by Becca Nelson '20
Eco-poetry is a genre of poetry that focuses on social-ecological issues, emphasizing interconnection between people and the environment. In the 21st century, climate change poetry emerged as a part of ecopoetry, examining how climate change and its consequences alter people’s relationships with the environment. Climate change poetry can make discussions of climate change more accessible to nonscientists, while also conveying the social and environmental consequences of climate change in a way that fosters empathy and inspires action. Climate change poetry can connect people with different backgrounds through creating a space for storytelling.
Here are some examples of climate change themed poems that I have been really inspired by. You can click on the hyperlinks to view the different poems.
1. "Yolanda Winds" by Isa Borgeson. Isa Borgeson is a Filipina American slam poet from Oakland, who uses poetry as a means to approach activism. Her poem "Yolanda Winds" tells the story of her mother's experiences surviving supertyphoon Haiyan (which was a locally called Yolanda), a devastating storm that hit the Philippines in 2013. In a description that accompanies the poem on You-Tube, Borgeson writes, "This piece, titled "Yolanda Winds" is dedicated to my mother, a survivor of the super typhoon, who struggles to forgive the sea. A reminder that we are a people of the sea. And for some of our families, sharing our stories about climate change, typhoon seasons, and rising oceans - is an act of resistance, necessary for our survival. "
2. “Dear Matafele Peinam” by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Jetnil-Kijiner is a Marshallese poet and climate activist whose poetry focuses on environmental justice issues in the Marshall Islands. Her poem "Dear Matafele Peinam" is an address to her baby daughter. Jetnil-Kijiner expresses her concerns that her daughter will become a climate change refugee as floods occur in the Marshall Islands. She concludes the poem with a defiant and rousing call to action, emphasizing the urgency of enacting climate change mitigation policy. She performed the poem as spoken word in 2014 at a climate summit to an audience of United Nations delegates.
3. "Atlas" by Terisa Siagatonu. Siagatonu is a Samoan poet and community organizer. Her poems often address issues of social and climate justice. In "Atlas", Siagatonu draws parallels between how colonialism and climate change have affected island communities. In the poem, Siagatonu writes, "When people ask me where I'm from/they don't believe me when I say water." You can find more of her poetry on her website.
These poems have really inspired me to continue writing, thinking, and taking action on climate change. Poetry has a visceral power to share the stories of people who have been directly impacted by climate change. Climate change poetry can serve as a medium for artists and activists to broaden the conversation about climate change and environmental justice. Ultimately, climate change poetry has the power to inspire action and help build community-based resilience in response to climate change.
by Hannah Findlay
Environmental labels have been around for more than three decades now, and their popularity has been growing ever since. This shouldn’t come as a surprise taking into account that the global community has been facing many environmental challenges. However, the popularity of green labels has brought confusion, as well.
What does being green mean today?
Green labels should indicate that the product is environmentally friendly. However, with so many different green labels on the market, it’s hard to know what each of them means. Eco-labels are often confused with environmental labels, and these terms are used interchangeably in everyday language, which is not always correct. Environmental labels are an umbrella term for all labels relating to the environment, while eco-labels are a subgroup of environmental labels which identify overall environmental performance of a product, based on life-cycle considerations. What makes eco-labels different from other types of environmental labels is the fact that they are voluntary certifications which are granted by third party organizations. This aspect makes them more reliable, and less prone to greenwashing. A third party organization grants an eco-label to a product or service only if the product or service is in compliance with the criteria of the ecolabelling scheme. The awarded eco-label suggests that the product or service achieves a higher standard of environmental performance compared to average products in the same product category.
Check out the interactive infographic below and learn more about most common eco-labels, their managing organizations, and products they apply to.
By: Jeff Rutherford, Greg Von Wald, Dante Orta Aleman
Reposted with permission from Stanford Energy Journal.
It’s likely that last winter quarter you were emailed or forwarded a petition by the student organization “Fossil Free Stanford” (FFS), “a student group dedicated to pursuing climate justice and making sure Stanford's investments are consistent with its commitment to combatting climate change.” FFS petitioned for the following to be considered in the spring ASSU elections:
In accordance with Stanford’s commitment to ethical investment, the University should divest its endowment from fossil fuel extraction companies in order to avert further environmental and social harm caused by climate change.
