More than 35 student volunteers from Ecohusky, EcoHouse, and the OEP gathered at Gampel Pavilion for two basketball Green Game Days in March to educate Husky fans about recycling and
create an atmosphere buzzing with energy about the environment. Volunteers promoted recycling by engaging with fans as they entered the stadium and by standing next to trash and recycling
containers to make sure recycling was properly sorted. Additionally, by making these games carbon neutral through the purchase of offsets, we prevented a total of 8.5 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere! We would like to thank all of our volunteers who made these events possible and to especially spotlight our senior intern Caroline Anastasia, who has now been part of 10 Green Game Days!
In celebration of these events, we talked with student athletes at UConn who are passionate about the environment and appreciate the outreach that happens at events such as our Green Game Days. Here is what they had to say…
“Much like the human body, I believe what you put in and what you do to your body is eventually going to affect what comes out. The environment is an organism too. So, the things that we’re experiencing are a result of what we’ve done to the planet.
Education and knowledge are what changes everything. People are born uncivilized until they learn something or they’re influenced by something that leads them to make change for the better.”
– Carlton Steer, Senior Sociology Major, UConn Football Defensive Line
“A large majority of pollution is in our waters – oceans, rivers, lakes, ponds, etc. We’ve seen it in most of the places we’ve raced. While it may not directly affect our regatta performance, it’s a sign of a larger problem that affects all of us – if we see it here, then it’s probably worldwide, and it might be worse where people care less about the environment. It’s disheartening, it’s hard on the eyes, it’s damaging to the wildlife, and it’s why we need to keep pushing for more people to care.”
– Maxwell Miller, Sophomore Finance Major, Sailing Team President
“In order to properly advocate for the right to health for all, it is essential to equip people with the knowledge and skills to take responsible action to protect the environment. Through caring for our planet, we make the basis for just, sustainable, and equitable health outcomes possible.”
– Jen Koo, Junior Allied Health Sciences Major, Track & Field
Thank you to the student-athletes we talked to for your thoughtful reflections. Best of luck to our Husky women’s basketball team in the Final Four tonight!
This October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that has shaken the global community. The IPCC was invited by the UN to report this year on the effects that we would experience if the global temperature warms 1.5℃ (2.7°F) above pre-industrial levels. They released a full report along with a technical summary and policymaker summary. The report contains scientific, technical, and socio-economic findings and has major ramifications across these disciplines. The contents of this report are grim, but give us a much more concrete vision of our future—something that is vital as the world makes plans to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Since civilization hit the industrial revolution in the mid-1800s, humanity has been dumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air at an exponential rate. This has led to an increasing amount of sunlight and heat being trapped in our atmosphere, and consequently an increase in our planet’s average temperature. Even a slight increase in this global temperature has immense impacts on our climate and in turn the survival of life on Earth, including humans.
The IPCC report begins by defining what exactly the average global temperature was before humanity started to affect it. The IPCC defines pre-industrial levels as the average global temperature over the period of 1850-1900. The report then talks about where we are now. We have already caused a 1℃ rise in the average global temperature compared to pre-industrial levels. Effects from climate change are already happening, and at this point they are inevitable.
However, we still have control over how severe these effects become, and how long they will last. On our current global trajectory, we will reach a 2℃ increase by 2040. With the passage of the Paris Climate Agreement, the world committed itself to changing this trajectory. Countries promised to keep the increase to under 2℃, and to strive to keep the increase near 1.5℃. In reality, the agreement has little binding power. Globally, we are struggling to reach the 2℃ goal, never mind 1.5℃, which is currently categorized as ‘above and beyond.’
The IPCC report focuses on the changes in our climate that will result if we curb the global temperature rise at 1.5℃ as compared to an increase of 2℃. Although any further rise in the global temperature has and will result in devastating changes to our natural and human systems, the difference between 1.5℃ and 2℃ warming is significant. This report makes it clear that 1.5℃ should not be considered as ‘above and beyond,’ but instead as the absolute limit for global temperature rise.
By 2100, the global average sea level rise is projected to be 0.1 meter lower at 1.5℃ than at 2℃. Sea level rise will continue past 2100, and it is inevitable at this stage. However, sticking to the 1.5℃ goal and slowing the rate of sea level rise will allow more time for adaptation of coastal communities impacted by this rise. Although 0.1 meters may not seem significant, it will make a big difference in giving the world time to prepare for sea level rise.
One of the most poignant symbols of this change in global temperature is the livelihood of the coral reefs. At 2℃, more than 99% of coral reefs will die off due to coral bleaching. At 1.5℃, only 70-90% of current coral reefs are projected to die off. The loss of this incredible phenomenon would be a tragedy. The majority of the ocean’s biodiversity exists in coral reefs, they serve as a buffer that protects coastlines from tropical storms, and they function as important primary producers as well.
The frequency of a sea-ice-free Arctic during summer is substantially lower at 1.5℃ than at 2℃. At 1.5℃, an ice-free summer will happen once per century; at 2℃, it will happen at least once per decade.
In addition to the effects mentioned previously, a 2℃ rise instead of 1.5℃ will drive the loss of coastal resources, reduce the productivity of fisheries and aquaculture, and lead to greater species loss and extinction. Vector-borne diseases, such a malaria and dengue fever, are expected to increase and shift geographic regions. A 2℃ rise will lead to larger net reductions of cereal crop yields such as maize, rice, and wheat.
As the global temperature warms, the effects outlined above are expected to lead to increased poverty and disadvantages in vulnerable populations. Limiting the temperature rise to 1.5℃ instead of 2℃ could reduce the number of people who will be susceptible to poverty and facing climate-related risks by up to several hundred million by 2050.
