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).

[Image 4: “All active fracking pads in the state” http://maps.fractracker.org/latest/?appid=57ecf5feeba8428f80a749ec50921ad6]

 

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time that companies are held as accountable as private citizens. If corporations are people, shouldn’t they be fined for violating drought restrictions like everyone else?

What You Can Do:

  1. Get informed
  2. Actively conserve water
  3. Join the fight!

To get more involved with activists against fracking in your area, look no further than this post from March. http://www.sustainabilitycoalition.org/cssc-students-recap-dont-frack-california/

For more information about removing bottled water from your campus, you can read more here. http://www.sustainabilitycoalition.org/battling-the-bottle-students-and-industry-face-off-over-water/

To learn more about the drought and its impact on California you can read more here. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/wests-historic-drought-stokes-fears-of-water-crisis/2014/08/17/d5c84934-240c-11e4-958c-268a320a60ce_story.html

Think I forgot about California’s Agribusinesses role in all of this? I didn’t! Read more here (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-08-11/california-drought-transforms-global-food-market.html?utm_content=buffereacf9&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer)

Still don’t think the drought is an issue? Check out these bad boys(http://imgur.com/a/IgoUq).

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A Thank You Letter to CSSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Winter Leadership Retreat 2012

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

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

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

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

 

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

Image borrowed from Occupy Oakland Media <http://hellaoccupyoakland.org/kin/>

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

DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS!

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

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

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

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

—————————

Dear President Napolitano,

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

 Jane Vosburg

 

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

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

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

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

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

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

 

140702 FFUC Letter to Regents (5)

 

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

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

 

 

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

July 2, 2014

Dear UC Regents / President Napolitano,

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Alyssa Lee

UCLA, Class of 2014

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

 

(1) http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/uc-system/stewardship

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CSU Board of Trustees Approves State-wide Sustainable Food Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fossil Free Moves Forward: May Regents Meeting Account

by Alden Phinney, UC Santa Cruz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Action Alert: Real Food Policy for Every CSU Campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Documentary concerning climate change activist ​Tim DeChristopher

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

Interview by Gary Nelson, CSU Chico

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

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

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

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

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

 

What first drew you in to Tim DeChristophers case?

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

Why the name Bidder 70?

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

Did he actually pay for the lands?

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

Could you define civil disobedience?

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

Do you feel civil disobedience is ever justified?

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

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

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

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

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

How have you seen Tim grow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to add?

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

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

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CSSC Students Featured on Spring of Sustainability Earth Day Panel


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

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

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

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

For more details about the Spring of Sustainability program and how CSSC students can become more involved, contact  campusadvocates@swcoalition.org.

 

Links not working? Please visit this URL: http://www.springofsustainability.com

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CSSC Alumni: Where Are They Now?

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

 Interview by Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager

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

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

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

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

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

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

M: How many CSSC convergences have you been to?

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

M: What keeps you coming back to convergences?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

M: Awesome. Thank you so much, Brian! 

 

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

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Real Food Challenge

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE          

Contact:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CSSC Students Recap: “Don’t Frack California”

Photo by Mikaela Raphael. 

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

From Annie Montes, Co-President of UC Davis CSSC

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

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

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

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

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Butte/Chico CSSC. Photo by Emily Teague.

From Angie Shen, UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking:

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

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

We must stop fracking in California. We must divest from fossil fuel technology and reinvest in renewable energy. We can, and we will. Join Students Against Fracking in our mission to unite California’s colleges, universities, and local communities to ban fracking in California and promote the shift to renewable energy, for a sustainable future! Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley has weekly meetings on Mondays at 6pm in Mulford Hall. For more information, please contact Angie Shen at ashen424@berkeley.edu.

See more photos of the event here.

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UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking. Photo by Emily Teague.

 

From Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager

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

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

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Photo by Mikaela Raphael.

Steve Verhoeven, Shasta College CSSC Council Representative

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

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Photo by Emily Teague.

 

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Victory for UC Service Workers and Allies

Photo from the Daily Bruin, Brandon Choe

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, see

Daily Bruin | AFSCME union calls for strike vote after tentative agreement discussed with UC http://dailybruin.com/2014/03/04/afscme-union-calls-for-strike-vote-after-uc-talks-backtrack/

Contact:

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

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How to Raise the Funk

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

Funky Frackin Fundraiser, and so can you.

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

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

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

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

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

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Conserving Our Most Vital Resource: Confronting the California Water Crisis

by Annie Montes, Co-President of UC Davis CSSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apply to Join CSSC’s Operating Team

Greetings CSSC Leaders,

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

Application for Operating Team Spring 2014

Due by Wednesday December 23rd at 11:59pm

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

There are a number of available positions including:

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

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

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

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

  • Connecting with other leaders and activists from across CA

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

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

  • Empowering others to lead and learn more about sustainability

  • Advancing and supporting our Campaigns and Programs

  • Having a voice in the direction of CSSC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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