This fall, Butte College became the first community college to ever host a CSSC convergence. While some may have doubted how many people would haul up to the far north corner of our state, the magnetic power of convergence brought hundreds of students and the young at heart to the Butte College campus. Kevin Killion, Melody Leppard, and Ben Johnson were the main coordinators and did an incredible job of bringing people together – and the entire Butte team truly made magic happen. The theme framed the event: “Uniting the 3 E’s of Sustainability: Ecology, Economy, Equity.” Students from many different backgrounds, interests, skills, and walks of life gathered together to share ideas, campaigns, projects, and inspiration. So many of the attendees were coming to the convergence for the first time. This weekend was one of those rare events that celebrated both diversity and solidarity. That combination to me creates a sustainable, resilient movement – and we are here to stay.
Here is what some convergence attendees had to say about their experience:
“I was a speaker at the event and what an honor it was to converge with so many young, powerful and inspired students. I appreciate the opportunity to share my sustainability project with the group and to receive valuable feedback. It is events like this that show us all, that we really can work together, that people really do care about our planet and our shared future and that we are not alone in this quest to create a sustainable future… Together we are creating a harmonious and sustainable world. Thanks to each person that attended and good job to the team that produced the event” – Peter Melton, The Oneness Sign
“Two things come to mind – first, my partner, Gerard Ungerman and I were lucky enough to present our project, The Respectful Revolution, on Saturday morning… It was really wonderful to be there and to be able to speak to REAL, LIVE, LOVELY people about the work that we are doing. Secondly, it’s pretty tough to beat the experience of lying in the sun, next to sweet strangers, making the snowflake mandala… Many thanks, and congratulations on a fantastic event!!” – Stacey Wear
“This was my first convergence with the coalition, and I must admit it was more than I expected. So much energy from our state’s young and motivated future sustainability leaders! All coming together to heal and educate their fellow concerned students. My favorite parts of the weekend were the keynote speakers and the variety of workshops available. Things I walked away with that resonate the most with me as an individual are the unavailing of our public enemy, and two, the Koch brothers, and how to boycott and protest their efforts to destroy the planet for a buck; and the aguaponics workshop, and how it is the cousin of the strung out hydroponics. This weekend was so inspiring that I now wish to become more involved in my community and the CSSC community, it was such a pleasure to be present at the CSSC fall convergence” – Matthew Kessler
To check out all of the photos from the event, head to mejuba.com, log in with the username email@example.com, password “buttecollege.”
And now, for my personal summary of the event:
The Bridges Family of Oroville provided their property as the convergence home-base: students gathered under the northern California stars to meet new friends, sing, dance, and enjoy Butte-home-cooked meals. The entertainment was earth shattering: from Wolf Thump, to the homegrown talent show, to The Dynamics, the energy was absolutely electric.
The keynote speakers of the convergence brought home the idea that all of our crises are interrelated, and that the diversity and resilience we find in our movement reveal that we have the capacity to create the world we wish to see. Chief Caleen Sisk-Franco detailed a very concrete example of how social and environmental justice are interrelated, by shedding light on the very real offenses that corporations and government have made against the Winnemum Wintu tribe and their land, south of Mt. Shasta. A grassroots movement is rooting and sprouting, in the fight to bring salmon back to to their rivers. Following this somber yet hopeful story, Anne Symens-Bucher and Adelaja Simon helped us discover our own motivations and our connections with each other through their presentation of The Work that Reconnects. The pair took us through five principles: 1. “Come from gratidue,” 2. “Don’t be afraid of the dark,” 3. “Link arms,” 4. “Dare to vision,” 5. “Act your age.” They got the audience humming, buzzing, and talking. Building off of that palpable energy, Dwayne Edwards of Butte College used his youthful spirit to get us excited about the very real and applicable connections between all three E’s of sustainability.
Students then dispersed into various workshops throughout the day, on a wide array of topics as diverse as our movement is strong. You can find a list of all workshops offered at the end of this post. After three sessions, our brains were exhausted, so it was time to put our bodies to work. The Butte team ushered all of the attendees to the back field, where we lay down on marked blue lines so that our bodies formed a human fractal snowflake. The living art piece was orchestrated by Daniel Dancer and Art for the Sky. Why a snowflake? Because the shape is the symbol of our organizational model: shared, collective power, with each individual making up a necessary piece of the whole.
