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New Co-op Course Seeks to Revamp Cal’s Business Curriculum

By: Hanna Morris, Student Environmental Resource Center, UC Berkeley

It’s mid-morning on Friday and the four Co-op DeCal facilitators are discussing next week’s lesson plans over freshly brewed coffee at Blue Door Café. The syllabus is impressive, with admittedly more resources, field trips and relevant readings than many of my degree’s required courses. Zen Trenholm, an energetic and passionate UC Berkeley alumnus with an incredible amount of knowledge and insight into co-operatives is the lead facilitator for next Tuesday’s class. “Co-operative Histories, Pt. 2: From Henry Lees Kingman to the New Wave Movement,” is the lesson’s title. Clearly, there is a lot more to know about co-operatives than delicious pizza in the Gourmet Ghetto and hipster-filled houses that dot the campus’s periphery.

“There are more fingers on my hand than there are undergraduate classes on co-operatives in the U.S. I think it is absolutely ridiculous that one of the world’s dominant business models isn’t taught at our universities,” Trenholm bemoans. “Our team aims to correct this by making co-operative history and practice relevant and imperative for all students regardless of discipline and previous experience.”

I’ve written about co-ops in the past. I featured the Berkeley Student Food Collective (BSFC) in a spotlight piece for Caliber Magazine a couple years ago. I talked with the outreach coordinator at that time, Matthew Kirschenbaum, and remember leaving the interview feeling genuinely impressed with the professionalism and pragmatic vision of the BSFC. Aside from the tattoos and flannels adorned by most of the student workers, there was nothing hippie-dippie about the enterprise at all. The co-operative model is simply the most profitable way to run the store. The democratic, anti-hierarchical operation of the collective isn’t an added bonus—it is what allows for greater worker and customer satisfaction, higher quality products, and an unabridged celebration of value, in every sense of the word.

Student promotes new product at Berkeley Student Food Collective. Photo courtesy of the Berkeley Student Food Collective.

“Co-ops are simply an organizational model but they can represent a fundamental culture shift in how we assume our economies and community politics should be managed,” Trenholm explains. “If the expectation is that we should live in a free, fair, and democratic society, then our economy must reflect this.”

Hierarchical organization is the overwhelming status quo for most major businesses in the United States today. A domineering CEO and board of directors dependent on shareholder investment is the naturalized norm. Many Americans do not question this structure despite its social and environmental consequences. Namely, plummeting workers’ salaries, benefits, health and overall wellbeing. The “business world” is generally accepted as one that’s rough and dirty. A “dog-eat-dog” culture, the dominant narrative runs, is necessary for raking in the Benjamins and fostering “economic growth.”

But according to the Co-op DeCal facilitators, this is an entirely misconstrued, limited and quite frankly, dangerous understanding of how businesses can and should operate. The hardball corporate model is not the only or best way to run a business. In fact, the shareholder structure has time and time again proven to be more of a bust than boon to economic stability. Remember the 2008 recession, anyone? How about the Great Depression? What about the 1990’s .com slump? Rewarding risk over resiliency clearly has its drawbacks.

“Most of us were raised to be competitive with one another, but co-ops give us a chance to take something that is normally competitive—business, obtaining housing, what have you—and asks that we work together to meet the group’s goals and the community’s needs,” DeCal co-facilitator and BSFC operations manager, Megan Svoboda says.

Both economy and community, according to “co-operators,” should not be mutually exclusive. They should be—and ultimately are—one and the same. Shareholder corporations are structured in a way that overlooks this entanglement. Disempowered communities and workers prevent corporations from making decisions that benefit more than just a few Wall Street investors.

The truth is, it’s hard to work with groups of people. It’s hard to communicate clearly and to stick it out through the challenges and it’s normally here where co-ops run into trouble,” Svoboda admits. “But in the end, co-ops are more successful than their competitors because they’re grounded in the communities they serve. This allows them to survive economic downturns at a higher rate than ‘normal’ businesses.”

Co-ops can guarantee both short and long-term vitality precisely because they do not need to worry about immediate returns on investment for shareholders in New York. “Co-ops are dynamic and resilient because they often rely on community and member buy-in to guide their activities and people feel a stronger sense of ownership over the business,” Trenholm says. “They will work hard to ensure it remains afloat during the bad times and thrives during the good times.”

But if this co-op model is so wonderful, why aren’t there more of them around?

“I should mention that there are over 30,000 co-ops in the United States alone, generating over $625 billion in revenue, and employing close to 1 million people. Though not well recognized, they certainly are represented in our economy,” Trenholm clarifies.

It turns out, co-ops are not so much a rarity as they are overlooked.

“Over 1 billion people are already involved with co-ops worldwide. There are hundreds of thousands of co-ops all over the world that generate over $2 trillion in revenue. Co-ops have been adopted and accepted since the early 19th century, the only issue has been the lack of recognition for such extraordinary models within the academia as well as mainstream society,” DeCal co-facilitator and Student Environmental Resource Center development director, Roberta Giordano says. “Our DeCal aims to change that.”

The Co-op DeCal facilitators are determined to showcase the merits and historical legacy of co-operatives. They want to clearly articulate that this isn’t a radical or offbeat business formula concocted on the liberal avenues of the East Bay; it is a centuries-old alternative to the hierarchical shareholder model and it has proven effective and profitable time and time again.

The renowned Robert Reich teaches the consequences of shareholder-driven capitalism in his popular undergraduate course, “Wealth and Poverty.” Photo courtesy of Google Images.

“So much of economic history is defined by the search for this elusive ‘third way,’ this compromise between the freedoms that free-market capitalism provides and the equity promised by more socialist regimes,” DeCal co-facilitator and Student Environmental Resource Center education associate, Jeff Noven, states. “Historically, co-operatives have offered significant freedom and equity in both capitalist and socialist states by keeping democratic principles central in their operations.”

And yet, there is a notable dearth in conversation about co-operative businesses in American culture and curriculum. Many students leave the halls of Haas Business School, for example, without exposure to the benefits or prospects of co-ops beyond an organic food store on Bancroft Avenue and a consortium of student houses with great parties and cooking.

Trenholm hopes that the Co-op DeCal will change this. The facilitators are actively encouraging departments at Berkeley to include histories and practices of co-ops in their core curriculums, especially within the business school. “Our ultimate goal is to launch an academically-sponsored course at Cal on the history and significance of co-operatives and how they can be tools for building sustainable, resilient, and socially-just communities.”

Major universities such as the University of Wisconsin at Madison have already begun to implement co-op studies across their departments. Cal’s students, the DeCal facilitators believe, will greatly benefit from a more comprehensive survey of alternative business models.

While the Co-op DeCal facilitators finish their coffee and lesson plans at Blue Door Café, I sit in Wheeler Auditorium where “Fortunate Son” is blasting from the overhead speakers, Robert Reich is looking as jovial as ever, and my claustrophobia is kicking in as 800 or so caffeinated college students file inside for our Friday afternoon “Wealth and Poverty” lecture. I just turned in my first essay. I had to explain why economic “inequality” is (or isn’t) a concern. Stagnating wages, dwindling workers’ benefits, plummeting mental and physical health, cascading social alienation and political mistrust are all worrisome consequences. The problem is clear, if not daunting. An economy that operates without democratic decision-making and a commitment to long-term vitality spells disaster. But perhaps a workable solution isn’t so forgone.

“A popular figure to quote is one from the Mondragon Co-operative, where the CEO of this tremendously successful co-operative empire makes 9 times the salary of the lowest-paid employee of the company; this is in contrast to traditional corporations that traditionally have CEOs making 600 times the lowest employee salary,” Noven says. “To me, this is the beauty of co-operatives — they don’t actually need an ‘ideal’ society to function ideally: co-operatives have the potential to create ideal societies within the dysfunctional socio-economic systems we’ve set up on both sides of the spectrum.”

Maybe the silver lining to America’s struggle with “wealth and poverty” lies in an overlooked, age-old business model that four trailblazing Berkeley students and alumni are vying to bring to the forefront of business lexicon and discussion. A lot can be achieved, after all, with a visionary DeCal, determination and a cup of Joe from the Blue Door Café.

The Co-op DeCal facilitators discuss lesson plans at Blue Door Cafe. From left: Megan Svoboda, Zen Trenholm, Jeff Noven, Roberta Giordano. Photo by Jonathan Reader.

The Co-op DeCal meets Tuesdays at 4PM in 258 Dwinelle Hall

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Post-Global Divestment Day Op-ed

Regents: Whose Side Are You On?

Fossil Free UCSB calls on Chancellor Yang to stand with students.

Californians demand real climate leadership. One week after the largest-ever anti-fracking rally — the March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, CA — students and community members took action on University of California campuses for climate justice on the first-ever Global Divestment Day. We took action with flair and with a renewed focus on pressuring campus administrators to come out with a public stance on divestment. We took action together, with giant Valentine’s Day cards,with mock weddings, with marches, and with guerilla art alongside indigenous allies; we were joined by communities on five continents demanding that their institutions pick a side in the struggle for our future and divest from fossil fuels. But most of all, we took action because we have a stronger conviction than ever that we must win this fight. And we’re beginning to see our efforts pay off.

Recent press coverage is proving that our efforts do not exist in a vacuum; we are beginning to make the fossil fuel industry squirm. The recent storm of misguided anti-divestment arguments,crafted by fossil fuel lobbying groups and their allies, is some of the strongest evidence yet that fossil fuel divestment is an effective tactic. They’re not dumb; they recognize that divestment is capable of making the fossil fuel industry the pariah it deserves to be, just as past divestment campaigns stigmatized Big Tobacco and South African apartheid. Our movement is gaining power, and they’re scared — because winning divestment would mean realizing that we must keep 80% of carbon in the ground, effectively undermining the industry’s wealth. As Divestment Student Network co-founder Kate Aronoff pointed out this week in Waging Nonviolence: the louder carbon corporations shout, the more we know that we’re getting that much closer to winning.

Students at the University of California have been pushing the Regents since 2013 to stand on the side of the students and align their actions with their stated climate and moral leadership. Since 2011, we’ve been building stronger campus teams and a more coordinated strategy, and we’re beginning to get traction. Our campuses are now taking the heat to their Chancellors, and we’re already getting some dialogue. On Global Divestment Day, Chancellor Blumenthal of UC Santa Cruz released a blog post speaking to the importance of dealing with climate change and Fossil Free UCSB calls on Chancellor Yang to stand with students. the promise of the fossil fuel divestment campaign. He wrote that Fossil Free UCSC “students remain determined to see the Regents approve full fossil fuel divestment,” and that meeting them leaves him with “little doubt that we are all well on our way toward understanding that fossil fuels cannot remain a part of our collective future.”

Chancellor Blumenthal seems to understand that students need real climate leadership from university administration; climate leadership doesn’t ignore the crucial role the fossil fuel industry plays in exacerbating climate chaos and environmental injustice. So this is the question we now bring to our chancellors, administrators and faculty: “Whose side are you on?” We’re asking this question alongside divestment campaigns across the world. We’re demanding that our institutions side with students over extractive industries, because we stronger, more just, and more resilient in its place. As the year progresses, we’re not just going to be asking for divestment with words. We’re going to be demanding it with our actions. Through history, nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience have been critical components of struggles for justice. When task forces, committees, and other traditional channels of decision-making fail to bring those in power to decisions that are just, we refuse to compromise our values; we put our bodies on the line until our demands are met. This is what divestment campaigns across the country are preparing for, and inviting students to do: to take a pledge to engage in nonviolent direct action this spring until their administrations choose to divest. Pledge to act on divestment with us this Spring. To change everything, we need everybody.