FFS collected more than 1,000 signatures and the amendment was included on the ASSU ballot as an advisory referendum, with no legislative impact but the purpose of taking a symbolic stance. According to the ASSU election results, released April 14, 2018, the amendment passed with 65% of the graduate student vote and 70% of the undergraduate vote. In light of these recent events, the objective of this article is to start a pragmatic discussion on the goals of fossil fuel divestment and the evidence for and against this approach.
The fossil fuel divestment activity at Stanford is closely tied to a larger, growing activist movement. Though divestment in general dates earlier, fossil fuel divestment was adopted as a tactic by the US climate activist community when cap and trade legislation failed to pass the Senate in 2010. Many credit Bill McKibben’s 2012 Rolling Stone piece “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” with motivating the activist community to target the fossil fuel industry and its associated reserves. The logic put forward by McKibben is that the potential emissions of proven fossil fuel reserves are more than five times the allowable limit before 2050 for an 80% chance of staying within 2ºC (the globally agreed upon target to avoid risking a dangerously unstable climate). This carbon budget identifies an alleged inconsistency between the assets of fossil fuel companies and climate stabilization. Globally, 852 institutions have divested from fossil fuels, either fully or partially (e.g. coal only).
The case made by the fossil fuel divestment campaign is two-fold: (1) the direct effect divestment will have on CO2 emissions and (2) the amorality of investing in fossil fuel extraction companies. Materially, campaigns hope divestment will reduce emissions by making business more difficult for the fossil fuel industry. According to FFS, divestment should “diminish the overwhelming political and economic power of the fossil fuel industry” through both direct fiscal impact and social stigmatization. Divestment aims to label fossil fuel assets as bad investments and make their brands toxic through symbolic disapproval, making recruitment and policy influence difficult. These material impacts aside, FFS acknowledges that this is largely “a statement of values.” Divestment campaigns make the moral argument that institutions claiming to promote sustainability are morally misaligned with investments in fossil fuel resources. The underlying business model and product of the fossil fuel industry, the campaign asserts, poses a threat to societal well-being.
Several studies have investigated the cost of fossil fuel divestment in terms of its impact on portfolio performance and found negligible impact on financial returns (here, here and here). Based on previous studies, it appears that fossil fuel divestment can be orchestrated in a way that maintains portfolio diversity and does not impact financial returns. That being said, there is also no evidence to suggest that divestment will have any measurable, near-term impact on the fiscal performance of fossil fuel extraction companies either. The idea that even a large sell-off of shares in a company will have a demonstrable impact on the company’s share price or access to capital is unsupported. Any shares sold will be acquired at a momentary discount by an investor without the same moral qualms. Consequently, this neutral investor may not exert the same pressure on corporate strategy that a more climate-conscious shareholder may. Meanwhile, the share price and financial well-being of a company will continue to be driven by expectations of long-term profitability. As such, divestment is only effective if it shifts the long-term outlook for the fossil fuel sector.
One objective of the divestment campaign is to drive the perception that fossil fuel extraction companies are bad investments in the long-term and their resources will become stranded assets in a low-carbon economy, however it is not apparent that this is the case at present. In a future scenario with sharp declines in oil demand or after implementation of an appropriate price on carbon, this may be the case. Citing “a financial risk we do not want to take in the context of real assets”, the University of California has chosen to gradually reduce investments in fossil fuels, and if there is significant financial risk, then divestment is an objectively sensible financial strategy. However, politically treating all fossil fuel investments as toxic assets will not change the facts of demand. Though the share of fossil fuels in our energy mix will gradually decrease, given the amount of demand that currently exists for fossil fuels there is no imminent threat of these resources becoming stranded assets. Fossil fuels constitute over 80% of current global energy supply and, though the International Energy Agency projects renewables will dominate energy capacity additions through 2040 (see “New Policies” scenario), fossil fuels are still expected to meet the majority of energy demand. Further, some industries such as shipping, aviation, metals, and chemicals have few-to-no low-carbon primary energy alternatives at present. The overwhelming consensus in the energy community is that this energy transition needs to occur and is not happening fast enough, however there is tremendous inertia built in to the global energy system that must first be overcome. In order for fossil fuel companies to become bad investments, there would need to be dramatic declines in demand or the passage of restrictive supply-side policy measures (production quotes, supply bans, etc.). Through stigmatization, divestment seeks to apply social and political pressure to catalyze these greater changes in consumer behavior and policy, however it is not obvious that this indirect approach is the most effective strategy.
