Students Link Environment and Social Justice at Summit
By Tope Aladetimi, Community Resilience Fellow. February 20, 2018. In February 2018, Community Resilience fellows and other student leaders came together at the Social Justice Summit. This student-led summit is for student staff within UCI Student Housing. The purpose of this summit is to introduce housing staff to social justice concepts and resources on campus to share with students in their residence halls.
For the Social Justice Summit, I collaborated with the Global Sustainability Resource Center; the Center for Black Cultures, Resources and Research; as well as the other Community Resilience Fellows. We decided to call our Social Justice Summit piece, “Sustainability Meets the World.” We came together to combat the strong stigma and misconception on our campus that sustainability can only be practiced by those coming from elite socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. The truth is that sustainability practices vary from culture to culture and by embracing that diversity we can obtain a better understanding of each other and the steps we need to take to make environmentally and socially just changes in our community. By the end of this workshop, we aimed for the student staff to leave with a fresh understanding of:
- Environmental justice and the ways that social justice and sustainability go hand in hand;
- Ways that the root cultures of many of our students here at UCI have been practicing care for the earth for generations
- Ways that Housing staff and students can join us in building youth leadership for community resilience to a changing climate.
At the Summit, Community Resilience Fellow Shirleen Achieng reflected, “Unfortunately it is the case that poor populations of color often bear the brunt of climate impacts even though they commit less damage to the environment. Since these communities are often less equipped to deal with the consequences of environmental change, an act of environmental justice is through community resilience.”
Byron Mobley, from the Center for Black Cultures, continued, “We see it as the role of student leaders to ensure that whatever changes come as the climate changes, that justice is central to the new systems and cultures us, as humans, create next. That’s why our workshop here starts with culture. We have to understand where we’ve come from in order to put social justice at the center of any forward-thinking effort to build sustainability.” The presentation then showed how the root cultures of many of our students here at UCI have been practicing care for the earth.
Bo Daraphant, Community Resilience Fellow with the Cross-Cultural Center noted, “Some people may hear the words environmental justice and think that the words mean just protesting environmental harms. But that is not the way we think about it. Environmental justice more typically refers to the efforts that communities make to ensure that Black, Brown, and Indigenous peoples do not unfairly bear the brunt of the pollution and other harms from our extractive economy. People working for ‘ecological justice’ are working to ensure that all communities have what they need to be able to thrive in relation to a healthy ecosystem.”
For the main portion of our program, we highlighted 6 different countries, Costa Rica, Kenya, Nigeria, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, and showing how sustainability is ingrained into some of their cultural practices. Each presenter introduced the country and culture that they either know most about or are personally connected to. As an example of traditional sustainable practices, we introduced students to simple homemade beauty/health product recipes from three of the countries mentioned. Before we ended, we turned the attention towards the audience and ask them how their own cultures might practice sustainability and ways that Housing staff and students can join us in building youth leadership for community resilience to a changing climate.