However, we are not just escalating for divestment; we are escalating for a broader commitment to a just and sustainable future. This includes democratization of the university by inclusion of stakeholders in decisions about our investments, including in making sure that the $1 billion reinvested is invested in the kind of solutions we want to see: in sustainable projects that are community-led and justice-oriented, rather than the greenwashing the fossil fuel industry touts as its commitment to sustainability.

We know that the university will ultimately divest. Its financial advisors must know that it just doesn’t make financial sense to keep investing in companies whose net worth is based on a mirage of promised wealth. When the university does divest, though, it won’t be the financial impact of moving its assets in the fossil fuel industry that makes the most difference. It will be the statement, loud and clear, that the Regents choose to work for the futures of their students and the betterment of society, instead of working for the industry.

Authors are Jacob Soiffer, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley; Alden Phinney, an undergraduate student at UCSC; and Emily Williams, Campaign Director with the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

USC Oil Resistance

By:  Dale Solomon

Over the course of the last year, prices of crude oil have dropped dramatically, causing an upheaval in the fossil fuel industry. Expensive projects that are not already approved and underway are being abandoned. The industry points to dropping prices of crude as the reason, but we know that the persistent resistance of the people living next fossil fuel projects deserves the credit. Were it not for their efforts, many of these projects would have been underway for some time now.

Recently, the city of Carson won a major victory when a project, that would have seen roughly 200 new wells drilled amidst urban neighborhoods, was cancelled. This is only the largest of the cancelled projects in Los Angeles County. Here is a brief look at another recent victory, told by a USC student.

West Adams Resistance

My name is Dale Solomon and I am a Junior at the University of Southern California. I joined the Environmental Affairs Organization (EAO) a little over a year ago and quickly became interested in their Anti-Acidization campaign when I learned that the highly unregulated fossil fuel industry was conducting business all over the city of Los Angeles.

The closest drill site, owned by Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas (FMOG), is 3 blocks from campus and just one block from my apartment. Because this particular drilling monstrosity is literally an arm’s length from some homes, it did not take long for community members to feel like they were being treated like guinea pigs in FMOG’s acidization experiment. Richard Parks was one of these concerned community members who, as a USC faculty member and local resident, felt something needed to be done. He reached out to us last Spring and we have been working together ever since.

The relationship that we have maintained with community members has been incredibly valuable for generating connections. Through Richard, we have gained access to an entire network of community members who are each working on their own subcommittees such as Media Relations, Logistics and Legality. I have had a tremendously rewarding experience by being part of this network and by helping to foster new connections.

Our extensive community outreach has also benefitted us with quick updates on FMOG’s operation. One of the biggest complaints that community members have is that FMOG operates in secrecy and there is no regulatory body watching over them; so it is often very difficult to find out when they are doing acid jobs and when they are applying for well expansion permits.

On November 25, 2014 FMOG went before a city zoning administrator to apply for permits to re-drill two existing wells and drill a new well. Richard Parks was able to inform us of this hearing with enough time to rally our members, organize transportation and write speeches. Over a hundred people showed up to what was expected to be a routine hearing application. Our passionate opposition and overwhelming numbers caused the decision to be delayed to January 5th and then January 24th. In that time FMOG withdrew their permit application.

We were able to successfully stop FMOG from expanding the scope of their operation, and while their daily operations continue, it is clear that we won the battle. Community outreach and persistent networking is a proven system. We will continue to implement this powerful solidarity until the day FMOG is out of our community!

USC’s Environmental Affairs Organization has partnered its Anti-Acidization campaign with the Redeemer Community Partnership, who has successfully led a struggle to prevent the approval of a project proposed by Freeport Mcmoran Oil & Gas in the West Adams Neighborhood of south Los Angeles.

UC Students Ask Chancellors to be “Theirs” this Valentine’s Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: PRESS RELEASE

UC Students Ask Chancellors to be “Theirs” this Valentine’s Day

And to break up with fossil fuel investments

This Friday, February 13th, University of California students will be joining hundreds of campaigns around the world in calling for an end to fossil fuel investments during the first-ever Global Divestment Day. Campuses are hosting flash-mobs, marches and sit-ins to demand that their university no longer invest in the fossil fuel companies that drive climate change and threaten the health of our world.

Fossil Free UC, a coalition of the University of California’s campus divestment campaigns, has been actively working since March 2013 to push the UC Regents to align their investment policy with their stated values. Alden Phinney, a junior at UCSC, stated, “The Regents’ continued financial support for fossil fuel corporations flies in the face of UC’s purported ‘climate leadership.’ Our carbon neutrality initiative should be implemented in investments as well as operations in order to secure a habitable world for future generations. FFUC is organizing on every campus to bolster faculty, staff and student opposition to the business designs of these rogue corporations.”

This Friday, however, the attention is on the university chancellors. Recognizing the Regents’ unwillingness to work with their students, the students are turning to their chancellors to stand on their side and advocate with them. The Fossil Free campaigns at Santa Barbara, Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles will be holding coordinated actions, targeting their chancellors to “break up” with fossil fuels and to recommit to students by publicly endorsing fossil fuel divestment. “Our chancellors are supposed to be a voice for the needs of our campus communities,” said Jake Soiffer, a sophomore at UC Berkeley. “When students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members are united in their call for divestment, we expect our chancellors to stand with us on the right side of history.”

Global Divestment Day comes on the heels of the March for Real Climate Leadership, the largest ever anti-fracking demonstration, held in Oakland. It called for “real climate leadership” from Governor Brown, as well as from cities across California to heed the calls of public health officials, educators and citizens wracked by the terrors of oil fracking. One week later, UC students are calling for real climate leadership from their Chancellors.

“The work of the students and alumni of Fossil Free UC was instrumental in creating the UC Task Force on Sustainable Investments and the resulting $1 billion investment into ‘climate solutions’ in September 2014,” said Victoria Fernandez, a senior at UC Berkeley who served on the task force. “While this redirected investment was a major win, it fails to truly bolster the university’s integrity as a climate leader.” Although the university has committed to addressing climate change through President Napolitano’s carbon neutrality initiative, Fernandez asserts that the UC can never be carbon neutral — nor adhere to its own mission statement — as long as it invests in and backs the fossil fuel industry. “The UC students demand integrity, transparency and commitment from the Regents to address climate change, for which the first step is full divestment. Until the Regents are able to deliver, the students are asking their chancellors to be ‘theirs’ this Valentines Day, and to break up their relationship with the fossil fuel industry.”

Jonathan Lake, an electrical engineering graduate student at UCLA, emphasizes the importance of the UC standing on the side of its students, rather than of an exploitative industry. “The UC will never fulfill its educational mission if it does not also stand for a stable climate,” Lake said. “As young students and other affected communities, we must not settle for the status quo of climate chaos. We demand agency over our future and our right to self-determine.” When UC chancellors, faculty and eventually Regents choose to divest, they are recommitting to students and saying, ‘We are on your side.’ This movement for a more just and democratic education will certainly not end there. But it is a great place to start.

So, University of California – whose side are you on? #Divest.
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For more information on Global Divestment Day and to find an action near you, please viist http://globaldivestmentday.org/

For more information on Fossil Free UC, please visit fossilfreeuc.org.

Follow the actions on Facebook and Twitter (@FossilFreeUC).

 

Alyssa Lee, California Student Sustainability Coalition, alyssa.dabichi.lee@gmail.com, 209-222-8872

Jake Soiffer, California Student Sustainability Coalition and UC Berkeley Undergraduate Student, soiffer@berkeley.edu, 646-734-8580

Theo LeQuesne, UCSB Graduate Student, theo.leq@hotmail.com, 805-637-3543

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EVAMarch1

Students March in Largest Anti-Fracking Demonstration in US History

by: Ella Teevan

On Saturday, UC Berkeley students made history, marching alongside activists from across California in the largest rally against fracking the US has ever seen. Despite a spattering of rain, 8,000 people took to the streets of Oakland for the March for Real Climate Leadership, a direct call on Governor Brown to live up to his promise to make California into an international leader against climate change.

“We are here to ban fracking, to stand up to Big Oil, and to move California beyond fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy,” declared Tia Lebherz of Food and Water Watch, one of the march’s speakers and organizers, to roars and cheers from the Saturday morning crowd.

Protesters started arriving in busloads around 11:30 at Frank Ogawa Plaza in downtown Oakland, from communities as far away as Chico to the north and the Los Angeles/Orange County area to the south. San Diego activists made the longest trek, boarding their bus at midnight to arrive in the morning. The march wound its way north up Telegraph Ave. and across to Lake Merritt, led by a contingent of Native Americans, First Nations, Pacific Islanders, and other peoples on the front lines of the climate struggle.

Photo from marchforclimateleadership.org

The anti-fracking, pro-renewable-future message holds a broad appeal for the diverse communities that make up California. The March for Real Climate Leadership included 134 partner organizations, which showcase the depth and breadth of the climate and anti-fracking movement in California: from health groups like Breast Cancer Action, to labor unions like a local chapter of United Auto Workers, to the Sunflower Alliance, who organized art and props. The march owed much of its success, visibility, and sheer numbers to the months of planning poured into it by organizers from statewide groups Food and Water Watch, 350.org, California Student Sustainability Coalition, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment.

The march, full of joyful noise and chanting voices, stood out as sea of blue shirts and banners stretching from sidewalk to sidewalk in the Oakland streets. The choice of blue color, according to the march’s art coordinator, David Solnit, evokes one of its main messages: that fracking contaminates our water, an especially precious resource in this historic drought. When protesters reached the Lake Merritt Amphitheater, a 25-foot banner rose from the lake, bearing an Earth Mother and her child and the words, “Our Water, Our Health, Our California.”Amphitheater, a 25-foot banner rose from the lake, bearing an Earth Mother and her child and the words, “Our Water, Our Health, Our California.”

Photo from marchforclimateleadership.org

Students from Berkeley and across the state have been vital participants in the anti-fracking movement and the March for Real Climate Leadership. “There were at least 1,000 students from across the state representing 15 different campuses,” said Shoshanna Howard, an organizer of statewide Students Against Fracking groups with the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

Cal’s own Wes Adrianson, of Students Against Fracking, spoke in a fishbowl discussion at a convergence of over 40 Californians Against Fracking member groups on the day following the march. “Students involved with sustainability know that as long as governor brown allows fracking in California, he is undermining the state’s transition to renewable energy and jeopardizing our future,” Adrianson said. “We’re going to hold him accountable to that until he demonstrates real climate leadership by banning fracking.”

UC Berkeley student Kristy Drutman of Berkeley’s Students Against Fracking chapter traveled to Sacramento on Jan. 27th to speak at a press conference in front of the Capitol, where she and other activists hand-delivered a large puzzle piece to Governor Brown’s office, demanding that he be a “piece of the climate solution” for the student generation.

photo from marchforclimateleadership.org

Governor Brown, for his part, has maintained that fracking can be done safely. Senate Bill 4, which passed in late 2013, allows regulated fracking in California and mandates an Environmental Impact Report on its effects, due this July – before which, Brown has made clear that he will not act. March organizers and the Californians Against Fracking Coalition point out that Brown has the power to ban fracking in the Golden State, via an executive order. In Berkeley, Cal students continue to push for an Alameda County fracking ban, and they always welcome new people at Students Against Fracking meetings on Tuesday nights. Between now and July, activists in the SoCal communities of Hermosa Beach and La Habra Heights are working to pass ballot initiatives banning fracking, all the while pressuring Governor Brown to be a real climate leader.

“Claiming to be a climate leader while allowing fracking is like saying you’re trying to save money from inside a Louis Vuitton,” said Linda Capato of 350.org. “It’s far past time for Governor Jerry Brown to step up, truly and end fracking now.”