The climate activist community considers the practices and business model of fossil resource extraction companies unethical and amoral, placing it at odds with the well-being of society. For example, investments held by Stanford Earth in fossil fuel companies may be perceived as being “hypocritical and antithetical to the school’s stated mission of ‘solv[ing] the enormous resource and environmental challenges facing the world.’” In addition to the carbon content of the fuel itself, activists often reference the complicated and duplicitous history fossil fuel companies have had with climate change. Most famously, Exxon knew about climate change as early as 1977 and, until very recently, maintained a public position that humans were not to blame. Fossil fuel companies have been known to routinely cast doubt on climate science as their business model depends on the extraction and exploitation of carbon-based fuels. By not acting swiftly and immediately on the issue of climate change, fossil fuel companies increased the risk of future climate disaster in order to increase profits today. These practices are one reason why fossil fuel companies are often compared to historical targets of divestment, the South African apartheid regime and the tobacco industry. These divestment campaigns are viewed as successes as they achieved their goal of catalyzing enough social and political pressure to make the desired cultural and economic changes. The apartheid regime actively abused human rights and tobacco companies produce an addictive, carcinogenic product that provides no benefit to society. There is no doubt that the fossil fuel extraction industry produces a resource that contributes to global climate change. But this resource also serves a bona fide purpose that it would be naïve to ignore. The feasibility of operating our energy system without fossil resources is still a fiercely debated topic among experts today.
There is no debate that given our emissions trajectory, there is extreme urgency to transition to cleaner energy resources as quickly as possible. However, even in the most radical transition scenario, the fossil fuel industry will exist at least in part to fuel the transition. Energy-dense fuels are needed to produce steel required to manufacture wind turbines, and until storage is available at scale, the flexibility of natural gas complements the variability of renewables on the electricity grid. According to Stanford professor Mark Zoback, “It’s not natural gas instead of renewables, it’s natural gas until renewables are of a scale that we can stop burning gas as we originally stopped burning coal.” Regardless of how short this window may be, some fraction of the fossil fuel reserves will need to be developed. Stanford both invests and partners with fossil fuel companies in research endeavors to decrease emissions (e.g. carbon capture and sequestration, energy systems optimization, life cycle assessment, etc.). By stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry, Stanford may risk damaging partnerships with these companies. Many industry partners have been valuable research collaborators through involvement in programs like the Global Climate and Energy Project. The fossil fuel industry understands that the energy sector is in transition. Ten of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies are now members of OGCI (Oil and Gas Climate Initiative), which commits to “the direction set out by the Paris Agreement on climate change, supporting its agenda for global action and the need for urgency.” Stanford´s Founding Grant calls to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford is uniquely positioned to serve as a catalyst of the energy transition, one component of which can be exercising that influence to ensure resources are developed in a way that minimizes the environmental impact.
The decarbonization of the energy system is an enormous challenge, the math is terrifying, and the risks are huge. Divestment may serve as a symbolic action stigmatizing the fossil fuel industry, in the hopes of catalyzing enough social pressure to force political action. Perhaps divestment can serve as one piece of the puzzle in mitigating climate change. Furthermore, if divestment is pursued, the capital may be re-allocated towards investment in companies that are more aggressively accelerating the energy transition. However, Stanford may be more effective at affecting change through meaningful collaboration rather than political stigmatization of an industry. Finally, political capital is likely better spent on actions which have direct effects on carbon emissions or the value of fossil resources by shrinking demand. Examples include encouraging an internal carbon tax, energy efficiency investments, electrification of transport on campus, and procurements of low-carbon electricity. Overall, your stance on the issue of divestment will depend on your position on several questions: Can divestment catalyze the necessary social and political pressure to cause precipitous declines in demand or enact meaningful policy change? Are fossil fuel companies an adversary with an amoral business model which ought to cease to exist, or are they a partner which is required, at least in part, to fuel the energy transition?
Jeff Rutherford is a PhD student, and Greg Von Wald and Dante Orta Aleman are Masters students in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University.
by Becca Nelson '20 and Deirdre Francks '20
On February 27th, Pacific Gas and Electric CEO Geisha Williams delivered a forward-thinking lecture on climate change for the 6th Annual Schneider Memorial Lecture. Geisha Williams is the CEO and President of PG&E and the first female Latina CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. Ms. Williams begin the lecture by emphasizing the crucial role climate scientist Steven Schneider played in helping PG&E take action on climate change. She asserted that “[Schneider] made a difference in my decision to join PG&E ten years ago.”