The IPCC states that reaching the 1.5℃ goal and protecting what we can of our world requires “upscaling and acceleration of far-reaching, multi-level and cross-sectoral climate mitigation and by both incremental and transformational adaptation.” While the Paris Climate Agreement was a historical step for humankind, it’s not nearly enough to save us. The agreement was the beginning of this world transformation; true change will require continued, tenacious, collaborative effort.
This information can be overwhelming and disheartening. We at the office understand that, and know that this work requires stubborn positivity. The only way we’re going to get close to reaching the 1.5℃ goal is if we wholeheartedly believe in our mission and in the future of our world. Even if we do not reach our goal of 1.5℃, or even that of 2℃, any change we make now will still have an important effect on generations to come. So get out there and make some change happen. Reduce your carbon footprint. Vote on November 6th. Start improving your community. Collaborate with friends and neighbors. Have meaningful conversations with those around you. We are each just one person, but we still have an important, irreplaceable influence on the world around us.
Link to the IPCC’s Report: http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/
On the weekend of September 8th, New Haven was brimming with energy. There were events happening throughout the city to foster progress for people and the environment.
The first was a summit presented by the Yale Art Gallery and Artspace, a contemporary art non-profit. This summit, called “Homage: Soil and Site” was seven hours long and drew in some of the national leaders in the environmental movement today—household names like Eddie Bautista and Elizabeth Yeampierre. Oh, you haven’t heard of them? There’s a reason for that. They are self-proclaimed environmental justice advocates, a group that has had little space or power in the environmental movement until recently.
Environmental justice, put simply, is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to environmental conditions, regulation, and change. Those on the frontlines of climate change and other forms of environmental degradation are often the most economically and politically repressed. Impoverished island nations facing increased hurricane activity, poor urban communities facing the worst of air pollution, minority communities having little influence over the siting of a landfill in their backyard, and indigenous people facing potential contamination of their rivers by powerful oil companies should be given a seat at the table in discussions of policy and change. After all, they’re the ones who have experience dealing with the problems that we’re trying to solve.
After decades of effort on the part of environmental justice advocates, we are finally reaching a point where all voices are being heard. This was evident at event number two of the September 8th weekend, a rally for “Climate, Jobs, and Justice.” This event was unique in the groups that came together in order to make it happen. There were the typical organizations that are an important presence at environmental rallies in the state, notably the Sierra Club and 350CT, in addition to other groups such as the CT Puerto Rican Alliance. This meant that there was a larger variety of speakers and performances than the typical rally. There was a presentation of an electric car, and there was also a performance by local rappers about police brutality. There was a call to action for protecting CT’s Green Bank, and there was a young Latinx girl who sung about coming together as one. One stop of the rally was to admire a fuel cell, while another was for a local group to speak on issues related to prison reform. Rallies like this give hope for continued collaboration as we strive to create a safe and healthy environment for all people.
The OEP is working on incorporating environmental justice as a focus as well. We recognize the importance of indigenous people to our country and to the environmental movement. Worldwide, they are protectors of 80% of the world’s biodiversity, despite only living on 20% of the world’s land. They hold Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) that is vital to the stewardship of land, and utilized by many, including the US National Park Service. To honor this, we have partnered with Global House to hold a film screening and discussion of Sacred Water: Standing Rock Part 2 on October 3rd about the Standing Rock protests. It’s the kickoff for Indigenous People’s Week, a series of events at UConn that aim to replace Columbus Day with a celebration of indigenous people in our country. Please join us in the Global House Lounge at 5:30pm to learn more about this incredible population of people!
Activists. Scientists. Scholars. Mothers. Writers. Women have been contributing to the environmental movement since its humble beginnings. Women have been disdained, excluded, jailed, and even murdered for working towards environmental progress, yet they still fight on. In honor of Women’s History Month, we have compiled profiles of revolutionary women from across the spectrum of the environmental movement. These women show us the value of empowerment, and inspire us with their passion for a better world.
Despite her wealthy, socialite upbringing in New York City, Rosalie Edge was anything but proper and demure. A dedicated suffragist, Edge shifted her attention towards the National Audubon Society after the passage of the 19th amendment. Having become aware of the gender-based injustices happening within the National Audubon Society, Edge sued the organization and made a point of exposing the persistent corruption. Through lawsuits and exposing pamphlets, Edge successfully had all the former directors removed from the organization.
Edge maintained this momentum for the rest of her life. The Emergency Conservation Committee that she created in response to the Audubon Society crisis became her instrument of political change. With its support she was able to preserve 8,000 acres of sugar pines on the southern edge of Yosemite and create both Kings Canyon and Olympic National Parks.
When the Audubon Association didn’t want to pay for a hawk sanctuary that she felt strongly about, Edge raised the money and bought the place herself, paving the way for a mindset of species preservation that had not existed in conservation circles before her. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, as it was called, was happily owned and run by Edge for the rest of her life, and is still an important place of conservation today. During her reign, Rosalie Edge was considered the leader of the conservation movement – her period’s John Muir. A tenacious and effective activist, she changed the movement in ways we can still feel today, and paved the way for Rachel Carson and all other women who came after her.
Sylvia Earle has inspired a generation of people to value our oceans. Also known as “Her Deepness,” or “The Sturgeon General,” Earle started her journey by obtaining a PhD in phycology (the study of algae) in 1966. A deep diving pioneer, she has tied the overall record for a solo dive depth in 1986 (the first woman to do so), and founded Deep Ocean Engineering, a business that aims to improve the technology of robotic and piloted subsea systems. She was awarded Time Magazine’s first Hero for the Planet designation in 1998, and has held the title of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence since then. As the first woman to serve as Chief Scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), she was also the chair of the Advisory Council for the Ocean for Google Earth. An expert on the impact of oil spills, she was a crucial resource in the Exxon Valdez, Mega Borg, and Deepwater Horizon disasters.