 

Featured Image from the Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment

 

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The Time is Now for a Real Climate Leader

By: Jacob Elsanadi, Kristy Drutman, and Eva Malis

Standing in front of her Inglewood home, Geneva Morgan points to the dramatic cracks in her driveway, house, and street and declares to a camera, “The truth is that when they frack, they go underneath our houses.” Standing in front of the neighboring Inglewood Oil field, she turns straight to the camera and asks, “The governor that I voted for, why is he not doing anything? We wanted you to help us, and you turned your back.”

She is not alone. Don Martin, resident of West Adams, logically connects his granddaughter’s life-threatening Hodgkin’s lymphoma to the toxic fumes his community is constantly subjected to by the fracking site next door. “They want to keep us out, but do they keep their chemicals in?”

The word ‘fracking’ has become a part of the modern American vernacular in unanticipated ways.

Some associate this method of oil and gas extraction with contaminated groundwater, increased climate-disrupting carbon emissions, and a trigger for earthquakes. Others see it as a route to energy independence from foreign sources, a stimulant for the economy, and a way to drive down gasoline prices. Yet in the face of one of the most severe droughts on record, more people are realizing that fracking does not make sense in California.

In response to the record-breaking drought, Governor Brown declared a State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Yet over 1 million gallons of water are being used on average at each of the thousands of fracking sites in our state, every day. The fracking waste water is then often dumped into pits that are dug into the ground which further expose groundwater to the chemical-laden and sometimes radioactive mixture. In October 2014, it was revealed that over 3 billion gallons of fracking wastewater had contaminated protected California aquifers in the Central Valley. If not stored in above ground pits, the volatile liquid is frequently sent to sewage treatment plants which are ill-equipped to deal with these chemicals. Hydraulic fracturing wastes precious water that remains in California and endangers groundwater resources vital during droughts, threatening the health of thousands of Californians.

Governor Jerry Brown, who promises to tackle climate change and address the drought, turned his back on the science presented to him and the local communities who have to live with the impacts of hydraulic fracturing everyday. He continues to allow this scarcely-regulated practice in our state, which has been exempt from the Clean Water Act nation-wide since 2005.

Californians are currently living with the snowballing impacts from fracking: air pollution, water pollution, spills and leakages, worker accidents, truck traffic, surges of transient workers, skyrocketing prices for affordable housing, and more. But Californians are not silent about this assault on our state. The unified efforts of almost 200 organizations comprising the Californians Against Fracking coalition have brought a white-hot spotlight on this pressing issue. Affected communities and concerned citizens are rising together to banish the irresponsible practice of hydraulic fracturing throughout California.

In the November 2014 elections, San Benito and Mendocino counties approved to place a ban on fracking, resulting from over 57% of voter support. Local coalitions, including San Benito Rising, and Coalition to Protect San Benito, worked to pass the measure through grassroots efforts and the compilation of over 4,000 signatures. Despite the success there, oil corporations swayed Santa Barbara’s vote on a similar measure, resulting in 63% of voters against the ban on fracking. It has been reported that local oil corporations “threatened lawsuits against Santa Barbara County if Measure P succeeded.”

Locally, Students Against Fracking on the UC Berkeley campus organizes petition drives, rallies, and teach-ins to address the detrimental impacts of fracking. Students across California spent the past year working with environmental NGOS such as Food and Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club organizing around extreme oil and gas extraction. The youth of today are at greatest stake–standing to either benefit or pay for the choices made now that will shape the future. Consequently, power for change lies in the hands of students.

In March of 2014, thousands of Californians gathered in Sacramento calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, and this February, thousands more will be gathering in Oakland to demand real climate leadership from our governor. The March for Real Climate Leadership will take place in Oakland on February 7th, at 11:30 am at Oscar Grant Plaza. It will be the largest anti-fracking demonstration in the history of California and is key to pressuring the Governor to truly represent the interests of his fellow Californians.

Currently, fracking has become one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. However the fight has just begun. We have seen steps of progression with New York’s government, and now it’s time for Californians to rise up. It’s time we champion safety over profits. It’s time we create a habitable environment for the future, and it’s time we ban fracking now.

 

[1] Image: Cagle, Daryl. “Thirsty California Flag.” The Cagle Post. N.p.,

n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2015.

Los Angeles: Anti-Fracking Champion?

By: Arlo Bender-Simon

While Kern County is home to over 75% of California’s fossil fuel production and the Bay area is California’s hub for social justice activism, Los Angeles County is home to millions of people living right next to oil and gas operations.

Part 1: Context

There are more than 84,000 existing oil & gas wells within California; 63,450 of those reside in Kern County, 6,065 in Los Angeles County[1]. We know that the extraction of oil pollutes the Earth; be it during site preparation, drilling, production, transportation, refining, or consumption, our addiction to fossil fuels has very real, toxic impacts at all stages.

For most Californians, pollution from fossil fuels is a distant threat. Sure it is contributing to global warming and maybe we breathe some of it in when moving around our daily lives, but we don’t think about it much and when/if we do, it is at our leisure.

In October 2014, the Natural Resources Defense Council released a report titled Drilling In California: Who’s At Risk? The numbers of oil & gas wells in California, cited earlier, are from this report. This document identifies 5.4 million California residents living within one mile of an oil or gas well. That is roughly 14% of the state’s population; for them, pollution from fossil fuel extraction is a day-to-day reality.

(This does not consider those who live within a mile of storage facilities, processing facilities or refineries.)

Where Does LA Fit In?

Ok. The vast majority of fracking, and fossil fuel extraction in general, is happening in Kern County; it seems like here is where you should focus to bring about a halt to fracking in California.

While Kern County hosts roughly ten times as many wells as Los Angeles, 3.5 million residents of LA county (roughly one in three) live within one mile of an oil or gas well[2]. Engaging even ten percent of them in a dialogue about the future of fracking the golden state would mean that hundreds of thousands of LA residents would be talking about this.

(Efforts in Kern County can only be boosted by an active Los Angeles and the solidarity that results will be beautiful.)

As with the rest of California, drilling for oil and gas got going in Los Angeles towards the end of the 19th century. Many oil fields are spread across the LA basin, and businessmen, mining engineers, and speculators moved in to exploit the booming resource. As the 20th century progressed, each of these fields became home to a forest of drilling towers.

 

 

Figure 1-Signal Hill, Long Beach, 1937 (Left) and Venice, 1952 (Right) [3]

In 1890, the population of Los Angeles County was a little over 100,000 people, about half of that being LA city. It grew fast, by 1930 the city’s population had jumped to over one million and by 1960 the county’s population had surpassed six million[4]. As more and more people added to the growth of urban Los Angeles, little care was taken to separate residents from drilling, and this is reflected today by wells literally surrounded by residential neighborhoods and parking lots.

Figure 2 – Signal Hill, 2014 (left)                     This building on Pico Blvd camouflages 50+ wells (right) [5]

Today, Los Angeles is home to roughly four million people. Add six million spread throughout the county and millions more in neighboring Orange County and you get one of the largest urban areas on the planet. As a child who grew up in LA, I know that people talk about the pollution that such an urban mass spews out, but the focus is all on cars and freeways. As if individuals going on with their daily lives are responsible, not the massive fossil fueled network in which they move about.

For too long, the health effects of thousands of oil wells upon the residents of Los Angeles have been neglected. For too long, the people of Los Angeles have been complacent while a few drilling companies suck oil from beneath their feet and dump toxins into their air. For too long, the city of Los Angeles has allowed the fossil fuel industry to proceed with the laxest of oversight.

This can stop.

Figure 3: The bright red signifies areas at risk from multiple sources of environmental pollution, the locations of wells are marked, fracked/acidized/gravel-packed wells are highlighted; pg. 7 Drilling In CA: Who’s At Risk

City Council Votes To Ban Fracking In City Limits

On February 28, 2014 Los Angeles made history by becoming the largest city in the United States to move to prohibit the controversial drilling process. In a 10-0 vote, the LA City Council directed city officials to draft a moratorium on fracking, to remain in effect until the process can be scientifically proven to be safe[6]. Leadership achieved! Sort of…almost a year later we have yet to see draft legislation for the proposed ordinance.

Until that happens, Los Angeles residents will continue to wait for action to be taken on a decision made last winter. At the same time, the rest of the state continues to wait for real leadership on the fracking front, which could be as simple as a moratorium imposed by the governor…Jerry Brown, are you listening?

Come out to the March For Real Climate Leadership in Oakland on February 7th to demand Jerry Brown to ban fracking and acidizing in the state of California…if New York can do it, so can we!

Part 2 Coming Soon.

Endnotes

[1] Tanja Srebotnjak & Miriam Rotkin-Ellman, Drilling In California: Who’s At Risk, NRDC, http://www.nrdc.org/health/files/california-fracking-risks-report.pdf, accessed 12/2/14, pg. 9

[2] Srebotnjak et Al., pg. 11.

[3] Alan Taylor, Urban Oil Fields Of Los Angeles, The Atlantic, August 24, 2014, http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/08/the-urban-oil-fields-of-los-angeles/100799/. (accessed 12/27/14)

[4] Historical Resident Population City & County Of Los Angeles, 1850 to 2010, Los Angeles Almanac, http://www.laalmanac.com/population/po02.htm. (accessed 12/27/14)

[5] Taylor, Urban Oil Fields Of Los Angeles.

[6] City Council Passes LA “Fracking” Ban, CBS Los Angeles, February 28, 2014, http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2014/02/28/city-council-to-vote-on-la-fracking-moratorium/. (accessed 12/27/14)

Agents of Change—Why Youth, the Global South, Minorities, and Woman Must Take Their Rightful Seat at the Table, and How They Are Being Prevented from Doing So

by Emily Williams,

CSSC Campaign Director

The UNFCCC likes to think that it’s “politically friendly.” At the Conferences of the Parties they work tirelessly on media, informational pamphlets, swag, and dazzling side events to “celebrate” marginalized demographics and throw around rhetoric of welcoming them into a place of leadership. Nearly every day has a theme here at COP; human rights got its very own day on Wednesday. Yet the UNFCCC chose to celebrate two demographics in particular with their own days—Women’s Day Young and Future Generations Day (YoFuGe). However, as a youth and as a women, I have to ask myself—am I being tokenized?

In my work with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, I don’ often reflect on what it means to be a female youth in climate leadership. I’m surrounded by youth who respect one another, and women are strongly represented in leadership roles. However, at the COP, I have been much more self-aware. I begin to see myself as no more than a “kid” or a sweet face to take a photo of for a press conference. YoFuGe Day this year was titled “Agents of Change.” The day featured plenty of side events, panels, and press conferences arranged around youth and future generations. Negotiators and staff of the UNFCCC sang praises of the wonderful youth who took it upon themselves to try to get involved, and toted these smiling youth as role models of how to eventually get engaged in the negotiations process. Christiana Figueres, the executive secretary of the UNFCCC, even had a briefing with youth. The briefing was held in a large conference rooms, with tables forming a giant rectangle so everyone could see each other. She wanted more. We all climbed over the tables and sat criss-cross-apple-sauce on the floor in the center of the room, going around the room and asking her questions: “how can youth be better represented in the negotiations process?”; “how can the UNFCCC provide financial support for disadvantaged youth to attend?”; “why will you not allow focal points for major NGO groups to attend who are under 18?” She delivered a long and eloquent speech, cameras around the room snapping photos, and pens scribbled on notepads to keep up with what she was saying. At the end of the briefing, scrambling back over the tables, I had to pause and ask myself if any of our questions were answered. I could only account for 2 of them.