“We are living it. Climate change is here,” Ms. Williams began as she discussed how climate change is currently affecting California. She described how PG&E is taking action on mitigating climate change through innovation. Around 80% of the energy PG&E delivers to its customers comes from sources that emit zero greenhouse gases. In 2003 PG&E used 11% renewable energy, but they have transformed their energy to now be 33% renewables, triple the 2003 amount. Ms. Williams emphasized that PG&E would continue to implement transformative and innovative changes in order to combat climate change, including drastic emissions reductions and contributing to a low carbon economy through a modern, digitized electric grid. Williams asserted that new clean energy technologies will be best optimized through integrating these technologies into an electrical grid that promotes connectivity. She also emphasized the importance of equity in promoting sustainable energy, explaining, “If we create an energy future of have and have-nots, it won’t work...A clean energy future has to be accessible and affordable for all.” Ms. Williams further elaborated that a smarter electrical grid would help promote electric vehicles by enabling an increase in more widely available public charging stations.
Geisha Williams explored the policy implications for a sustainable energy grid in California. She discussed the challenges that arise when rapid technological innovation in the energy sector outpaces the infrastructure of regulatory policies. Ms. Williams argued that an effective policy infrastructure is crucial to supporting investment in clean energy. California laws currently have a policy of inverse condemnation where if a power line falls as a result of extreme weather, the energy company has legal liability and becomes the insurer. With the recent wildfires in California, this policy has posed difficulties for PG&E. Ultimately, Ms. Williams called for a “collaborative approach involving policymakers, communities, and industries”.
Geisha Williams discussed her personal journey and career path. As a child, she immigrated to the United States from Cuba. She was inspired by her parents who worked multiple jobs. “I grew up believing in hard work and anything was possible if you had the courage to pursue it”, Ms. Williams said. Early in her career, Ms. Williams shared with us that the becoming CEO never occurred to her, as she said, “Women didn’t run big companies back then. Latina woman? Immigrants? Come on.” However, a conversation with a mentor changed her perspective when he asked “Why not you?” in terms of running the company in the future. Ms. Williams gave advice for how to be a woman leader in a male-dominated business sector by stressing the importance of doing quality work, not being defined by obstacles, and being respectful of others, while also demanding respect. She concluded the lecture with a rousing call to action, asserting that we all have the potential to be leaders and innovators in taking action on climate change.
by Alex Li, '21
The Bay Area has one of the most diverse public transportation systems in the world. On the plus side, such a system works decently well at meeting the needs of its local citizens. On the down side, the system is incredibly hard to navigate across systems, and across the bay. This is probably most clearly demonstrated by the fact that the Bay Area has no real unifying transportation diagram. I’m sure most of you have heard about BART and Caltrain, but fewer know about San Francisco’s robust Muni streetcars, or San Jose’s extensive VTA light rail.
The issues of creating a more unified Bay Area transportation network is much about creating a more seamless network and having agencies come together in planning the future of the Bay Area (I’m looking at you, Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)). However, a unified map can do wonders in the public perceptions of the system. After all, the transit map is often the first interaction you have with any rapid transit system. So I’ve put together a system map for the Bay Area:
As opposed to the current system map by the MTC (there’s a really good reason why this isn’t really used):
As you can see, the system is decently comprehensive (though broken up by many agencies). As the Bay Area increases in population, it is imperative that the system continues to move more people and improve its service. But it won’t move any more people unless people like opting to commute without a car. I’m not saying that cars are not useful or that they aren’t necessary, but rather, the more trips that are taken without a car, the more people the current system can move. In addition to getting 30 minutes on a bus/train for yourself, you also (generally) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, encourage denser urban land development, increase funding (and service improvements) to transit agencies and reduce the cost of your commute (in energy and in money).
So next time you leave campus, consider taking a trip without a car. Every trip saved is a walk, bike, and ride away to a more sustainable world! Happy commuting!
If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org (or if you just want to chat about urban transportation systems).
by Cara Pike, guest blogger from Climate Access, a nonprofit pursuing equitable climate solutions
For many, virtual reality conjures extreme video gaming or fantastical journeys into other dimensions from the comfort of your couch. But immersive, 3D experiences are now being used to prepare doctors for surgery, design airplanes, and engage Americans on climate impacts.
This week, Climate Access launched the Look Ahead - San Francisco campaign in partnership with the City of San Francisco. The campaign is centered around the Look Ahead virtual reality app, which offers a first-person look at future sea-level rise in three locations in San Francisco – the Embarcadero, Mission Creek and Heron’s Head Park – and how these sites could benefit from climate solutions. Available for download onto smartphones and tablets the Look Ahead app downloads provides a 360-degree tour that includes key landmarks, infrastructure and recreation points being used by virtual people.
