Stop Accecpting Climate Change, Get Active

by: Emily Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are we trying to get to?

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

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

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

Climate activism as a tool to reach our goal

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

Fossil Fuel Divestment and the Road to 2015

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

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

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

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

It’s up to us.

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

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



[2] Carbon Tracker Initiative.











Spotlight Series-Fall Convergence 2014

by: Eva Malis

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



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

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

What will be special about this Fall 2014 convergence?

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



UCLA, Class of 2014

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

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

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

What’s your favorite part about convergence?

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

What are some topics that this convergence will cover?

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



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

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

What inspired you to get more involved?

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



What is the importance of convergence?

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

A Chat with Keynote Speaker Alyssa Bradford

By Eva Malis

Tell me more about your work:

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

 How do your goals align with CSSC?

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

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

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

What do you hope to get out of convergence?

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

Your Invitation to Convergence

by:Emili Abdel-Ghany

Where do I begin?

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

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

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

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

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

PS: don’t forget to register before November 7th at 11:59pm :)
Convergences and Crowdsurfing,

<3 Emili Abdel-Ghany

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



Election Results Statement for CSSC


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

Measure J – San Benito

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

Ballot Results:

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


Measure S – Mendocino

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

Ballot Results:

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


Measure P – Santa Barbara

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

Ballot Results:

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


CSSC Next Steps

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

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

The work starts now. Join CSSC efforts today!


A Town Hall Meeting for the Proposed Food Systems Minor

by Sydney Johnson · November 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Post from

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?

RSVP for Fall 2014 Convergence!

Featured Image Credit:


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, mail: Office of the Secretary and Chief of Staff to the Regents 1111 Franklin St.,12th floor Oakland, CA 94607 with attention to the Committee on Investments. The regent who chairs this committee is Paul Wachter, it would be good to address concerns to him since the decision is in the hands of the COI as of now. If you will be sending a letter after Friday please email it to CSSC Field Organizer Alyssa Lee and she will circulate it appropriately.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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:]


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 (, “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( are aiding in emptying the aquifers at an undisclosed rate(, 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”]


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) (  and recent research published in the journal Nature (, 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 ( 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 (

[Image 3:]


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(! And let’s not forget that fracking has also been found to cause earthquakes( even in places that historically don’t feel them(

[Image 4: “All active fracking pads in the state”]


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.

For more information about removing bottled water from your campus, you can read more here.

To learn more about the drought and its impact on California you can read more here.

Think I forgot about California’s Agribusinesses role in all of this? I didn’t! Read more here (

Still don’t think the drought is an issue? Check out these bad boys(


A Thank You Letter to CSSC

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

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

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

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

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

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


Winter Leadership Retreat 2012

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

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

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


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



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

Image borrowed from Occupy Oakland Media <>

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


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

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

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

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


Dear President Napolitano,

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

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

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

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


 Jane Vosburg



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

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

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

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

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

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


140702 FFUC Letter to Regents (5)


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

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



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

July 2, 2014

Dear UC Regents / President Napolitano,

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

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

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

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

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


Alyssa Lee

UCLA, Class of 2014

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




CSU Board of Trustees Approves State-wide Sustainable Food Policy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

# # #

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

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


Fossil Free Moves Forward: May Regents Meeting Account

by Alden Phinney, UC Santa Cruz

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Action Alert: Real Food Policy for Every CSU Campus

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Defense of Earth Day

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


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

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

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

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


Documentary concerning climate change activist ​Tim DeChristopher

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

Interview by Gary Nelson, CSU Chico

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

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

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

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

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


What first drew you in to Tim DeChristophers case?

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

Why the name Bidder 70?

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

Did he actually pay for the lands?

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

Could you define civil disobedience?

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

Do you feel civil disobedience is ever justified?

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

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

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

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

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

How have you seen Tim grow?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to add?

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

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


CSSC Students Featured on Spring of Sustainability Earth Day Panel

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

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

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

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

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


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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