Why aren’t youth represented in the COP? The UNFCCC keeps pushing for us to be “agents of change”, and yet doesn’t provide the space for youth to be represented in this process. Youth, who represent 1/3 of all people around the world, are only granted 1 minute per large plenary session to address the negotiators. Youth also have incredible ideas. They have proven themselves time and again by creating draft texts for the sessions, engaging in high-level negotiations with ministers, and organizing campaigns that sometimes do their country’s job for them. And yet, youth (even though youth includes people up to 30) are given the kind of respect they deserve. We are not statistics, we are not case studies, and we are not props. We are negotiators for the future and for the planet. After all, whose futures will climate change impact the most? Continue reading

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CSSC Launches Zero Waste Mini-Grant Program

by Sydney Johnson

Starting in Spring 2015, the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) will be providing mini-grant funding for student-led projects aimed at eliminating waste.

Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded for projects expected to last from January 1 to June 30, 2015. According to the CSSC website, short term projects will also be accepted “as long as they have measurable goals that track progress.” Students are encouraged to merge with existing community and campus projects already targeting the zero-waste goal, or fund an entirely new project. CSSC has listed example projects which include grey water systems, recycled art installations and sustainable dining ware sourcing.

Under the management of both students and recent alumni, CSSC is a network of student sustainability organizations throughout California whose goals include increasing ecological, economic and equitable sustainability. The organization stated online that the goal of the mini-grant program is to “invest in students creating zero waste campaigns and programs that innovatively address and solve for waste management challenges on their campuses.”

The mini-grant program comes as a result of student and alumni efforts to receive funding for solutions aimed at zero waste. “For over a year, I had been thinking of launching a CSSC mini-grant program to support innovative student-led campus sustainability solutions,” said CSSC development director, Zen Trenholm. “After floating the idea at our winter leadership retreat this past January, students requested that we build out a pilot program for this year.”

In partnership with the CSSC mini-grant program is World Centric, a California-based company that according to their website, “focuses on providing zero waste solutions to reduce environmental impact.”

As a part of the partnership, World Centric will be providing the funding for the grants.

“We normally do not collaborate with companies but World Centric’s business practices and authentic recognition of our student-driven autonomy makes them a great partner,” said Trenholm. “I’m excited to continue building out this relationship.”

In addition to helping fund the grant program, Trenholm said World Centric is also partnering to support campus zero waste projects alongside CSSC through workshops, team consultations, and application reviews.

CSSC is not alone in the quest for zero waste, which according to the Zero Waste International Alliance is defined as “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.” For example, UC Berkeley and Cal Dining have both made it a goal to reach zero waste by 2020. In addition, many cities in California have implemented programs to work towards eliminating waste, inducing San Jose, Santa Cruz and Berkeley.

Global Site Plans

Before working at CSSC, Trenholm helped co-found SERC at UC Berkeley. “We founded SERC to be an institutionalized hub for students to develop high-impact, far-reaching, and radical campaigns, programs, and projects that combat the social status quo and deliver sustainable solutions to our biggest issues,” said Trenholm. “This is the philosophy and mission of CSSC and why I joined the organization in 2009.”

“This zero-waste mini grant program is another example in a long-line of campaigns and projects where students lead front and center,” he continued. “Fossil Free UC, Students Against Fracking, TGIF, and SERC are all expressions of this type of passionate, strategic, and impactful student efforts.”

Noting the connection between his work as an environmental student at UC Berkeley and mission of CSSC, Trenholm said he invites the Berkeley community to join in further developing the zero-waste mini-grant program.

“We want our applicants to be open to learning how to better design and implement a solution; we’re looking to support creative organizers and entrepreneurs who want to use this program as a launchpad for bigger impact,” Trenholm said.

And it appears that applicants will not be alone in their zero-waste efforts. “We will be helping our candidates put together strong applications as we want to train students on how to design for success and secure funding for their vision,” Trenholm continued. “I want students to have the tools and willingness to create their own solutions and to think strategically about how we can have the strongest impact with the effort we put in.”

Applications are due to Zen Trenholm at zen@sustainabilitycoalition.org by January 16, 2015 and recipients will be notified of the Grant Advisory Committee’s decision by early February. Check here for more details on how to apply.

CSSC is welcoming feedback on their pilot mini-grant program. To discuss how to design and develop even stronger student incubation services and resources, email to Zen at zen@sustainabilitycoalition.org.

EMilyblog1

Setting the context for global climate catastrophe.

by Emily Williams

Trudging along through the muggy heat of Lima at the UN Climate Conference, nothing would indicate that we were standing at a conference that is slated to respond to a planetary emergency. Delegates lounge at tables on the grass, under the shade of trees, conducting interviews and swapping notes about the latest plenary. Delegates and civil society alike sweat in the temporary structures that house the COP, which are no more than huge tents with glass roofs, the same design as a greenhouse. Muttered jokes reference the UNFCCC’s desire for the delegates to feel the heat; others reference the cartoon featuring a frog in a boiling pot of water.

I arrived in Lima three days ago as an observer delegate with SustainUS for the 20th

Conference of the Parties (COP), under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCCC was created over 20 years ago to deal with the rising issue of climate change, providing a forum for global governments and the UN alike to negotiate strategies to mitigate and adapt to the worst impacts. Every year, the UNFCCC hosts a COP, where teams of negotiators from each country converge for two weeks to negotiate each country’s commitments—the level of emissions each country should cut, the amount of finance each country should pledge, and the policies each country should adopt to deal with adaptation. While it is well intentioned, the COP has failed to produce any type of binding treaty; COP20 is the 20th of these conferences, and governments have only managed to agree that they want to limit global mean temperature to 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

On my flight coming over, I had to ask myself why I’d decided to return to COP. I attended COP19 in Warsaw, Poland, which had quickly earned the name “The Corporate COP.” COP19 was heavily funded by multiple industries, and made no effort to hide it. There were bean-bag chairs strewn throughout the halls branded with “Emirates”; large signs proudly touting their sponsors, BMW and PGE among them; and the Executive Secretary, Christina Figueres, became the keynote speaker to the global coal conference that ran alongside. At the end of the two weeks, after incredible frustration, disillusionment, and days of running in circles[1], I joined 400 other civil society members and walked out of the COP in protest.

So why did we return? During that walkout, we wore shirts with “Polluters Talk, We Walk” on the front and “volveremos” on the back—we will return. And so we did. We returned to see if we could make some change in Lima.

COP 20 is possibly the most important climate conference we’ve had. It is the last COP before COP21 in Paris, where countries are slated to sign onto a treaty that will outline mitigation, adaptation, and finance from 2015 to 2020, and another set of agreements for post-2020. Paris will reportedly be then next Copenhagen—hopes are high, but it is unlikely we’ll see the results we want to see. As Lima sets the discussions and early commitments that will inform the decisions made in Paris, it becomes increasingly obvious that they will not satisfy the needs of global societies.

But before we can understand what is being discussed and decided in Lima, we first need to set the context.

There is a huge rift between the developed nations and the developing and least developed nations (LDCs). To begin with, developed countries are focusing on mitigation. The Umbrella Group, which includes the US and Australia, is the most powerful group in the negotiations. It is leading the effort to push for all countries (including developing countries) to make pledges on individual emissions cuts. However, it is that very group that has been historically responsible for the bulk of emissions, and is not yet experiencing the worst impacts of climate change. Developing countries and LDC are pushing for adaptation and loss and damage (finance) to be considered by the negotiations process. Rightly so, they are hesitant to pledge any amount of emissions cuts if they are not guaranteed to have the financial support to do so, and have the support to implement adaptation and fight current impacts of climate change. By ignoring this demand, the Umbrella Group and associates are condemning hundreds of millions of people to unconscionable suffering.

In November 2014, the United States and China announced a historical, and unexpected, agreement—they had met separately and before COP20 announced their own pledges for emissions reductions. It was a fantastic moment. For one, Obama made it quite clear that his legacy is to be a leader in climate action. It also set the tone for COP20, indirectly urging other countries to do the same. This announcement has given civil society something to hold onto to push Obama for even greater commitments that we desperately need to stay under 1.5 degrees[2]. However, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll realize this is no cause for celebration. The US-China deal announced pledges that place us on track for a 4-6 degree warmer world. The US’s commitment in particular would only cut 14% of emissions by 2025 of 1990 levels. Many NGOs are latching onto this agreement as a tiny glimmer of hope; but science and math shows that this will not deliver anywhere near the level of ambition needed.

Unfortunately, more and more developed countries are latching onto the idea of reaching an agreement no matter the costs. The orchestrator of this trend is the Obama Administration; Obama has made it disturbingly clear that he wants an agreement in Paris no matter the content. As a part of his legacy, he wants to be seen as the president who was able to orchestrate and reach such an agreement. Yet the proposals he’s putting forward, and the pressure he’s putting on developing countries, would mean game over for the planet and the most vulnerable communities. In addition to the lack of adaptation and finance, under this push for an agreement, developed countries are finding loopholes to avoid ambitious emissions cuts. In March 2015, countries will submit Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) for their intended pledges in Paris. This push for an agreement no matter the cost is allowing countries to draft pledges that determine their own targets for emissions cuts. Allowing countries to determine their own cuts will fail to put us on track to stay within 1.5 degrees of warming.

Meanwhile…

During each of the last four COPs, the Philippines have been struck by typhoons. Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines last year during COP19, was the most devastating typhoon to ever hit land; the typhoon left an enormous swath of damage, and killed a total of 6340 people. Yeb Sano, negotiator for the Philippines, delivered the Philippine’s opening speech on the first day of COP19; at that time, he did not know where his brother was. This year, Yeb has not returned. Typhoon Ruby is on track to hit the Philippines this weekend and has reached the status of “superstorm”; many fear that it will have the same impact as Haiyan, if not worse. But the Philippines is not the only place already experiencing the destructive impacts of climate change.

The Maldives are experiencing an increasing rate of storm surges and damaging sea level rise. Large areas in Africa are undergoing extensive drought, killing livestock and crops. More and more people are becoming classified as climate refugees. Adaptation and finance is necessary for these countries, but as long as the Umbrella Group dictates the negotiations, they will never see the assistance they need from the UNFCCC.

When you walk around the COP, listen in on the plenaries and negotiations, and read the materials that countries are providing, you don’t get the sense that this conference was scheduled to respond to a planetary emergency. Human deaths, the discounting of youth and future generations, and the real impacts on oceans, forests, and wildlife are treated as simple statistics and trading cards. It is institutionalized insanity, and one has to wonder how the connection between reality and the bubble that is COP has become white noise. In Yeb Sano’s words, “it is time to stop this madness.”

Endnotes

[1] Quite literally in circles. The conference venue was in a football stadium (soccer), and the halls were around the circumference. People averaged ten laps per day.

[2] It’s the new 2 degrees Celsius. Much better target.

UC Berkeley Solidarity Letter on Tuition Hikes

by The UC Berkeley Environmental Coalition

On Thursday, November 20, 2014, the Regents of the University of California passed a tuition plan that will increase student fees up to five percent for each of the next five years, amounting to a nearly twenty-eight percent increase. This decision was made despite strong opposition from student groups across the state. Students formed The Open UC, a growing statewide movement demanding no tuition hikes and more transparency of the UC budget for students. The Open UC is asking for the state to reinvest in schools and is ultimately standing for an accessible system of public education in the U.S. and worldwide.

ECO, UC Berkeley’s student environmental coalition, stands in solidarity with the Open UC to stop tuition hikes and demand increased transparency. Our work makes us all too familiar with issues of privatization and misplaced investment. Student groups within our coalition are resisting commercial development on the university-owned Gill tract, fighting extreme oil and natural gas extraction, and demanding the university to divest from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in renewable energies. These are just a few of the ways students in our coalition are working to ensure a more just and sustainable future. However, we are frustrated to find that we have less and less influence in the future of our own university whose public character has been jeopardized.  The Regents’ proposed hikes have come in the face of reasonable student suggestions to cut costs, many of which would save financial and natural resources.  Amid a historic drought, each year the campus uses 49.2 million gallons of potable water to irrigate campus landscapes and wastes a lot of water in order to keep campus lawns green (Berkeley Water Action Plan, 2013). Students have asked the university to design and implement lawn conversion free of charge. Student-faculty lawn conversion would promote hands-on learning and be more cost-effective. However, the university is still reluctant to give students responsibility over our campus landscape, choosing instead to contract out to the campus architect’s own landscaping company. Money and water is wasted.

