Seeing Sustainability from the Outside: Josh Cozine’s Journey to Activism Through Journalism

By: Kristin Edwards

Josh Cozine, a Senior Journalist with the CSSC Writing Program, is transitioning to the program’s coordinator over the summer. He has taken the long way around to finding his place in the sustainability movement. His first ambition was teaching, followed by a period of studying history, before he decided to take a few years off from school. When he arrived at Butte College, a small community college in Oroville, CA, he knew he wanted to pursue a hard science and found himself studying Biology with an interest in Ecology. As Josh puts it, his involvement in the sustainability movement was a “natural step from studying Ecology.” I interviewed Josh recently about his experiences with CSSC and his perspective as a writer. He credits his interest in journalism to his teachers, who encouraged him to become a writer after being impressed with the essays he turned in. Josh suspects this may be due to his history background, with its emphasis on synthesizing facts into a coherent narrative through writing, which helped him stand out compared to his fellow science students. However, reading Josh’s work here at CSSC, it is clear he has a natural talent for the craft.

The CSSC Writing Program began in August of 2016 when Josh and two other journalists joined the program under the direction of Kristyn Payne. The program was created to act as an outlet for the student voice in the sustainability movement and as outreach for the many programs operated by CSSC. Josh has had the opportunity to cover both the conflict at Standing Rock and CSSC’s own fossil fuel divestment project and presents those complicated far-reaching issues in a way that is relevant to students. “I try to make sure [my writing] is going to be student-oriented and useful to them and something they’d want to read.” Josh’s work highlights the ways current students are standing up for the issues they care about while providing ways for others to help and get involved. This is especially important with struggles that take place at a national or larger scale, as students can easily feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of larger institutions.

It was his piece on fossil fuel divestment efforts at California schools that got Josh involved with his own local CSSC chapter at Butte. “My first assignment, everyone I talked to was excited and thanking me for reaching out to them and getting their voices out there.” Speaking with the students organizing a divestment campaign on his own campus inspired Josh to work on the campaign himself, which is now preparing a petition for the school’s administration. “I got to hear how they did it, what they put into it, and how they went about it, all as students.” While Josh acknowledges that they do not have the wider campus involvement of some of the larger UC’s and Cal State’s, he appreciates the small core group he works with and looks forward to larger attendance as their chapter grows and accomplishes more. They are currently planning for an Earth Day event, which they hope will allow them to spread information and drum up more interest in campus activism.

On his experiences with the CSSC Writing Program, Josh was all enthusiasm. Compared to approaching other groups as a fellow activist, Josh says that as a writer, “Most people want to get their voices heard. If you approach them as a fellow organizer, they would be willing to share, but with fewer details and not as excited. [As a journalist], you get to know them better.” One of the things that Josh only hears during interviews is the diversity of reasons everyone has for joining the sustainability movement, which contributes to Josh’s ability to see the issues he covers from multiple perspectives and better understand the stakes involved. This is important for crafting articles that are relevant to the diverse student population of California and accurately representing the student voice in sustainability.

I asked Josh what his dream piece would be to write for the CSSC blog and he mentioned wanting to incorporate social justice issues into this coverage, but his answer more so provided an optimistic prediction of the direction of the sustainability movement. “I’d like to see sustainability branched out to other disciplines…more science-driven articles and trained scientists in sustainability.” Josh plans to pursue science journalism in graduate school, a field that is increasingly important in today’s political climate, and where Josh can work to make his vision for sustainability come true.

If you’d like to read some of Josh’s work, here is a link to his favorite piece he’s written so far.

Posted in _Featured, CSSC Blog.