The view of some of San Francisco’s iconic landscapes submerged under water is arresting. But the Look Ahead app isn’t just about visualizing risk. The interface also shows a range of potential responses and makes it easy for users to sign up for more information, take steps to reduce risks from flooding and help cut carbon emissions.
Climate leaders who are unfamiliar with the potential of VR should see it for themselves. (Download the Look Ahead app via Google Play or the Apple App Store.) Last year I visited Stanford University where they are studying the effect of virtual reality on public perceptions and behaviors. Their research shows that VR can increase environmental concern and motivation and promote altruism. On the other hand, violent VR experiences can lead to more aggressive behavior. That’s why it’s important to understand what’s emerging and how VR can be used to promote social good as well as avoid harm.
Look Ahead – San Francisco builds on earlier efforts to test the use of virtual reality in climate communication. We led projects in Marin and San Mateo County, where VR viewers were installed near locations at risk from sea-level rise. With the help of Dr. Susanne Moser and Christa Daniels of Antioch University, we found that VR can increase concern around climate impacts like sea-level rise and the will to act. Thousands of communities members checked out the viewers and shared their concerns and support for action via the VR platform – information that county officials used to shape local resilience plans.
Virtual reality is soon to become mainstream and potentially as disruptive as the introduction of the internet and social media. The day after the launch of Look Ahead, the sale of VR headsets hit a new high of one million sold just over the last quarter. Are you ready for the new reality of virtual reality?
For more information on the Look Ahead - San Francisco campaign, visit www.lookahead-sf.org. Follow us on twitter @lookaheadsf or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lookahead.sf.1
by Katie Lan, Paloma Hernandez, Tuheen Murali Manika, and Lauren McLaughlin
Students for a Sustainable Stanford's Environmental Justice project group has created the following series of posters to bring attention to issues of environmental justice that are often missing from the mainstream.
It’s no news that greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions are contributing to anthropogenic climate change now, but you might not know that climate change doesn’t affect us all equally. Research suggests that poor communities, which have historically emitted lower levels of GHGs, will suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change. East Palo Alto is one example.
In 2015, 196 countries came together to negotiate the Paris Agreement, an international agreement concerning climate change mitigation, adaptation, and finance. While two of the three top GHG emitters--China and India--are on track to surpass their emissions reduction commitment under this agreement, the second largest polluter is not. That's us.
￼Shifting global trends toward a market of more sustainable and organically-produced coffee seems promising. In many primary coffee-producing countries, such as Guatemala, sustainability certifications are helping farmers establish economic resilience and independence.
However, farmers in over 50 countries are still paid less than $3 a day for picking over 100 pounds of coffee. Farmer’s yearly incomes of around $600 are equivalent to the cost a ticket to a Beyoncé concert!
Take the time to be an informed consumer. Look for sustainability labels before purchasing that cup of joe that fuels your day. Help promote sustainable farming practices and fair treatment of the farmers that work so hard to produce these ‘magic’ beans!
LEARN THE STORY OF YOUR COFFEE
How would you feel to know that you were unknowingly living within walking distance from one of the most toxic waste sites in the nation? And how would you feel to realize that the federal government recognizes the toxicity of the waste site, yet has failed to take action to clean up the area in a timely manner?
Superfund Sites are areas that represent some of the highest concentrations of hazardous waste in the nation, are are designated by Congress for funded waste cleanup. Superfund sites carry one of the four following labels: Proposed, Active, Construction, and Deleted. In many higher-income areas, Superfund Sites will be either Construction, Completed, or Deleted, meaning that either all facilities for waste cleanup efforts have been built or all cleanup efforts have been completed. In lower-income areas, however, it is not uncommon to see a high concentration of Superfund Sites started nearly 30 years ago that still carry the Active label, meaning that the appropriate facilities to clean up the hazardous waste have not yet been built.
45% of people of color live within three miles of a Superfund Site, a staggering statistic that we must bring down in the future.
Toxic Air in Richmond
by Deidre Francks, '20
The countdown begins! Just one week from today—on Tuesday, February 27th—Students for a Sustainable Stanford will host the sixth annual Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture. This year we will welcome Geisha J. Williams, President and CEO of PG&E, to speak on “Energy Network of Tomorrow: How to Reach California’s Climate Goals.” After months of tireless work from our Schneider lecture coordinators and other members of SSS, I look forward to this event with incredible excitement and pride. This will be the second Schneider Lecture I’ve attended, following last year’s lecture delivered by John Holdren, former Chief Science and Technology Advisor to President Obama.