Throughout her extensive career she has held positions at various universities, has won a slew of awards, and has authored over 150 publications. One of her greatest contributions to ocean preservation, Mission Blue, included a global coalition of over 200 organizations aims to preserve the world’s marine protected areas, deemed ‘Hope Spots.’ Sylvia Earle recognizes the power of science, and has harnessed it to capture the imaginations of the public.
Nobel laureate and leading environmentalist political activist Wangari Maathai spent her life promoting intersectional environmentalism, advocating that environmental action is “more than planting trees, it’s planting ideas.” Born in the rural Kenyan village of Nyeri, Maathai was one of 300 Kenyan students to be a part of the Airlift Africa program in 1960, a program that allowed her to receive an education at a university in the United States. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology, she returned to Kenya, becoming the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.
Embracing the connections between gender inequality and environmental issues, Maathai founded the Greenbelt Movement, a movement that taught women sustainable land use practices. Since its inception, the movement has trained over 30,000 women and planted more than 51 million trees, an achievement that led to her Nobel Peace Prize Award. With a commitment to ecofeminism and equitable participation, Maathai has had a monumental impact on the global environmental movement.
Lois Gibbs is a story of the power that personal impact has to inspire national activism. She started out her journey as a mother in the small, suburban neighborhood of Love Canal. Her son attended the local elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York. It was discovered that her son’s elementary school and, with further investigation, the entire neighborhood, was built on top of a toxic waste site.
Fearing for the health of her son and all of the kids of Love Canal, Lois Gibbs was launched into activism. She began knocking on doors, creating petitions, and eventually came together with her neighbors to create the Love Canal Homeowners Association. After years of grassroots activism, confrontations with the New York State Department of Health, and national attention, Gibbs got what she wanted. Nearly one thousand families were evacuated from Love Canal, and a massive cleanup began.
Because of the hard work of Lois Gibbs and the residents of her neighborhood, the Environmental Protection Agency instituted a program to locate and clean up contaminated sites like Love Canal across the country. It’s called the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, or the Superfund Program.
Since Love Canal, Gibbs has founded a grassroots environmental crisis center called the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), which focuses on creating strong local organizations to ensure the federal government is doing what it’s supposed to do. Gibbs has received many awards for her work, including the Goldman Environmental Prize, the Heinz Award, and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. However, the most important legacy she is leaving behind is the support system she has created for those neighborhoods that suffer as Love Canal has suffered, but do not have the voice to call for change.
A notable ecofeminist, scientist, writer, and activist, Vandana Shiva has worn many hats in her life, often at the same time. Brought up with a love for nature fostered by her two parents, she received a PhD in the philosophy of physics, and went on to interdisciplinary research in science, technology, and environmental policy at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. She eventually established Bija Vidyapeeth, an international college for sustainable living, in collaboration with the U.K.’s Schumacher College.
Shiva is a leader in championing agricultural biodiversity and local sovereignty. She is on the cutting edge of advances in food technology and the human rights implications of such advances. Much of her activism in this area has been achieved through a national movement she started in 1991 called Navdanya, whose mission is to “protect diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, the promotion of organic farming and fair trade.” Navdanya has educated farmers across India of the value of diverse and individualized crops, and has mounted activist campaigns on issues involving intellectual property rights, biotechnology, bioethics, and genetic engineering.
A notable ecofeminist, Siva has written over 20 publications, many on topics that show how women’s rights and environmental issues are inextricably linked. In fact, the first book she published, Staying Alive, focused on redefining perceptions of third world women. In 1990, she wrote a report on women’s role in agriculture titled “Most Farmers in India are Women,” as requested by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. She founded the gender unit at Kathmandu’s International Centre for Mountain Development, and is a founding board member of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization.
Shiva has changed the narrative around local sovereignty, sustainable farming, women in the environmental movement, farmers, globalization, and everything in between. She advises governments, international organizations, and is a leader in worldwide discussions. How is she capable of such extraordinary feats, and how can we emulate her? When asked, Shiva responded “you are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.” Protecting the Earth is simply a matter of recognizing our place within it.
The following blog posts, written by student members of the UConn contingent to COP 23, emphasize the importance of solidarity and inclusion in the climate negotiations:
Redefinition: My Agency to Take Up Space Wawa Gatheru
Integrating Intersectional Feminism and Climate Policy Rebecca Kaufman
Women Revolutionizing the Environmental Movement Taylor Mayes
Warning! Climate Change is Real Colleen Dollard
UConn @COP23 Breakfast Clubs – Reconciling Science and Social Justice on Climate Change Jillianne Lyon
Redefinition: My Agency to Take Up Space
Wawa Gatheru, Environmental Studies, Minor in Environmental Economics and Policy
There is nothing more awkward than incorrect ideological association.
Over a year after the election of our most recent President and his infamous declarations of climate denial, perhaps the most frustrating outcome has been the ideological association placed upon the American people. As the United States operates under a democracy, the internationally perceived status of climate change legitimacy in the U.S. has mirrored that of our President – even while its alignment could not be further from the truth for most Americans.
I, along with 68% of Americans, believe in anthropogenic climate change. As a proud environmentalist with the hopes to dedicate her life to environmental justice, the ever-so accepted narrative of the American refusal to legitimize this fact has been frustrating. For so many, anthropogenic climate change is not just a distant fact, but a driver for action. And for me, the environment – its study, its appreciation, its protection – is my life.
