavily cruxed on increased development of the aforementioned tar sands being exploited in Canada:

Phillips 66 in Rodeo already brings in trains filled with tar sands crude, and Chevron Richmond refines it. Shell in Martinez receives processed tar sands oil in the form of synthetic crude. Tesoro Golden Eagle in Avon, near Martinez, wants to bring in the heavy crude — which is refined from an unconventional petroleum deposit that has the texture and smell of tar mixed with sand — by rail. And Benicia’s Valero refinery hopes to bring in 70,000 barrels a day of North American crude by rail and spend $30 million to increase its infrastructure to handle it, according to investment reports, environmental studies and company profiles.

Community Resistance and Imminent Struggles

While community activism has garnered some concessions from companies like Chevron in the form of donations to local schools and health centers, the general future outlook for the population of the Bay Area in general appears grim.  As stated before, the rise of unconventional oil production has companies gearing up to expand their infrastructure.  This translates into new pipelines crossing through East Bay communities and ecologies, increased movement of oil and oil products via rail and ship, and increased capacity for refining and storing petroleum products.

The most imminent struggle between communities and carbon is in Pittsburg, a town on the north-eastern side of the Bay.  This town has long hosted oil storage facilities, and “boasts” even higher asthma rates than Richmond; now (as stated above) WesPac Energy is seeking to expand these storage sites even further:

WesPac Energy–Pittsburg LLC (WesPac) will modernize and reactivate the existing marine terminal, oil storage and transfer facilities at the GenOn Pittsburg Generating Station located at 696 West 10th Street.  It will be used to transport and store virgin and partially refined crude oil.  All products will be transferred by pipeline, rail, ship or barge and will be stored in the storage tanks on site.  The crude oil will be shipped to local refineries through existing pipelines. One pipeline is already connected to the facility and the other will require a new pipeline to connect to it, approximately 2,400 feet long.

This increase in carbon infrastructure will put even more pressure on an already burdened community.  From East Bay Express:

“Pittsburg always gets dumped on,” added longtime community activist Jim MacDonald in an interview. He noted that the city already hosts two fossil fuel power plants and a facility to store petroleum coke, a toxic refinery byproduct. In a city with high numbers of low-income residents, many of whom are people of color, MacDonald said his “issue is environmental justice.”

In response to this imminent deepening of carbon infrastructure, residents of Pittsburg have formed the Pittsburg Defense Council (PDC), and have been pouring countless hours into knocking on doors and letting people know about the impending increase in the threat to their public health.  A protest march is set to happen on January 11th, and general strategies are being developed with regards to how to best confront a business-interest-dominated city council which, as of right now, will be more than happy to give WesPac the leeway to build up fossil-fuel infrastructure.  Final decisions for whether the project will be approved will be made early 2014, and so this is a critical time period in which pressure has to be applied to prevent the project from coming through.

At first glance, this may seem like an isolated struggle against the degradation of public health and local ecology by a small local community.  But in reality, the Pittsburg front is a struggle that parallels the struggles that emerging all along the West coast of Anglo-America. From British Columbia to Seattle to the Bay Area to Los Angles, fossil fuel companies are cheerfully planning the roll-out of more carbon infrastructure–never mind the impact on local communities, or the global implications of the continued production and consumption of fossil-fuels.

These interconnections have been recognized by communities, and has translated into the formation of coalitions like The Sunflower Alliance, whose goals is to coordinate and build solidarity between the various anti-carbon community groups in Northern California.  This logic of solidarity and grassroots networking is also espoused by Communities for a Better Environment, an environmental justice-oriented group that works with residents across California who are fighting to protect the public health.

If Pittsburg wins its struggle, then Richmond is in an even better position to prevent the expansion of Chevron’s refinery.  And if both Pittsburg and Richmond triumph, then the proposed import/export terminals for other sites will also be on weaker footing.  And in general, the more success the Bay Area has in preventing the consolidation of the fossil-fuel industry, then the more success that other regions up and down the West Coast will have–and vice versa.  And on the broader field, these strategies to undermine the fossil fuel industry and prevent its further deployment are essential if we are to move toward a sustainable, zero-carbon future, and reverse the ongoing global ecological crisis.

This is why it is crucial that people across the Bay Area–and indeed, California–rally in support of the people of Pittsburg, and against Wespac.  A victory for Pittsburg is a victory for the Bay Area, and a victory for the Bay Area is a victory for California–and so on!