For us, working in coalition with organizations fighting for affordable education is not only just, it is strategic. Our struggles share common enemies: as students fighting for control of our university we see potential in reclaiming democracy by delegitimizing the Regents and fighting the influence of corporate power in our public institutions.Unless we unite in challenging the systems in place that perpetuate inequality and oppression, a transition to a just, sustainable future will not be successful. Unless we delegitimize the Regents’ source of  power and call them out for their lack of integrity, democracy, and transparency, GHG emissions will go up along with tuition.

Many of us within the environmental community at Berkeley have been working to ground our organizing in a framework of climate and environmental justice, reconceptualizing our work as an intersectional struggle for social justice. The students and families most impacted by the rising cost of education are often those most impacted by environmental degradation and silenced within the mainstream environmental movement. Struggles against debt, police violence, and racism are struggles for sustainability, because we cannot build an effective movement for climate justice without also seeking to address the systemic violence affecting the communities who must lead the global struggle against the fossil fuel industry and climate change. Because we see our work as part of a larger project of collective liberation, we want to connect work across movements for justice, and we see the struggles for climate and environmental justice and affordable education as intimately linked.

The word economy means the management of home, whether that is a household, our university, or even our planet as a whole. At Wheeler Commons, Open UC is creating and managing a home, within an increasingly corporate university, for the amplification of student voices and the building of an intersectional movement. The first step is ensuring that our public university remains accessible and affordable to all, and with that ECO stands in solidarity.

Signed,

ECO, Environmental Coalition at UC Berkeley.

ECO serves as the official coalition of UC Berkeley environmental and sustainability student organizations dedicated to advancing sustainability on campus in the short- and long-term.

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Recap: Fall 2014 UC Davis Convergence a Success

by: Eva Malis

This past weekend (Nov. 14th-16th) over 550 students gathered at UC Davis to learn, grow, and build. The theme Act Collectively, Transition Together – Systems for Justice pushed the boundaries of a sustainability movement towards confronting the intersections of social justice with those of the sustainability community.

On Saturday morning, keynote speakers Gopal Dayaneni, Stephanie Hervey, Alyssa Bradford, and Julia Ho touched on strategies for building movements through social justice examples such as Ferguson and human trafficking. Their speeches were met with loud cheering from a crowd of mostly students devoted to sustainability and environmental problem-solving.

Convergence coordinator and UC Davis alumna Emili Abdel-Ghany expressed that she was “so grateful everyone had received the keynotes so well, and for how radical and meaningful the conversation was”.

“Some main things that our speakers advocated for was throwing down for other forms of justice! Keeping within environmental lens is not always the right thing for the times [and it is] sometimes important to put the work you’re doing in perspective!” proclaimed Emili.

Following the morning speakers, students were able to choose from around 40 different one-hour workshops with a large variety of topics including zero waste, sustainable food systems, fossil freedom, oil by rail, clean energy, the convict lease system, peace corps, nonviolent communication, and much more! Over the duration of the weekend, attendees were able to select three workshops from five tracks: Transition: Fossil Freedom and the New Economy, Transform: Changing Our Models, Systems for Justice: Intersecting Movements, Closing the Loop: Systemic Solutions to Global and Local Issues, and Together: Creating Change and Community.

“My favorite workshop was the Sustainability in Science one which focused on two researchers that were able to make their lab ‘green.’” asserted Patrick Stetz, CSSC Newsletter Editor. “This workshop was a great example of the activism I like. It not only addressed the problem of resource/energy waste in labs but showed how someone can change that.”

CSSC’s Students Against Fracking and Fossil Fuel Divestment campaigns hosted a handful of workshops throughout the weekend where students from across the state were able to learn how to start chapters on their own campuses. Both campaigns were able to hold visioning conversations to strategize within the battle for fossil freedom.

 

Youth Climate Justice Panel on Sunday morning. Left to Right: Facilitator: Shoshanna Howard

Speakers: Ethan Buckner, Kristy Drutman, Jake Soiffer, Julia Ho, and Jason Schwartz -Photo Credit: SERC

Throughout the weekend, organizers held caucuses and break out groups that addressed topics such as identity (race, gender, class), anti-capitalism, intro to CSSC, and climate justice. Closed and open spaces were held for people to engage in productive conversations surrounding some topics that are not often easy to talk about or historically not included in sustainability conversations.

“I thought the API caucus was a great space for conveying and working through important struggles specific to that identity that are difficult to reflect on with others I know or on my own,” stated Lucy Tate, student of Society and the Environment at UC Berkeley

There were also three panels on Saturday evening: the Intergenerational Lessons Panel, the Research for Social Change Panel, and the Levels of Action Panel.

On Sunday afternoon, 400+ attendees gathered in a circle on West Quad, clasping hands to participate in an art demonstration led by Ryan Camero of the Beehive Design Collective. A scroll of art was passed along the enormous circle which told a story of environmental justice scenes from around the world while the circle hummed a united tune and Camero sung a song titled It’s All the Same. As the scroll moved around the circle, students broke out into spontaneous dance which eventually escalated into a massive group hug towards the end of the activity.

“At the end of convergence when we were passing around the scroll, I was standing with Kevin Gong and he just started dancing and smiling a lot… Just that moment I was feeling like we had just accomplished something really great, and I had felt it several times throughout weekend—just realizing the magnitude of what we’ve done.” commented Emili Abdel-Ghany.

On the same moment, planning team member Madeline Oliver described, “It was amazing how the visual artwork and music united everyone to the point where the whole group organically moved towards the center to end the weekend in dance and song.”

Students enjoy lunch on West Quad -Photo Credit: SERC at UCB

Other students felt similar sentiments regarding the success of the weekend.

“My favorite part of the convergence, besides the amazing speakers, workshops, and events, had to be the opportunities to connect with people from across the state,” says Jacob Elsanadi, a second year UC Berkeley student. “I met so many wonderful people and created new connections with students from schools across California… It was a truly unique experience. I highly recommend anyone even remotely interested in sustainability attend this wonderful event.”

Kevin Gong of the planning team states, “Given the fact that this was the first time the planning team had any experience organizing something of this scale, I feel like the event reflected how much work (a ton!!) we put into organizing, and hearing such positive face to face feedback from attendees definitely made Convergence worth planning.”

Abdel-Ghany summarizes, “Everyone’s doing something important, but sometimes we need to rally around things together and make sacrifices. What I hope people got out of this [is that they] are at least ready to have conversations about how to be better allies.”

For those inspired by this event, there are many ways to get involved with CSSC. Students can apply to be a council member representative of their campuses or apply to work on the Operating Team. For those looking to become a part of CSSC leadership, the Winter Leadership Retreat will be held on January 16th-20th in Dancing Deer Farm in San Luis Obispo. The location for next semester’s convergence has not yet been determined, so feel free to contact Kevin Killion if interested in organizing the Spring 2015 convergence at your campus.

Students can transform what they learned this past weekend into action by pursuing more involvement with CSSC, forming Students Against Fracking or divestment chapters in their schools, and strategically building the movement from within their home institutions. They can also apply for a Zero Waste Mini-grant to promote the sustainability of their school and local community.

Convergence Group Photo – Photo Cred: CSSC

Stop Accecpting Climate Change, Get Active

by: Emily Williams

We’ve probably all heard of the Five Stages of Climate Grief.[1] It has its roots in the Five Stages of Grief, and refers to the emotional processing our society uses to cope with climate change.

First you are in denial. You deny that the earth is warming, you deny the severity of climate change, and you deny that current human activities could cause it.

Next, you become angry that corporations and government have allowed for and financed such reckless exploitation, creating climate chaos; or you are angry that environmentalists are demanding that people change their habits and give up their comforts for the polar bears.

Next, you bargain. We trade scientific fact for political gain, trade carbon credits for a few more years of uncontrolled burning, and trade our logical minds for a monopolized media that will tell us that the science isn’t that serious and we will all be ok.

When one of our cities is devastated by a superstorm or plagued by drought, we enter into depression.

And so, grudgingly, we enter into acceptance. Acceptance is when we acknowledge the science and explore solutions…. But will we really ever accept?

Acceptance assumes that if we understand climate science and are given enough time to move through the five stages, our institutions will ultimately collaborate to implement solutions that will mitigate, and help adapt to, this crisis. However, if acceptance is enough to enact change, a climate denier would not be poised to be head of the Senate Environment and Public works committee, our government would not continue to subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, and fossil fuel industry would invest its money and infrastructure in renewable technology development, accepting that we must leave 80% of reserves in the ground[2]. In the five stages, there is no mention activism. However, the climate crisis need more than acceptance. If we are to see meaningful action on climate change, we cannot wait for these stages to play out; civil society needs to pave the way[3].

Where are we trying to get to?

Let’s talk about 2 degrees Celsius. The Copenhagen Accord glommed onto the target, stating that governments recognize “…that the increase in global temperature should be below 2 degrees Celsius…” But what does 2 degrees entail? Was it in fact science that arrived at the 2 degree target as a safe limit? Ultimately, 2 degrees is a political concept; most climate research shows little confidence in 2 degrees as a safe limit[4]. Already, at 0.8 degrees of warming, we are seeing changes in our climate and adverse impacts on our society occurring at an alarming rate. A 2 degree limit leaves island underwater, or at least inhabitable. Representatives from African nations and Pacific Island nations stated that by signing onto the accord, they would be signing a “suicide pact.[5]” By agreeing to this political limit, our governments have already sold out the Global South, committing one of the worst and largest in scale injustices.

However, to illustrate just how hard it will be to stay within even 2 degrees, we need to understand the carbon gap. The carbon gap is the difference between the rates of emissions we need to stay under to achieve climate stability versus our actual rate of emissions. Closing this gap would mean achieving climate stability. However, our current rate of emissions is not slowing, and the gap widens[6].

Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of the Tyndall center, outlined the global emissions cuts we need to make if we are to stay below 2 degrees[7]. Anderson’s plan not only closes the gap, but factors in climate justice. Granting non-Annex 1 countries (or developing countries) a carbon budget so that they may continue to develop and phase away from fossil fuels, Anderson details that annex 1 countries need to cut 70% of their emissions in 10 years. To put that figure in perspective, the U.S. would have to cut by 2023 the equivalent of all the emission from the electricity, transportation, and agriculture sectors[8]. Early last week, the United States and China reached a “historic agreement”, committing the nations to certain emissions cuts and peaks in emissions–the United States would decrease its emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels by 2025; China would peak its emissions in 2030 with 20% of its electricity pledged to come from non-fossil fuel sources[9]. This agreement is historic in that it was not mandatory, and it was made by two of the most powerful countries in the climate negotiations. However, this agreement is non-binding, and translates to a 10% emissions cut from the base year scientists use. So can we succeed in reducing our emissions stay below 2 degrees? It’s not impossible, but ambitious and extremely difficult, especially if there isn’t financial support and regulatory pressure that supports the transition.