So you can probably understand my distress at the thought that some of the most fundamental scientific truths about climate change might be overshadowed due to incorrect ideological association. And upon my arrival at COP23, this consciousness – one of possible incorrect alignment – discouraged me. How would I be accepted in the COP space as a dedicated environmental activist if my very nationality as an American could disqualify me from such a categorization? Could it also potentially disqualify my UConn cohorts and other U.S. citizens here in Bonn? Or worse – could this perception be another barrier for those who aspire to stand up against environmental injustices around the world?
Although these concerns raced through my mind during the weeks leading up to COP23, in the end, my interactions throughout this week at the U.N.’s Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany provided me with both a sense of relief and renewed inspiration. That’s because when I reflect, my cumulative experience at COP was more than just transformative. It was reaffirming.
Surrounded by hundreds of citizens, languages, and colors, I realized the following things:
I have the unalienable right to be a member of the climate justice movement. While my initial discouragement about my reception in the COP space was, and continues to be, legitimate, I must never, EVER question my right to take space in this movement. Every single relationship to the environment is valid and necessary in making long-lasting, sustainable, socially and scientifically competent change. Every single voice is necessary to accurately redefine environmental action as a non-partisan one.
There is no time for the exclusion of voices in this movement. During her presentation at the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network conference, Noelene Nabulivou, founder of DIVA for Equality FIJI and one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure to meet, said it best. “We are in a social revolution, an economic revolution, an ecological revolution – because we have to be.” Climate change and adequate solutions must be appreciated in relation to every sector – social, economic, and ecological – as this appreciation will lead to understanding the interconnections and level of accountability that must be taken. The #WeAreStillIn movement represented this shared accountability, as it included voices that are not usually heard in the environmental movement – namely those of the private sector. In continuing to make the climate justice space inclusive, it must also be said that while all voices must be heard to create the most riveting changes, certain voices must be at the forefront of this movement. Women, specifically women of color and indigenous women, MUST be at the forefront of this movement, as they are simultaneously the most adversely impacted by environmental degradation. In this fact, it is this demographic that should be valued as indispensable actors and leaders of just and effective solutions.
Finally, I realize that the takeaways I received from COP cannot and will not live in momentary appreciation. There is no time. Climate change cannot exist only as a subject for discussion, but as a topic for action. Because the devastation of climate change has already begun, and we must act. Together.
Integrating Intersectional Feminism and Climate Policy
Rebecca Kaufman, Political Science and Human Rights, Minor in Public Policy
“We need to reclaim the ideal of ‘the commons’ and reject the prioritization of technological and economic fixes.” This quote by Ruth Nyambura, an Eco-feminist and activist from Kenya, was one of the many that I have messily scrawled in my notebook from the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) event, ‘Women Leading Solutions on the Frontlines of Climate Change’ — a side event at the UN Climate Conference COP23. Throughout the course of this session I felt empowered, inspired, and angry. However, Nyambura’s sentiments capture the essence of what I took from the event.
When working towards climate change solutions, it is clear that we need to fundamentally change the way that we consume and interact with our environment. This is overwhelming and sometimes feels scary, if not impossible. Personally, I have always understood access to a clean and healthy environment as the fundamental human right upon which the realization of all other rights relies. What Nyambura gets at is the idea that if we are not spiritually connected to our environment, and by proxy the other actors that exist within it (both human and non-human) we will never be able to address the overwhelmingly complex issue of climate change.
The fact of the matter is that the people who are disproportionally impacted by climate change-related issues like flooding and drought (and the subsequent shortages of food, water and shelter) are not the primary ones contributing to antecedents of climate change, like over-consumption of animal products, food waste, and fossil fuel emissions, among others. Many of the most-impacted people include women, such as Nina Gualinga, the Kichwa leader from the Pueblo of Sarayaku, Ecuador, who is working to preserve the Amazon rainforest, and Thilmeeza Hussein, founder of the NGO Voice of Women and former resident of the Maldives.
As I listened to Gualinga and Hussain talk about defining ‘development’ in a way that empowers those in countries that are developing and the negligence of those pushing to continue the use of fossil fuels (including the United States’ heartily-protested COP23 presentation on “clean coal” – are you kidding me?) I became angrier and angrier that this incredible WECAN conference was merely a ‘side event.’ Meanwhile, those with the the highest clearance, those with the most policy-making power were sitting at the main COP venues listening to a panel of environmental injustice perpetrators, like Shell, discuss alternative energy.
When Gualinga asked the question, “who is defining development?” she is addressing the fact that voices like hers aren’t at the table with corporations like Shell. The people whose lives depend on the preservation of diverse ecosystems are not at the table. The people whose employers have caused and perpetuated climate change related disasters are.
There are a lot of reasons for this. I would argue that one of the most prominent ones is the fear among those in power that their power will be dismantled or changed in some fundamental way. Perhaps after decades of disenfranchising indigenous people in the Global South, these policy makers and corporations have had a moment of reflection — where they realized that what they did was wrong and that the process of making amends and distributing appropriate reparations will be painful and time consuming but necessary.
Essentially, I think that the persistence of unequal power dynamics stems from our lack of a spiritual connection to our environment and each other. And our inability to form this connection has the direct consequence of maintaining institutionalized inequality and a western capitalist culture of consumption.
It is problematic that corporations are so highly valued as change-makers, when by definition, the mission of a corporation is to increase their profits. Especially in America, where private corporations are not subject to the same level anti-discrimination rules as the public sector. Furthermore, while not all governments represent their constituents well, their chief role, unlike businesses, is to represent the best interests of their constituents.
Businesses (perhaps with the exception of B-Corps) hold a fiduciary responsibility to maximize the profits of their stakeholders, who often represent the world’s elite. This, to me, is completely inconsistent with the core values of social and environmental justice — to attain a sustainable network of systems that are healthy, equitable, and compassionate.
