Ashley James ’14, Ben Campbell ’16, and Edwin Amador ’15 Contributed
Recently, four Colgate students (Ashley James ’14, Ben Campbell ’16, Claire Lichtenstein ’16, and Edwin Amador ’15) attended the New England Campus Sustainability Forum in Boston, Massachusetts. This forum brought students and faculty from universities, colleges, and programs from multiple states in the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions to participate in panels and workshops on a series of topics involved in campus sustainability and environmental activism.
According to Ben Campbell ’16, “The most important thing I learned was that it is extremely possible to make changes at your own campus. Initially, I thought the concept was rather daunting, but this conference helped me realize that I can actually make changes. The conference made me feel hopeful and enthusiastic. The speakers inspired me to feel hopeful about our future and hopeful for my involvement in this movement.”
Ashley James ’14 expressed similar sentiments, “The most important thing I learned was the vast amount of resources available to anyone passionate or even just interested in advancing sustainability at any level. The conference made me feel optimistic to know the overwhelming capacity to respond to the situation at hand in order to actively create, rather than simply idealize, a truly sustainable future sooner than we think.”
The forum featured many prominent figures in the environmental community including: Professor Julian Agyeman from Tufts University, Mary Powell from Green Mountain Power, and Bill McKibben co-founder of 350.org. Of those, Professor Agyeman presented an inspirational central keynote speech during lunch about the inequity associated with racial discrimination and minority communities. Professor Agyeman also discussed our roles and responsibilities, as the environmentally aware, in distributing knowledge and doing our parts in our respective communities and campuses.
After a brief breakfast and presentation by Mary Powell, the conference broke up into several groups with different themes and workshops. One of these workshops involved Mark Orlowski (Sustainable Endowments Institute), Joshua Humphreys (Croatan Institute), and Noelle Laing (Cambridge Associates), where they discussed the concept of divestment, or disinvestment in fossil fuels, as a method of reducing campus’ carbon footprint and developing a sustainable environment, a hot topic at Colgate and many universities currently. They stressed the need for universities, especially ones like Colgate with a goal of carbon neutrality, to use this tactic to not only reduce our carbon footprint but also increase our returns on our endowment via the methods of divestment.
Soon after lunch Professor Agyeman discussed sustainability in cities, immigrant populations, social equity and how it all ties to environmental justice. He focused on urban populations and how urban planners need to start taking into account different social class and immigrants into different urban cities, and provided numerous examples on as to how to go about doing so. He also managed to point out how social injustices can lead to environmental injustice and vice versa. He gave an example of a minority population in Massachusetts and the correlation between the rate of incidence of asthma in the neighborhoods with no clean air buses compared to neighborhoods with clean air buses. Lastly, Professor Agyeman spoke to the interest of the environmental justice movement within students, he called out for students to pick up the environmental justice movement.