Climate activism as a tool to reach our goal

If we are to ensure that our five stages of climate grief result in progress, we have to rethink how we as civil society engage to catalyze ambitious action. Civil society is responsible for the agreement that the US and China reached last week; civil society pushed, and in the wake of the GOP sweeping the elections, the Obama administration chose climate to make his stance. We now know that the administration listens to us; this past week, Obama addressed the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and said “the issue of climate change is a perfect example of why young people have to lead.”[10] But if we are to see a more ambitious agreement and achieve significant action on climate change that adheres to the severity of the crisis, and if we are to acheive climate justice, we need to push harder. That means that over the next few years, we need to mobilize even more. So let’s take a look at how one campaign—divestment—manages to do that.

Fossil Fuel Divestment and the Road to 2015

We’ve heard a lot about divestment over the past few years; Bill McKibben became an unlikely rockstar overnight with the Do The Math tour, the campaign spread to new continents making it an international effort, and the Rockefellers—the family that made its fortune from oil—chose to divest. Divestment and gives a face to the crisis, allowing people to rally around a target and feel empowered to take their futures into their own hands, therefore democratizing the issue of climate change. Divestment has the power to change the public perception of the fossil fuel industry. It points to the culprit and organizes the masses to demand that their institutions—their campuses, businesses, churches, or cities—refuse to profit off of that industry. When enough institutions divest, it creates a tipping point where people become passionate about the issue and put enough pressure on their elected officials to start representing their needs instead of the desires of oil barons.

Divestment also frees up finance, forcing institutions and our government to shift finances away from the industry that’s launching us over the edge and toward the low-carbon, just economy we need. This is the reinvestment side of the campaign, and it goes far beyond moving that money into renewable technology development. When we divest, we can reinvest in communities—in their resilience and in community-owned energy generation—and in radical and innovate solutions. The campaign is yin-yang: it identifies that which is harmful, denounces it, and calls upon society to denounce it as well; but it also identifies the real solutions, and financially and ideologically supports those solutions by investing in them.

There are a fair number of critiques of divestment—that it’s too symbolic and draws attention from what really works (on-the-ground resistance); that it is an elitist campaign and excludes those who are the most marginalized by the climate movement and those who are most affected by the industry; and that isn’t radical if folks like Tom Steyer can hop on board and perpetuates the same old capitalist, exploitative, immoral system[11]. A lot of those critiques are founded, and like most campaigns, the divestment campaign has made many mistakes and still has a lot to learn before reaching its effective potential. But it learns from its mistakes, and therefore creates a platform on which many related campaigns can converge into a global movement.

So what is the role of divestment in national and international politics? Divestment is local—it’s implemented at the local level, and has direct local repercussions. Yet its ability to influence the public’s opinion of climate change gives it a global scope. It is a solidarity campaign that allows institutions to make a stand and commit to the transition to a low-carbon and just future, standing on the side of future generations and those most disproportionately impacted by both climate change and the extractive economy. It commits to invest in the solutions that the Global South so desperately need. This shift impacts negotiations. When enough institutions in a country divest, it begins to change the climate and discourse around climate change and the fossil fuel economy. It ultimately shifts the political atmosphere of the country and puts pressure on governments to go into the negotiations with a few more bargaining chips. When 500 campuses, 5 states, and all the foundations divest in the United States, it gives Obama the go-ahead and the political backing to offer more at the UN.

It’s up to us.

Divestment, and every other campaign that focuses on local and grassroots action, shifts systems and create tipping points. Civil rights, women’s rights, and democracy were all won by local, grassroots actions and narratives. They have the power to create a peoples’ movement that creates the political backing (or pressure) that allows for (or forces) governments to enact changes that work for the people over profit. But no one else is going to create this change. If we want to see change, it’s up to us.

Our generation has moved through all five stages of grief, and we’ve been told far too many times that we just need to accept it and let those in power make the changes necessary. But it’s time to start accepting and start acting. If we want to see global change, we need a global movement—and that movement needs to come from the grassroots, be led by those most disproportionately impacted, and create the solutions that our generation needs.

 

[1] http://www.climatetoday.org/?p=2173

[2] Carbon Tracker Initiative.

[3] http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/09/04/791221/the-six-stages-of-climate-grief/

[4] http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/141001-two-degrees-global-warming-climate-science/

[5] http://www.theguardian.com/environment/southern-crossroads/2014/sep/09/new-york-climate-summit-two-degrees-warming-policy-disaster

[6] http://shrinkthatfootprint.com/mind-the-carbon-gap

[7] http://climatenorthernireland.org.uk/cmsfiles/resources/Presentations/What-Next.pdf

[8] http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/sources.html

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jamie-henn/fossil-fuel-divestment_b_6147234.html

[10] http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/11/14/obama-to-youth-on-climate-change-old-people-theyve-created-a-mess/

[11] http://www.energyjustice.net/content/fossil-fuel-divestment-how-evolve-campaign-beyond-its-shortcomings

Blog2

Spotlight Series-Fall Convergence 2014

by: Eva Malis

Perspectives from organizers across CSSC regarding Fall 2014 Convergence at UC Davis!

 

 RUBY FISHER-SMITH

What do you do on the planning team and why do you do it?

I am the treasurer of the UC Davis CSSC chapter, and I lead the finance team for the Fall 2014 convergence! I wanted to be treasurer last year to get more comfortable and experienced with finance. I volunteered to be on the financial team for convergence because I have a bit of experience writing grants and fundraising and I felt it was my job as treasurer to work on the financial component to convergence. Although fundraising is challenging and definitely not the most glamorous job, I have found it empowering to be able to tap into all of the resources available to us on campus and to have been met with such support and enthusiasm from so many. This position has given me so much perspective on how much time, energy and money goes into projects like this, and I feel grateful to be working with such an awesome team!

What will be special about this Fall 2014 convergence?

 Every convergence is unique and awesome, but what I love about this convergence is how inclusive it will be. The theme is Think Collectively, Transition Together: Systems for Justice, incorporating environmental, social and economic justice issues into the dialogues and programming. I think it is so important to recognize the interconnectedness of all of these issues and to encourage solidarity and collaboration between interest groups, campaigns and people. Related to that, the amount of support from the students and communities in Davis makes this convergence really special. I look forward to this convergence bringing together groups and people locally, fostering connections between visitors from other places and showing everyone who attends a really good time with the awesome speakers, workshops, food, music, poetry and conversations that we have planned!

 

ALYSSA LEE

UCLA, Class of 2014

CSSC, Statewide Divestment Field Organizer; Fossil Free UC, Member

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

I am excited to see this Convergence have an explicitly justice-based theme. It has been really exciting seeing the theme and character of the CSSC Convergences shift and adapt over the years since I first started attending them in 2011 (My first Convergence was actually at UC Davis in Spring 2011!). We have seen amazing workshops about alternative and eco-friendly practices like aquaponics and No ‘Poo, but more and more, CSSC is trying to cultivate a systems perspective that not only addresses our personal mental and physical needs but also those of our entire community. I have every confidence that the organizers at UC Davis will be able to create a unique and much-needed space to address issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, as both lenses and foundations when it comes to environmental advocacy work and to inspire truly transformative actions and movements.

What’s your favorite part about convergence?

Obviously, my favorite part is meeting new friends. When I first began attending as a college freshman, I really dove deep into learning – I loved attending workshops about completely new topics and learning new things from such impressive presenters who were students just like me. That really inspired me to become more involved on campus and to be as informed as I possibly could, which brought me to where I am today. Now, after attending five Convergences, I’m definitely more interested in what happens between the workshops, talking with people I haven’t gotten to meet yet at mealtimes and mingling with speakers after panel sessions. Basically, creating connections across cities and even states that I might never have made otherwise. That’s the real beauty of Convergences and any event that brings people together in beautiful spaces like Davis.

What are some topics that this convergence will cover?

While I am not one of the Convergence planners, I know a bit of what’s going on based on some of the events I am helping with. There are a few different tracks that are available with workshops and panels that go along with them, including “TOGETHER: Creating Change and Community,” “Systems for Justice: Labor, Education, Prison Industrial Complex, Privatization, Environmental Justice and History, Capitalism. Colonialism,” and “Fossil Freedom.” There will be some amazing panels with a variety of speakers, such as “Inter-generational Lessons,” “Research for Social Change,” and “Fossil Freedom Youth Leaders.” One of the workshops I’ll be doing is “Occupational Health and Labor Justice in Environmental Issues” which will be part of the Systems for Justice track! It’s an issue I’ve been becoming increasingly passionate about over the last year and the timing couldn’t have been better. I am excited to see it among a surely incredible repertoire of workshops in this track at the Davis Convergence.

 

KEVIN GONG

What do you do on the planning team and why do you do it?

My role on the planning team is Convergence Coordinator. Along with Emili, I am primarily in charge of managing speakers, Convergence outreach, and programming in addition to guiding and assisting the rest of the planning team with their work. It’s a lot of work, but knowing I have the entire team to support and work with me gives keeps me going. I do it because it’s the least I can do to give back to the Earth. Being on the planning team helps me express my care and compassion for the well-being of this Earth.

What inspired you to get more involved?

What inspired me to take on such a big role in Convergence planning was that I wanted to contribute and show my appreciation to the CSSC/Convergence community that brought me up intellectually and shared with me so much knowledge. This Davis Convergence will be my sixth Convergence, and I wanted to show what I love about Davis and Convergence to the rest of the CSSC community.

 

ROBERTA GIORDANO

What is the importance of convergence?

Cssc convergences provide a unique space for students to grow as leaders, get inspired and learn from other youth. Convergences welcome individuals from all backgrounds and different levels of knowledge and experience. Whether you are a freshman who has just learned about climate change, or a long time organizer, the Cssc convergence will be worth your time! This will be my fourth convergence, and undoubtedly will be another incredible opportunity to shape my journey in having a positive impact on society.

A Chat with Keynote Speaker Alyssa Bradford

By Eva Malis

Tell me more about your work:

I’m a community organizer and a solution-based activist, currently organizing solution-based action against human trafficking. It’s so misconstrued, people think that it’s just sex slavery, so I’m working on that. I’m involved with the San Diego chapter of Affirm Gabnet, which is a women of color organization. We raise awareness on the war on women—hypersexualization and the lots of cruelties being done to women in different countries. I’m on a leadership group for STARS—Surviving Together And Reaching Success—which educates the public on human trafficking. I also work with Take Back the Night, where we organize rallies and marches locally. I’m connected with the Artisan Hub but not really working for them, met them through a friend. I mostly have ideas, talk to people, and do it myself.

 How do your goals align with CSSC?

Environmental justice is a really big thing and involves social justice as well. It involves water, air, and food, and goes to the frontline communities that are getting impacted. Activism is activism no matter what you do! No matter if its fighting the war on women, police brutality, or environmental justice. People are coming together to raise voices on issues that need to be talked about, need to be brought up! I’m a solution-based activist. We’ve got to start talking about solutions in our community. When people see the problem, they think they can’t do it by themselves, so they might as well be a bystander. I think we need to have people start thinking about solutions, because you can have a good solution and others may disagree with you but you need to take action yourself regardless.

 What are you most excited for at convergence? Do you have any expectations?

I’m kinda excited, kinda nervous, since I’m doing a lot of things—a keynote speaker, speaking on a panel, and the open mic! This is one of my really first big speaking engagements! I’m really excited and nervous to get out there and do it. I’m really excited to get out there and meet new people. This is the third time I’ll be leaving San Diego, and I’m pretty happy to be leaving again. I don’t like to have a lot of expectations, I just go up there and I live it up because all we can live is today! I’m hoping for people to hear my speech on human trafficking and talking about sex slavery, and understand what I’m doing here. I have been doing activism for some time now and it’s really my passion, what makes me breathe. I have that pressure on myself to speak well, but I’m going to speak from my heart.

What do you hope to get out of convergence?