This is not to say that corporations cannot use their profitability to effect positive social and environmental change. We should just be skeptical of their willingness to do this effectively — especially when promises of corporate responsibility are proven to serve as effective marketing. Even in the panels I’ve attended discussing the virtues of corporate social responsibility, corporate leaders are incredibly transparent in discussing social and environmental impact as fiscally beneficial — rarely addressing the fact that we should just be kind to others. We just should.
“Women’s movements have always been in the business of territories — be it bodies, communities or the world,” said Noelene Nabulivou of DIVA for Equality and the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, Fiji. I will reiterate Nabulivou’s call to action because I think it is empowering and will inspire self-reflection. We are not all in this together. Climate change affects everyone, but people of color and women are impacted disproportionately. Failing to address climate change related disaster is a tool for maintaining institutionalized racism and sexism.
We need diverse bodies participating in climate negotiations. We need to mainstream the tenets of intersectional feminism into climate policy because intersectional feminism is inherently related to the power dynamics. A favorite quote of mine by Audre Lorde is, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” It is the responsibility of our leaders to mainstream gender in climate policy. It is the responsibility of those in power to self-reflect on their bias. Negligence to do so perpetuates systematic sexism and racism.
Our identities are multifaceted and they intersect. And if there was anything that I took from WECAN’s event, it is that each of us has solutions. Those of us who have experienced institutionalized violence are often the most creative. And so, as stewards of the environments we occupy, it is our responsibility to use the privilege we do have to speak up.
Women Revolutionizing the Environmental Movement
Taylor Mayes, Environmental Studies and Political Science
On Monday, November 13th, UConn@COP23 attended an event at the conference called Women Leading Solutions on the Front Lines of Climate Change. The event was organized and hosted by WECAN, the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network, International. WECAN is a climate justice-based initiative established to unite women worldwide as powerful in worldwide movement building for social and ecologic justice. The event took place at the beautifully eloquent, Hotel Königshof, located right on the Rhine River in the city of Bonn. The hotel had a very vintage-chic-feminine vibe which created the perfect back drop for the event.
Upon entering the space, one could truly feel the room radiating with warmth and life. Imagine a room filled with passionate women from a diverse array of countries, communities, cultures, and identities from all around the globe. It was so refreshing to be in a space filled with such richness and color.
Our group stayed for three of the events panels and keynote speakers; each panel consisting of talks done by a composition of four very wise and experienced environmental activists. This was well executed, as the purpose of the event was to unite women from all different walks of life to join in solidarity and speak out against environmental and social injustice as well as to draw attention to the root causes of the climate crisis.
Addressing the root causes of this crisis and having discussions about racial and gender injustices is a form of resistance, and it should be given a lot of credit, as it takes courage to be disruptive and to revolutionize the way we talk about the environment. This was especially true in the context of the mainly white male cisgender dominated 23rd Conference of Parties, where the “main events” were often very superficial and non-substantive.
Present in the very tone and essence of all of the talks was the idea that this issue of climate change and environmental degradation would not be solved until women, especially brown and black women, are given a seat at the forefront of decision making table.
I greatly appreciated the unique way this event united a group of women, who were all so different in so many ways, around a common cause. Women who had a diversity of experiences: coming from different places, celebrating different cultures and religions, speaking different languages, and in turn, who face different struggles. And yet, even though this theme of unity was present, it did not erase or diminish any of the women’s identities — but instead maintained that fine balance by celebrating those differences at the same time. There was spoken word, poetry, different languages being spoken (and translated), and even an indigenous women’s warrior song, all used to conveyed the experiences and witnesses these women had to the effects of climate change.
The event was so uplifting, and inspiring for many, if not all, of the women in the room. Our anger and frustration with current state of the world was not only validated, but re-inspired which does not happen often. A flame was lit underneath my passion and drive, and to use the words of our speakers, Katherine England, I felt my earrings literally fall off. This “side event” at COP23 was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
Warning! Climate Change is Real
Colleen Dollard, Geography and Maritime Studies
Warning! Climate change is real and affects millions of people around the globe every day. The longer nations wait to take action the more perilous these impacts are expected to become. More importantly, the people who have contributed the least to climate change will be the ones to face the brunt of it first. Drought, infectious diseases, hunger, and displacement are all disproportionately impacting women and people who are living in less developed countries.
Additionally there are islands in the Pacific that have already been lost due to the rising sea level. At the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network conference, Thelmeeza Hussain from the Maldives reported that her home is subjected to saltwater intrusion. This has led to a loss of drinkable water, destruction of agricultural lands from sea salt, coral reefs dead and bleached white or in the process of dying, and an increasing frequency of dangerous king tides. These impacts are not a product of the actions of the people of the Maldives, yet they are unfairly affected by the fossil fuel businesses and consumption in developed countries, who continue bad practices despite knowledge of climate change.
Real change starts with opening up the floor to their voices, listening, then implementing the policies that were chosen by them for their communities.
Thank you, Fiji and Germany, for hosting COP23 and empowering voices that otherwise may have been lost in the conversation. I look forward to raising awareness back at the UConn Avery Point Campus and elsewhere about issues like the role of gender in climate change and the social injustices of loss and damage already incurred from its effects.
UConn @COP23 Breakfast Clubs – Reconciling Science and Social Justice on Climate Change
Jillianne Lyon, Human Rights and Political Science, Minor in French
One staple of our UConn@COP23 week was the ‘Breakfast Club,’ where the group gathered each morning for a faculty-led discussion about a climate change-related topic and to share thoughts about our experiences from COP-related events of the previous day. As a senior majoring in Human Rights, I have principally been exposed to social justice narratives and it was constructive to hear voices from students majoring in Chemistry, Engineering, Business, Environmental Sciences, Geography and Environmental Studies.