Sunday brought just as much action-packed education and organizing as Saturday did. We heard from Kirsten Schwind of Bay Localize, who showed us how her organization is working for true resilience in the Bay Area. Her presentation inspired us all to realize that as a student movement, we already have the people power and resources to make the changes we want to see in our communities – it’s a matter of mobilization. Mapping our visions and dreams can help spark that mobilization. Following up on her message of empowerment, Victor Menotti empowered the crowd with information. He presented on what he and his organization call “the Kochtopus.” The Koch Brothers, two of the most powerful people of the fossil fuel industry, have octopus-like tentacles that reach in many directions, affecting politics and industries in very serious ways. While the image of the Kochtopus terrified and angered us, Menotti emphasized that becoming equipped with an understanding of how our enemies function in the world is the only way to discover where we can intervene and make an impact.
After one final workshop session, we split into breakout groups of UC, CSU, and community college students. Each group strategized on how they would like their educational system to change, and what movements/changes require a system-wide mobilization. The CSSC is based on the principle that there are some changes that just can’t be made on a campus-by-campus basis. There is power in network, there is power in interconnectedness, because it means we can tap into a wide base of energy that wouldn’t be available in fragmented, isolated efforts. Leaving the breakout sessions, we all felt ready to return to our campuses with new ideas and new buzz, while rooted and connected to this new network of friends, sustainabilibuddies, fellow activists.
To me, this convergence was a chorus of bells. Each and every person in attendance had a unique, beautiful, resounding sound to contribute to a greater harmonious chorus, and as all of our energies collided, the spirit grew. If you missed this convergence, you missed out. But fear not, you only have six months to wait for the next one, and plenty of opportunities to connect and make change in the meantime. If you have any questions at all about the event, or would like to get in contact with a workshop presenter or speaker, feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to put you in touch with whoever can help you out.
List of workshops offered
Caleen Sisk- Battling corporations and further raising of dams
Steve Aquino- Geoengineering the Earth
Andrew Chang- Students Divest! University Endowments Against Dirty Energy
Amber Perkins, Kriss’shan Day, and Ambrosia Krinsky- Environmental Justice: Transition to Regeneration
Gerard Ungerman and Stacey Wear- Respectful Revolution
Kristina Kaufman & Claire Hunt- In Our Own Voice: Talking About Mental illness
Dwayne Edwards- Environmental Economics: How do we use it?
Daniel Dancer – ART FIRST! Shifting Paradigms through Art Activism
Chauncey Quam- Taking Charge of your Fertility
Justin Valis- Can you be Sustainable without being Vegan?
Chara Bui- Putting the Social Justice in Environmental Sustainability
Zen Trenholm- Cooperatives and Democratizing the Food System
Alex Vincent- Permaculture: A Tool for Uniting Disciplines Towards Change
Shana Rappaport- Education for Action: Models of Experiential Education from Bioneers and Beyond
Lauren Jabusch- The Intersection of Engineering and Sustainability
Parker Townley- Organizing for Fair Trade on Campus
Brian Croshal- Aquaponics: A Unique Food Solution
Mica Stumpf, Melody Benavidez – Nonviolent Direct Action: building a movement through safe and ethical demonstrations
Butte Environmental Council & Friends- Water is Life
Andi Goss, Chris Tominello, Tommy Diestel- Pulp and back again… A paper’s tale
Meredith Jacobson and Ariel Cherbowsky- Beyond Nature Writing: Ecology of Place and Writing for Change
Peter Melton- The Oneness Sign – We are all in this together
Rachel Taber, Tiffany Fink-Haynes- Common Threads: Act Local, Win Global
Victor Menotti / International Forum on Globalization- Sandy was Strengthened by Billionaires Blocking Carbon Controls
Kirsten Schwind- Map Your Future: Linking Youth With Jobs Building Community Resilience
Annie Montes- Biofiltration: Being green by planting greens
Chloe Rice- Intro to Organizing; Real Food Wheel
Amber Perkins and Ambrosia Krinsky- Anti-oppression, White Privilege, and Ally Training
Sasha Walters- Sustainability At Home