Just growth, which is ever inevitable. Every new situation and place brings inevitable growth. I hope to be educated about more things so I can take that back to my community and educate and bring that back to somebody else! Ever since going to New York for PCM (that was a huge trip!) I opened up to the power of myself and my true purpose, came back and got my priorities straight. It was powerful and it was healing—the power of the people, the power of myself, the individual, within the community and what you can do with that, how healing it is! I can’t wait to be open again and go out there and have a good time! Basically: I’m new to speaking in a big crowd, and I’m really jumping full on into this. I’m excited, honored, and blessed to have the opportunity to come and do this for myself! CSSC is giving me an opportunity to grow. I’m just really happy for that. All I have to say is nothing but thanks!

Your Invitation to Convergence

by:Emili Abdel-Ghany

Where do I begin?

I feel like I am planning my graduation party, what better celebration than with old friends and new from across the state in my second home of UC Davis? This convergence is going to be different. It may be uncomfortable, fun, smelly, exhausting, inspiring, difficult, rejuvenating, enlightening, and certainly worth it. I believe that with any meaningful change there will be growing pains. There will also be a series of moments of realization, that we are at the forefront of revolution. I’ve asked the question of myself and others, what is the point? I’ve asked myself and my comrades, are we doing the right thing? Can a convergence really affect meaningful change? Is it worth it? I admit that at times I still hold these questions with me. We are our own worst critics right? Then I am reminded by a simple thing like a smile from a coworker on a hard day to the big things like the collective roar of energy from 400,000 climate justice believers all together on the streets of New York, finding out a local community is willing to host 50 students from across the state for the weekend, learning that organizing this convergence is changing how people connect, communicate, think about the world and teaching young activists how to do it better. I am reminded that it is in fact worth it and everyone deserves to be part of the process and enjoy the outcomes.

One of my main goals as Convergence Coordinator is to make the process and the programming as welcoming and accepting of all peoples as possible. I feel strongly about this aspect of convergence mostly because I have felt what it is like to be timid, feel unaware, unconnected, and a newcomer in a different environment. It wasn’t that long ago that I stepped my into my first CSSC meeting, heck my first Resource Fair the week before classes began. It was at that fair, which I attended alone because I had no friends, that I found the Campus Center for the Environment table. They all seemed welcoming and friendly. I liked that they had homemade signs and were smiling and laughing with each other. I identified as an environmentalist being from Santa Monica, and felt like it might be a good idea to try out their table. One of the students told me about a class they were offering, a student run seminar called the Field Guide to Sustainable Living in Davis. It seemed perfect, an introduction to sustainability on campus where i got to meet people and learn things. My mother gave me the best advice before leaving college, “Ask people about themselves and what they do, you are there to learn,” with that in my mind I stepped outside my comfort zone and took this class. From then on it was a whirlwind of stepping just outside my comfort zone and walking through the doors people opened for me. My hallmate told me about a retreat called “REACH” through the Cross Cultural Center which was January of my first year. I decided to apply, got on the waitlist. I got a call the day before from a woman named, Andrea Gaytan, asking if I would like to attend I said yes but that I couldn’t pay the $45, she welcomed me anyways and again I stepped out of my comfort zone onto the bus and OFF CAMPUS. Terrifying.

These, among many other memories along the way, like participating in this collective stomp/dance thing lead by my future friend and Intern Supervisor at the Campus Center for the Environment, Genna Lipari a the RFC Strengthening The Roots Convergence at UCSC in 2011 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wwDuKRyzis are what keeps me believing in community spaces like these. CSSC convergences are part of a much larger picture of collective action, education and community building. I am so incredibly grateful to be able to share as much of what I have been so fortunate to glean from the organizing world over that past few years in undergrad (and honestly since high school maybe middle school… ) and put it into this convergence.

About the programming. THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING. This convergence will not only be different fundamentally from all others before it, it will shift the sustainability and environmental community. We are returning to some of our core values and changing the narrative of the sustainability community towards one that is centered on social justice at it’s core. Shifting narratives is key but we also hope to put in some work over the weekend (with some help from you all) to really challenge the way that we organize and think about ourselves, each other, and the world around us. I realize that having a speaker from Ferguson or someone working to care for the survivors of Human Trafficking or a panelist whose research challenges why the environmental (and EJ) community does not often recognize and address issues of disability or having multiple workshops on the Prison Industrial Complex or even to center a sustainability convergence around Climate Justice or just to have Identity based caucues given a full hour of dedicated time may confuse, or throw people off. This is not only true for the more traditionally environmental community but it is also true of many social justice groups because let’s face it, many issues and communities are seperated to this day in our minds and in our lives. At this convergence we are taking ownership of the history of the sustainability community as one that too often has been a white, male, upper middle class face in an incredibly diverse place. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of this convergence and I ask each person present for any portion to challenge yourself to recognize that each of us are at a different place of understanding, appreciation and acknowledgement of one another and of these very complex and intersecting issues. I ask for compassion, energy, and forward thinking.

I look forward to learning how we can all Act Collectively to Transition Together towards creating Systems for Justice with you November 14th-16th at my alma mater, UC Davis.

PS: don’t forget to register before November 7th at 11:59pm :) http://www.sustainabilitycoalition.org/fall-2014-convergence/
Convergences and Crowdsurfing,

<3 Emili Abdel-Ghany

CSSC, Convergence Coordinator
CSSC Fossil Freedom Solidarity Organizing Program, Field Organizer
UC Davis Class of 2014, Community and Regional Development
Divestment Student Network, Regional Organizer CA
John Adams Middle School (Santa Monica), AVID Tutor

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Election Results Statement for CSSC

by CSSC

The 2014 mid-term election season proved to be an eye-opening and important one. In reflection of the important county measures to ban fracking, California Student Sustainability Coalition would like to address the results and highlight how the organization will move forward with these legislative outcomes.

Measure J – San Benito

The community of San Benito has won a huge victory, setting the precedence for the rest of California. Measure J has passed and the county will now prohibit hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and all other related gas and oil extraction activities in area. With only 24,000 registered voters, this community has successfully confronted the big oil companies attempting to degrade their water, land, and community. Last Spring, San Benito Rising needed to collect 1,642 valid signatures to get its initiative on the ballot, they successfully received over 4,000 signatures. Their dedication to bringing attention to fracking and to passing Measure J is impressive and inspiring. This community has successfully banned extreme fossil fuel extraction before a boom was able to get going, let us all take note. San Benito’s success empowers the rest of California to stop oil companies from dominating our state, and to continue the journey toward a just and thriving future.

Ballot Results:

Results Votes Percentages
YES 5,021 57.36%
NO 3,733 42.64%

 

Measure S – Mendocino

Mendocino County successfully passed Measure S, a ban on fracking and all related activities in the region. The language in Measure S is centered on empowering the community and their rights to natural and chemical free ecosystems, a clean environment, and self-government by the people void of manipulation from corporations. This measure is inspiring as it upholds the rights for communities to have safe, clean, and liveable environments above corporate influence and political special interest.

Ballot Results:

Results Votes Percentages
YES 7,302 67.18%
NO 3,567 32.82%

 

Measure P – Santa Barbara

After a challenging race, Measure P, the initiative to ban fracking, cyclic steam injections, and acidization in Santa Barbara County, failed to pass. The loss speaks volumes to the amount of money spent by oil companies to maintain control by manipulating the democratic system — spending $7.6 million into campaigning against Measure P — clearly, our political system holds money in higher regard than the health of its people. These corporations, represented by the group named Californians For Energy Independence, are determined to continue making profits, regardless of how extraction negatively impacts communities, water, and land. Though the measure did not pass, it was not easily lost. Community members and groups, such as Santa Barbara County Water Guardians, worked tirelessly to spread the word and get support for this important measure. More now than ever before, we are inspired to stop the injustices associated with extreme energy extraction and to move away from our dependence on fossil fuels. To continue the fight in Santa Barbara County stay involved with the Santa Barbara Water Guardians. Along with this, Students Against Fracking will be working to build support for and develop strategy with this community by learning from the campaign leaders that were successful in passing a ban.

Ballot Results:

Results Votes Percentage
NO 51,547 62.65%
YES 30,732 37.35%

 

CSSC Next Steps

In lieu of the above election results, CSSC is excited to continue working on ending extreme energy extraction in California. By empowering youth, the future generation of leaders, CSSC will continue to work for a just transition — one that includes viable renewable energy solutions, stable economic justice, and an end to destructive extraction operations. We are determined and steadfast to achieve solutions now. Moving forward, we will continue to be focused on the following

  1. Working to further establish California as an international leader focused on shifting our energy sources and economic structure from fossil fuels to local, renewable energy opportunities.
  2. Providing and building programs for youth and students to expand sustainability programming on their campuses and in their communities by unifying efforts with frontline communities most impacted by the dangers of fossil fuel infrastructure.
  3. Continuing to pressure our government officials and leaders to make legislative, investment, and social decisions that will take into account the impending consequences of climate change.
  4. Develop a statewide student network focused on developing real solutions for our energy needs and economic stability.
  5. Improving partnerships with Move to Amend/ Wolf PAC to get money out of politics so that real decisions, not paid ones, can be made in local, state, and national elections.

The work starts now. Join CSSC efforts today!

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A Town Hall Meeting for the Proposed Food Systems Minor

by Sydney Johnson · November 1, 2014

UC Berkeley students, faculty and staff met Wednesday night in an open dialogue about the proposed Food Systems Minor. The Town Hall meeting, as it was called, centered primarily around audience input and invited those interested in the minor to come and share opinions, concerns and thoughts regarding what they hope to see included in the proposal.

The event was hosted by SERC education associate Jeff Noven and Student Organic Gardening Association (SOGA) leader Kate Kaplan, two undergraduate representatives on the proposal committee. The students started the event by providing a history of the minor, which has been in progress for nearly six years.

Originally proposed in 2008 by Albie Miles and Nathan McClintock, two PhD students studying at UC Berkeley, the minor was first submitted to the Bears Breaking Boundaries Contest as a Curricular Innovation Proposal under the title of “Food Systems & Sustainability.” Despite a favorable response by students and faculty however, the initial idea was never formally implemented.

Since then, “the minor has been in progress in many forms for several years,” said Noven, “and what did not initially go through has provided us a strong ideological basis for what we are doing here today.”

What Noven is referring to is the current revisioning of Miles and McClintock’s original minor proposal, which has resurfaced and is now in the drafting stage once again.

The writers of this proposal draw from all areas on campus. “The proposal committee has included several faculty members as well as students and staff, and in the future, the proposal will engage additional faculty who will be teaching the courses too,” said executive director of the Berkeley Food Institute (BFI), Ann Thrupp.

One of the key players in realizing the minor, “the BFI has taken an active role in facilitating the Food Systems Minor committee and proposal process over the last several months, which includes the community engagement aspects and curriculum,” said Thrupp.

“In the future, BFI would probably continue to be engaged with the community outreach component, and the faculty and college would be mainly responsible for the other aspects of the curriculum.”

Kaplan and Noven presented the Town Hall attendees with the most recent draft of the proposal, which they emphasized is subject to change. The goals of the current proposal are described as the following:

The purpose of the proposed minor is to provide comprehensive interdisciplinary education about food and agriculture systems, and to foster integrated learning to address major challenges and opportunities in this field. The proposed minor aims to integrate theoretical and experimental modes to educate students about the social, political, economic, environmental, cultural, and public health issues of contemporary food and agriculture systems both domestically and internationally.

The minor encompases three main components: two core courses, three elective courses and one community engagement project. Within these subsets are what Noven referred to as “the three big education outcomes,” which divide up the minor into specific subject areas of natural sciences, social sciences, and food and community health.

The courses within these elective forms draw from several different departments on campus, including Environmental Science Policy and Management, Geography, Nutritional Science, Sociology, Public Health and Plant Biology. There is also an option for students to petition a course if they find it to be appropriate but not officially written into the minor.