The students were at many times split between those studying humanities and those in STEM, challenging norms accepted in both fields. Should we be talking about racism when we talk about climate change? Should pragmatic science-driven solutions be given preference even if they discount or perpetuate discriminatory effects?
In my Human Rights classes, climate change conversation has always gone hand-in-hand with analysis of environmental injustices. My courses focus on issues like racialized housing policies in Flint, Michigan, or violations of indigenous rights like the Dakota Access Pipeline. Discussions are often people-centric and use rights-claiming language. Everyone has the right to clean water; everyone has the right to life, to an attainable standard of health, to nondiscrimination. However, this conception of climate change can be limiting and is often dismissed in countries where such norms do not hold much authority.
On the other hand, I have recognized that exclusively human rights-driven narratives are not sufficient for addressing existential environmental threats, like climate change, which demand immediate, radical action from the global community. It is infinitely easier to demand reduced CO2 emissions than it is to demand the destruction of the patriarchy.
Science-based targets and emission thresholds provide states and private actors with clear goals and limits that are accessible and attainable. Unfortunately, international environmental agreements, like the Paris Accord, hold no definitive binding power, and are only as effective as the ensuing commitments made and actions taken by each nation.
One thing that has been made very clear to me by my COP23 experience is that climate dialogues are often exclusive spaces. They are white spaces, they are Western spaces, and they are male spaces. There’s a push to highlight SIDS (Small Island Developing States), to include gender analysis, to incorporate social justice. But these efforts have brought us panels with token minorities and corporate leaders who are applauded for green-washed diversity programs. Climate dialogue needs to emphasize diverse and nondiscriminatory leadership if it wants to correct the issues that caused climate change in the first place.
The UConn@COP ‘Breakfast Club’ discussions raised many of these issues. Deliberating back and forth with a diverse group of UConn students about climate change priorities has reaffirmed my belief in multi-dimensional dialogue. Social justice and science driven solutions to climate change do not have to be and are not mutually exclusive. Science-driven policies can ignore systematic inequalities and exacerbate them in proposed solutions. Social justice claims can be disconnected from the capacity of governments and constraints in the private sector. The key is striking a balance between these two narratives without excluding or marginalizing voices that should be playing main roles.
Our daily ‘Breakfast Club’ discussions pushed me to think more broadly and creatively about climate solutions. For every UConn class talking about environmental discrimination, there is one talking about habitat evolution, and another talking about corporate social and environmental responsibility. My experience at COP23 has reassured me that it is vital to bridge this divide and engage in inclusive climate discussions. Without leadership from diverse narratives, both scientific and humanitarian, our planet won’t stand a chance against climate change.
On the average day, a single student uses a lot of resources; from washing clothes to charging a laptop, the total amassed energy and water-use that the average student accumulates is pretty substantial! Now imagine the combined energy and water usage of the average student and multiply that by the enormity of the average dorm – in which hundreds of students reside. Have you ever spent time thinking about the collective amount of water 700 showers use? Or how much energy hundreds of iPhones utilize within hours? For the residents of Buckley, Shippee, Northwest, East, West, and Towers, achieving this consciousness is what stood in between them and becoming a champion of the 9th annual EcoMadness Competition!
This year’s EcoMadness Competition took place from October 9th to November 6th, during which each involved residency was carefully measured in the following categories: per capita water reduction, per capita energy use reduction, percent water reduction, and percent energy use reduction.
After a month of active education, increased environmental awareness, and the encouraging prospect of a free Dairy Bar ice-cream party prize, the results are in!
This year, we are pleased to congratulate the following winners in each water and energy category breakdown! The results are as follows:
Percent Reduction: Hanks
Lowest Per Capita Use: Grange/Hicks
Percent Reduction: Buckley
Lowest Per Capita Use: Hanks
While the winners in each category have been chosen, we would also like to extend our gratitude and congratulations to every student resident involved in the competition. This month showcased an incredible collaborative effort, and could not have been successful without this environmental commitment, and the work of our wonderful EcoCaptains and supportive RA’s! In the coming weeks, the winning dorms should expect a dairy bar ice cream party – free of charge!
Though the EcoMadness competition is over, we hope the concepts of water and energy conservation remain a focal point in the culture of each residency hall on campus. Because who knows – maybe a continued sense of awareness will propel a residency hall into a winning category next year! And who doesn’t like free ice cream?
This semester, the OEP gained three ambitious, bright, and talented interns: Sophie MacDonald, Jon Ursillo, and Wawa Gatheru. Although they’ve only been a part of our team for a few months, they’ve already made incredible impacts within and outside of the office.
Sophie quickly found herself involved in a great number of office initiatives, including the implementation of the new EcoCoin program in the UConn Bookstore, rating offices throughout the university on their sustainability efforts as part of the Green Office Certification Program, and working on our Tree Campus application. She is also the creative designer of our new OEP Sustainability Office logo!
When she’s not busy in the office or balancing her demanding Mechanical Engineering course load, Sophie is involved in both Engineers Without Borders and the Hibernation Team for Ethiopia. She loves being outdoors, whether it be hiking, birding, or traveling to national parks. Fun fact: this summer, Sophie will be travelling to Machu Picchu to hike with UConn Choose a Challenge! She is also the second high school valedictorian on the OEP’s current intern team, graduating top of her class at Litchfield High School in 2016. She joins Christen, who held that honor for the 2014 graduating class at Hampton Bays High School, in New York.
