A Three-Part Vision for Student Engagement in Climate and Food Action

By Community Resilience Fellow and CNI Climate Ambassador Tope Aladetimi. January 31, 2018.

My weekend at Asilomar Conference Center was a retreat I didn’t know I needed. The retreat was three days, but the time we spent together made the days seem to fold into one. During the weekend of October 20 to October 22, 2017, Carbon Neutrality fellows and Global Food fellows in the University of California system came from far and wide to engage, discuss and learn from and with each other. Prior to this retreat, we were all virtually strangers. There were a few UC Irvine students present, but I had not met any fellows from any other UC campus. As we were settling in and introducing ourselves, we learned about their fellowships and their individual projects that they are carrying out for the school year. In what seemed like small moments throughout the weekend, I got the chance to learn about what fuels their passion for protecting our planet and what sustainable changes they hope to see on their campus, our UC system, and the world.


This was a jarring experience. We began as strangers, but there was a charge present in the room whenever we spoke about food security, zero carbon emissions, and climate change. This care we had for our planet connected us and became more evident as the weekend came to an end. During the retreat, we made sure to create a space where the rules were clear: it is okay to be wrong and all of us are welcome. From these reassuring words I felt I was safe to be in a space where I can be corrected and where I can learn openly from a place of just genuine curiosity. On one of the most empowering days of the leadership retreat, we sat down and cohesively curated our vision.


Our Statement of Vision was divided into three,clearly outlining: culture of sustainability, action, and inclusion.

  • Culture of Sustainability: We stated that we hope to cultivate a campus community that sees sustainability and food security as a cultural norm.
  • Action: We also envisioned holding the University of California accountable to proactively engaging with community members to prioritize an even distribution of funds and equitable policy, rooted in research based facts.
  • Inclusion: we wanted to ensure that the University includes all communities for equal access of basic needs and for there to be cross cultural collaboration on food security and sustainability.

Upon leaving this seemingly getaway experience, I felt that the ambitions and goals I set out to pursue on campus were actually attainable. I felt inspired by these individuals who harbored my same passions. I wanted to know what worked and did not work in their campus when pushing the envelope for sustainability and I got that and much more. I was moved by their heart for their work and encouraged by their discouragement, in knowing that I am not alone in my doubts or fears. It was also important for me to know what kept them doing this necessary work on their respective campuses. In hearing that, it also grounded me. At times I get so caught up in the work of it all that my purpose often gets lost. It is important to put that in the forefront of all the work you do, because it is not easy and discouragement comes. This retreat gave me a support system necessary to make transformative change and for that I can only be grateful.