Unlike most major and minor programs on campus, the proposed Food Systems Minor would allow students to use two-unit, upper division DeCal courses for fulfilling the minor requirements.

By incorporating the student-led courses into the curriculum, Kaplan explained, “we are hoping to facilitate more democratic learning on campus.”

“Many DeCals offered here fall directly inline with the mission of the proposed minor, such as the SOGA DeCals, classes offered through the Berkeley Student Food Collective and even some chemistry DeCals could work,” she said.

The floor was then opened up to those attending the meeting, and many students shared what they liked, as well as what they felt could be added to the proposal. Critiques included  requests for more critical sociology courses, as well as adding several integrative biology classes to course list.

“I think having another component more focusing on the community engagement portion would be good, maybe a preliminary seminar to prepare students for their outreach,” said graduating senior Asia Tallino.

It was later clarified that the community engagement component does currently include a supplemental seminar, however, students nevertheless expressed interest in expanding this portion of the minor.

In response to the comments, Thrupp shared her insight on what is already being done to address students’ concerns. “We have compiled a list of community engagement opportunities and have surveyed many organizations in the area, to identify needs and opportunities for students to be involved,” she said. “We hope that [the community engagement project] will be mutually beneficial for the student and the organizations involved.”

“The community engagement project will establish relationships and partnerships between the community and the university,” said Kaplan. “We want students to graduate with a hands-on education and these community connections already in place.”

When asked about the delays in its approval, those present who have been involved with its development said that because this is a new process, passing the minor has been a learning experience in itself, and satisfying each corner of the minor, including faculty, students and community organizations, has not been an easy task.

Noven pointed out that although navigating the bureaucracy has proven difficult, “many students are already taking the courses outlined here.”

“This minor will serve to provide students with a structured package they can get academic credit for,” he said. “Right now, there are options if you want to study food and agriculture, but there is nothing formal for us. We want to provide students with that structured disciple.”

Aside from student interest, “there is a greater demand for a Food Systems Minor because there are less and less farmers today,” said Kaplan. “We should give anyone with an interest in agriculture the opportunity to study it.”

It seemed as though many of the students in attendance wanted exactly that: a formal agricultural curriculum at UC Berkeley. Many in the group also identified as interdisciplinary majors who had formulated their studies to focus on the issues that the proposed Food Systems Minor aims to address.

“I wish I had this [class] list when I was choosing my major!” said Tallino, and after the back and forth discussions regarding what changes could or might made to the draft, it seemed many of the Town Hall attendees were pleased with the overall progress and trajectory of the minor proposal thus far.

Members of the proposal committee hope the minor proposal will be submitted for approval within the next two months, and available for students by 2015. More thoughts and opinions on the current draft are still being welcomed.

Original Post from http://serc.berkeley.edu/a-town-hall-meeting-for-the-proposed-food-systems-minor/

http://redefineschool.com/gopal-dayaneni/

Keynote Speaker Confirmed for Convergence

by Eva Malis

Already stoked for Fall 2014 Convergence? Here’s another reason to be: Gopal Dayaneni will be one of our keynote speakers!

November 14-16th at UC Davis, we will be gathering under the theme of Act Collectively, Transition Together: Systems for Justice, and Gopal’s experience fits perfectly within this domain.

Dayaneni has a history of involvement with a variety of issues concerning justice within social, environmental, economic, and racial fields. He is currently part of the staff collective of Movement Generation’s Justice and Ecology Project, which focuses on transforming and restoring land, labor, and culture into resilient local communities through empowerment of low-income communities.

Movement Generation utilizes progressive approaches to campaign and movement building to actualize change. One strategy that they embody is Resilience Based Organizing, which encourages people to work together in ways that stray from the existing structures of power. Instead, RBO confronts unjust policies at the level of the people whom it directly affects. Movement Generation’s Justice and Ecology Project works with over 150 other organizations and hosts Justice and Ecology Retreats, Workshops and Strategy Sessions, and Earth Skills Training program to engage movement leaders advocating for change.

Gopal is also involved with The Ruckus Society, which provides tools and support for environmental or social justice organizers to achieve their goals. He is on the board for the Center for Story-Based Strategy, which uses the power of storytelling to strategically implement change. He is working with or has worked in the past with the International Accountability Project, The Working World and Catalyst Project, Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Project Underground, Progressive Communicators Network, and Tenderloin Childcare Center.

Come out to CSSC’s Fall 2014 Convergence to learn what Gopal has to say. From such a diverse background in progressive and strategic organizing, we can look forward to the ideas he has to share.

 

Want to learn more? http://movementgeneration.org/

RSVP for Fall 2014 Convergence! https://www.facebook.com/events/278832705639659/

Featured Image Credit: http://redefineschool.com/gopal-dayaneni/

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Food and Climate Change: What Are Students Saying?

by: Eva Malis

As the urgency of the climate dilemma looms over us like a swiftly approaching storm cloud, more people are desperately searching for easy solutions. And there are many of them—a whole world of creative solutions, all with debatable impacts. Food especially has become a hot topic.

According to a 2006 report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, farmed animals globally contribute more to climate change than all of the transportation sector, but then the FAO retracted that comparison. Yet in 2009, environmental specialists employed by two other UN specialized agencies, the World Bank and International Finance Corporation, estimated that at least 51% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to livestock. As more information on our nation’s food system is revealed to the public, it appears that changing our diets could be a huge solution.

Yet is it necessary to become entirely vegan to have the largest possible impact? To many, the word “vegan” can be an immediate turn-off, with an extremist connotation that gives off the impression that it is too difficult of a lifestyle. Yet as food has become more integrated into environmentalism, we’re seeing a steady increase in numbers of vegans over the years, and ways to make veganism easier. A Vegetarian Resource Group study reported that 2.5% of the US Population followed a vegan diet, increasing from 1% in 2009. Personally, I have found that those who learn enough about where food truly comes from commonly find it too difficult to eat conventionally.

“I see more people becoming aware of how their food choice impacts the communities and world around them,” asserts Grace Lihn, Communications Director of the Berkeley Student Food Collective. “The food movement is indeed growing, and branching off in many new directions.”

Some, however, are looking at the problem in a different perspective.

“I think that the most impactful change a person can make to his/her lifestyle is to begin to question it,” Says Ben Galindo, a Community Engaged Learning Teaching Assistant at Southwestern University Garden. “Veganism is a great example of this, however my preferred change in consumption is ‘freeganism’ due to the fact that it is anti-consumerist in nature.”

Both Galindo and Lihn were hesitant to put all their faith into one solution such as change of diet.

“There’s no silver bullet or quick fix to an unsustainable lifestyle,” says Galindo. “These behavioral changes often instill a sense of complacency towards other important individual acts and this can negatively affect one’s goal of personal sustainability. So in short, I fully support these changes in diet as long as they accompany other long-lasting changes in mindset and thinking.”

“A change in diet as a personal response to environmental and/or food-related issues sends a powerful message to yourself and those around you. But I think it’s also important that you keep in mind what your body’s needs are and that you know exactly why you made the decision to change your diet,” says Lihn.

Other than flat out veganism, there are many options for instigating change in this precarious system. We can divert our support for unsustainable food systems by buying local, reducing meat consumption, and ensuring our food comes from responsible producers. Other than changing our diets, and focusing on shrinking our negative impacts, we can think forward and aim to increase our positive impacts. We can plant gardens, spread ideas, engage in conversation, and take active roles in advocating change for our problematic system.

“Food issues are inherently political and social issues. We need better leaders (and I see many up and coming), better policies, more community-based decision-making, and ultimately more local awareness and education programs,” says Lihn.

In a world full of problems and solutions, it is clear that we need to continue to question our goals and impacts. We must analyze every decision in order to maximize progress, and keep the creative ideas flowing.

Image 1. Photo Credit Becca Rast, May 2014 UC Regents' Meeting @Sacramento

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  regentsoffice@ucop.edu, 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.

IMage5FFUC

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: http://fleurmach.com/2014/08/15/miners-shot-down/

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:
www.fossilfreeuc.org
www.facebook.com/FossilFreeUC
www.sustainabilitycoalition.org
www.twitter.com/FossilFreeUC
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
website.

Drought, Earthquakes, and Corporations- Oh My!

Drought, Earthquakes, and Corporations- Oh My!

by Jessica Olson

Climate Change is Strictly Business

In the wake of the 6.0 magnitude earthquake that struck California’s wine country on August 24th, 2014 (the largest since the 1989 Loma Prieta quake with a magnitude of 6.9) it’s time for this drought-ridden state to wake up.

 

[Image 1: http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/07/31/californias-drought-just-got-absolutely-terrifying]

 

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of my fondest memories are of exploring the river near my house and visiting my Aunt who lives up near Lake Tahoe and playing in the refreshingly cold water. With the current drought, the rivers and lakes of my childhood are nothing more than glorified puddles. I find myself wondering how this could happen.

As climate change has pushed the golden state to the brink of a full on water crisis, private corporations operating within the state have not been subject to lessening their water consumption. Just the other day, news broke that residents in the San Joaquin Valley have no tap water running from their faucets due to their wells coming up dry.

According to local news (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2014/08/23/california-drought-leaves-hundreds-of-central-valley-homes-with-no-tap-water-drinking-bottled-rations-porterville-tulare-county/), “The situation has become so dire that the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services had 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water delivered on Friday in the community of East Porterville, where at least 182 of the 1,400 households reported having no or not enough water… the supplies cost the county $30,000 and were designed to last about three weeks, but are only a temporary fix.” So- let me get this straight. Bottled water companies in California(http://www.cnbc.com/id/101892496#.) are aiding in emptying the aquifers at an undisclosed rate(http://www.salon.com/2014/07/14/nestle_is_bottling_water_straight_from_the_heart_of_californias_drought/), contributing to the drought, AND making a profit off of it?

[Image 2“CA drought worsening from 2010 to 2014; over 80% of the state is now in “Exceptional Drought” http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/MapsAndData/WeeklyComparison.aspx]

 

What could be worse than that?

Unfortunately, I have an answer to that rhetorical question: the drought is is putting pressure on our already active fault lines. According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) (http://www.capradio.org/articles/2013/11/22/usgs-study-1200-square-miles-of-central-valley-land-is-sinking/)  and recent research published in the journal Nature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v509/n7501/full/nature13275.html), the aquifers have become so empty that the surface has begun to cave in. As a result, the subsidence problem of buckling land is putting pressure on our fault lines which could result in some stronger quakes (http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/08/04/california-drought-may-cause-earthquakes) in our future.

If this wasn’t enough, the state is using what little water is leftover from daily use by California residents and sold for profit by corporations such as Nestle for a rapidly expanding natural gas industry. As such, the risks of more earthquakes and furthering the drought in California have entered a positive feedback loop. The more companies use the process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the less water there is. It requires over 4.4 million gallons of water to frack a drilling pad (http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/03/12/how-much-water-it-takes-to-frack-a-well/).

[Image 3: http://stateimpact.npr.org/pennsylvania/2013/03/12/how-much-water-it-takes-to-frack-a-well/]

 

Not only does fracking take more than its fair share of water, but the process contaminates the groundwater adjacent to the pads and the water sent down in the process becomes non-reusable. In a state where there isn’t even enough water for thirsty people, we should be seeking alternatives to water-intensive extraction projects. And let’s not forget about the positive feedback loop going on here. Hydraulic fracturing has been found to be possibly more detrimental to climate health than coal(http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2011/04/fracking-leaks-may-make-gas-dirtier-coal)! And let’s not forget that fracking has also been found to cause earthquakes(http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/tag/earthquake/) even in places that historically don’t feel them(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/14/fracking-earthquake_n_5585892.html).