Prior to interning at the OEP, Jon was selected to be a facilitator for the honors UNIV course in Environmental Sustainability, where he was first able to connect his appreciation of the environment to university sustainability. His enthusiasm and achievements in this setting have translated immensely during his time in the office, during which he has already begun working closely with Facilities Operations to update and homogenize recycling throughout our campus. In addition, he has played important roles in the organization and success of our Football Green Game Day and EcoMadness events.
Jon’s interest in environmental sustainability extends far beyond the OEP, as he is a double major in Environmental Sciences and Economics, and an involved member of the Sea Run Brook Trout Coalition and the Protect Rhode Island Brook Trout organization. His appreciation of the environment stems from his love of all things outdoors, including hiking, fishing, and skiing. Also a brother of the Zeta Beta Tau Fraternity, Jon continues to pursue leadership and service in the UConn community.
Our final intern, Wawa, has brought a wealth of experience and ambition to the OEP, with an endless list of leadership roles and involvement in campus initiatives. These include her positions as USG Student Services Chairwoman, Research Assistant in the Nutrition Department, SOS Food Recovery Volunteer, Cross Cultural Connections Partner, former HuskyNutrition student coordinator, and FYE Mentor for Global House. She also serves on the Dean of Students Advisory Board, Chief Diversity Officer Student Advisory Board, and the Courses and Curricula University Senate Sub-Committee. She even helped to spearhead the campus ‘ban the bottle’ initiative, and has been a strong advocate for the Sustainability General Education Requirement.
During her time at the OEP, Wawa has dedicated herself to social media outreach and blog writing, as well as offering immense support with EcoMadness event organization and the Green Office Certification Program. She is a strong believer that the environment plays a fundamental role in every aspect of life, and it is clear that Wawa has integrated this passion into each of her endeavors. As an Applied and Resource Economics major fluent in three languages, with Kenyan heritage and over a year spent in Thailand, we foresee Wawa having a lasting impact on environmental sustainability, both at UConn and globally.
That concludes our ‘Meet the OEP Interns’ series! If you missed out on learning about any of the other featured interns, please see the following links:
What could the captain of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team and an avid “Chopped” enthusiast possibly have in common? Besides an uncanny love for all things outdoors (and the ability to binge watch several episodes of a television series), both students are current sustainability interns at the Office of Environmental Policy! In our fourth installment of the ‘Meet the Interns’ blog, we will profile two more remarkable interns, junior Caroline and senior Hannah. Each very different in their current endeavors and career aspirations, Caroline and Hannah are brought together by a genuine passion for sustainability, a unifying trait that makes them both student environmental leaders.
Junior Caroline’s path to the OEP was nothing short of fate. As a first-semester Chemistry major in the Honors Program, Caroline hoped to continue the environmental involvement she had enjoyed in high school, where she won several accolades including the Northeast Resource Recycling Association (NRRA) Innovative Recycling Idea award, the EcoMaine Eco-Excellence award, and the Aquarion Water Company Environmental Champion Award for a compost project she coordinated her senior year. That experience led her to enroll in the one credit UNIV course in Environmental Sustainability taught by the OEP’s Director, Rich Miller. She excelled in the class, often volunteering for extra credit work, like collecting recyclables at Green Game Day – not because she needed the bonus points but because she loved making a difference.
Soon after her first semester and the UNIV course had ended, she was encouraged to apply for an OEP sustainability internship. Determined as she is about many of her goals, Caroline jumped at the chance – and the rest is history! Fast forward two years and we find an experienced, hard-working team player, who considers her internship an opportunity that has undeniably transformed her college experience. She even stayed in Connecticut this past summer and worked part-time hours at the OEP, rather than return home to New Hampshire.
Caroline’s internship has not only fulfilled her college aspiration of continued environmental involvement, but also taught her about sustainability initiatives on campus and the inter-workings of the university as a whole. Whether it’s analyzing data in order to maintain UConn’s top 10 Green Campus national rankings or manning a recycling dumpster at Rentschler Field, Caroline is all about teamwork and helping out wherever she can. In her two years as a sustainability intern, she has become an expert in her focused initiatives, namely the EcoMadness competition and Green Game Days. As a lead intern for both events, Caroline has served on the front lines for UConn community engagement and outreach covering topics from energy and water conservation to proper recycling during football games. She’s excited about traveling to Bonn, Germany for the UN’s Annual climate summit next month, as part of the UConn@COP23 contingent.
Additionally remarkable, is Caroline’s involvement outside of the office. She has previously worked as a ski instructor, and continues to serve as an undergraduate researcher, captain and secretary of the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team, and President of a newly created club, the Undergraduate Society of Plastics Engineers. An intern of the coolest proportions, the OEP is incredibly lucky to call Caroline one of their own!
Senior sustainability intern, Hannah, adds to the long list of talented undergraduates working at the OEP, as she is simultaneously earning her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Master’s in Public Policy. While her passion for environmental policy has been long evident, her involvement in campus sustainability initiatives on campus has allowed her to solidify her career aspirations. Prior to her employment at the OEP, Hannah had directed her environmental passions towards EcoHusky, where she led a successful shoe and sneaker recycling drive as an officer in the student organization. After discovering the OEP internship opportunity and successfully receiving a position, Hannah quickly became an involved member of the OEP team. In her time as an intern, Hannah has taken the lead on several initiative, such as: planning student engagement and educational activities for UConn@COP, organizing the first inter-fraternity recycling competition as part of the annual football Green Game Day, assessing grant and fundraising opportunities for the Campus Sustainability Fund, and gathering data in order to complete the survey for the GreenMetric World University rankings, in which UConn has consistently scored among the top five. Along with a select group of 12 UConn students, she traveled in November 2016 to Marrakech, Morocco for the U.N.’s 22nd annual International Climate Summit (COP22) – it was her first time abroad!
Outside of the OEP, Hannah keeps a busy schedule, but not at the expense of academics, as she is a consistent CLAS Dean’s List student. After a year as an officer in EcoHusky, she remains active in the club, is an avid outdoorswoman AND massive “Chopped” fan. Hannah is planning on an environmental career after UConn – the past two summers she interned for Dominion Energy as a Diversity Scholarship Recipient. She worked for Dominion at their environmental lab on the Connecticut coast in 2016 and, this past summer, as an environmental compliance intern at their West Virginia plant. She enjoyed and excelled at her summer jobs, so much so that she will work with them again next summer, as an energy intern, at Dominion’s corporate headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. And while Hannah is clearly on an impressive trajectory towards a career in Environmental Policy, if all else fails, you will most likely find Hannah living her life as a scuba diver recovering lost things.
And there we have it – two more of our fabulous OEP Interns!
Next week, we will meet the final set of interns, the newest members of the OEP’s sustainability team: Sophie, Jon, and myself (Wawa)!
The upcoming school year is looking as bright as ever, as thousands of new and returning students recently flocked to the bookstore to receive the sleekest new edition to the #shrinkyourdormprint movement – an energy efficient, multifunctional LED desk lamp generously provided by UConn and it’s energy provider, Eversource. Equipped with varying light intensity, color, and height variations, not only is this lamp a terrific addition to dorm aesthetics, but it provides students the chance to take part in UConn’s commitment to an environmentally sustainable future. With this new dorm addition, students can keep their dorms well-lit and be more energy efficient with a product that uses at least 75% less energy and lasts 25 times longer than incandescent lighting.
According to estimates by Eversource, student use of LED light bulbs for task lighting in the dorms saves more than 600,000kWh a year, concurrently reducing UConn’s carbon footprint by 400 tons of eCO2 and saving $60,000 in energy costs. These statistics also fall in line with UConn’s Climate Action Plan, where LED transition is a major component. Eversource has also estimated that if every student switched one old-school lamp with an LED, the saved emissions would total that similar to a small power plant for two semesters – and looking at the eager faces of students lined around the perimeter of the bookstore, it looks as though that statistic could one day be a reality.
This year-round attention to energy efficiency does not stop here. UConn also replaced refrigerators in both Charter Oak and Northwood apartments with ones that met the government-issued Energy Star standard. From June 15th to July 18th, 300 refrigerators were replaced, a transition that will conserve a whopping 10,000 kWh!
While the massive distribution of LED bulbs and refrigerators are themselves impressive feats, the giveaways signified something much more. With the generous support from Eversource, these initiatives are proof of UConn’s commitment to environmental stewardship, and more impressively, its commitment to maintaining this objective both in and out of the regular academic sessions and simultaneously involving students in the process.
On Wednesday February 22nd, the Office of Environmental Policy (OEP) hosted the 2020 Vision Student Summit, with the goal of obtaining student opinions on the UConn administration’s new plans to increase campus sustainability. Approximately 25 to 30 students attended and deliberated over how we can meet the Vision’s goals, as well as even more ambitious goals we can set for the future. In groups of 3-4, students discussed initiatives for topics ranging from transportation and purchasing to energy to food and waste management. During each group session, OEP interns recorded ideas for achieving our goals and setting new ones. Students then voted on which ideas seemed most plausible and impactful. Here are some pertinent reflections on the event written by student attendees:
“The specific goals of the 2020 Vision Plan appeared ambitious at first glance, and I was somewhat skeptical going into the meeting. Attending the summit and hearing that some of the goals set have already essentially been reached, however, such as the plan to reduce potable water consumption by 30% (UConn is currently at 29% if I recall correctly), altered that feeling dramatically. I’m far more optimistic about the eventual achievement of these goals, and excited for them to come to fruition.” – Sophie Macdonald
“From transportation to purchasing, dining to water, the school has people working in every possible way. Not only that, even though considerable strides have already been made towards a more sustainable campus, the dedication to the cause never waivers and there are always new objectives in sight.” – Emma Belliveau
“My favorite part was when I was in a small group with 2 other people and 2 interns and we were posed with the challenge of figuring out how to maintain the HEEP on campus. I felt very passionate about this because of all my personal experiences maintaining outdoor areas like parks and wooded fields, and doing trail work.” – Kelly Finn
“The… section that stood out to me was the outreach and engagement section. One of the goals under this section is to formalize UCONN@COP as “a co-curricular, experiential learning and leadership development program…” I personally love this initiative because after attending the Climate Café, I realized what a great opportunity this trip would be. There is no better way for students to learn about climate change than to attend the global conference dedicated to the issue, and UCONN should recognize the program for the opportunity that it is.” – Matthew McKenna
“At the UConn 2020 Vision Plan Student Summit, it became clear to me that at UConn, sustainability is not just a buzzword or a label the university uses to pat itself on the back. Rather, sustainability is a mode of operation and a system of values that governs policymaking and is upheld by an interdisciplinary team of passionate students and professional leaders.” – Weston Henry
“What the 2020 Summit did for me was to give me a more comprehensive understanding of the efforts that UConn undertakes, past, present, and future. It helped me to understand why UConn undertakes certain efforts, why it doesn’t take up others, and how the work of the OEP and its staff is able to shape UConn every single day.” – Colin Mortimer
“I was absolutely blown away by the sense of creativity and motivation that I felt while we were all discussing the different ideas for UConn’s 2020 Vision. I deeply enjoyed the presentation by Director Richard Miller because he gave many fascinating details that I was not aware of beforehand. I am certainly proud of our university for ranking in the top ten on two separate sustainability indexes.” – Joshua Tellier