This year, throughout all of the excitement of Schneider lecture preparations, I have found myself increasingly curious about the life and work of the late Dr. Stephen H. Schneider—the esteemed climate scientist and communicator for whom SSS’s annual memorial event is dedicated. Although he passed away before my time at Stanford, it’s impossible to ignore Dr. Schneider’s legacy as a beloved professor, trusted advisor, and dear friend to many who are still on this campus today. Dr. Schneider’s name has been mentioned by professors and peers throughout many of my classes—a testament to his wide-ranging influence in the fields of interdisciplinary climate science and communication. What follows is a brief overview of the legacy left by Dr. Schneider, which—despite hardly scratching the surface of his vast and accomplished career—gives some context for why we work to honor his memory each year with the Schneider Memorial Lecture.
After receiving his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and plasma physics from Columbia University, Dr. Schneider spent his early career working for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) where he researched the effects of aerosols and greenhouses gases on the atmospheric system. During his time at NCAR, Dr. Schneider became deeply interested in global climate modeling and was among the earliest scientists to express concern about the emerging threat of anthropogenic climate change. Before arriving at Stanford in 1996, Schneider had already received the MacArthur Fellow “Genius Award” for his climate research and communication efforts, founded the journal Climatic Change, served as a White House consultant under numerous administrations, and established his public presence as a global climate expert. He was later elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an accomplishment for which he and other authors received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with former Vice President Al Gore.
In addition to his remarkable scientific expertise and countless related awards, Dr. Schneider had a gift for science communication that set him apart from many others in his field. A clear and persuasive communicator, Schneider never shied away from the opportunity to convey complex scientific concepts to the general public and others outside of the scientific community.
Throughout his career he delivered speeches, authored books, and even testified before congress on the science of anthropogenic climate change and its associated impacts. Crucially, Dr. Schneider was fearless in the face of criticism. While he acknowledged the difficulty of communicating the risks and uncertainties of climate change to policymakers and members of the general public, Dr. Schneider relentlessly stressed the importance of competent science communication. Above all else, Dr. Schneider aimed to educate, advise, and empower people to make smarter decisions in the face of a changing climate.
Each year, to honor Dr. Schneider’s legacy of climate communication, Students for a Sustainable Stanford invites an esteemed speaker to campus to speak on an issue related to climate, environment, or sustainability. In years past, with the invaluable support of Dr Schneider’s widow Dr. Terry Root, we have hosted former Vice President Al Gore, former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, urban farmer Will Allen, and the aforementioned science advisor to President Obama, John Holdren. We are now thrilled and honored to welcome Geisha Williams to our campus next week, for what will surely be yet another in a long line of truly illuminating talks.
photo credit: http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Symposium/SHS_symposium.html
by Becca Nelson '20
From Thursday February 2nd to Monday February 5th, eight college students from University Tecnológico de Monterrey (TEC) in Mexico visited Stanford. The students were part of an innovative sustainability club called Programa Estudiantil de Sostenibilidad (PES), whose mission is similar to that of SSS. SSS and PES participated in a weekend of collaborative events focusing on how to affect sustainable change on college campuses and building a foundation for future teamwork.
The visiting students along with members of SSS went on a tour of SESI, Stanford’s cutting-edge energy facility. Many PES students are studying engineering and enjoyed learning about the design elements of SESI. SSS and PES also toured together Stanford’s educational farm and Y2E2, an energy efficient building on campus. We engaged in a discussion about global alternative energy policy and implementation at a faculty panel at the Woods Institute for the Environment with Professor Craig Criddle and Professor Mark Jacobson. Professor Criddle is an environmental engineer who specializes in using microbes to remediate contamination, and Professor Jacobson has developed a global plan for renewable energy solutions.
Later at a Sustainability Salon dinner hosted by Roble Sustainability Leader Songhee Han, we discussed in collaboration with the Roble Living Laboratory for Sustainability at Stanford how to inspire people to make more sustainable choices. We found common ground in the challenges we face in terms of getting people on campus to care about sustainability. During the dinner, I was moved by the stories of the students from PES, who were able to spark action about sustainability through leading by example. As the evening progressed, we delved into the future of environmental policy in the United States and Mexico and how it related back to our current collaboration.
Along with the students, TEC faculty member Diana Guzmán Barraza visited Stanford. She is an innovator in sustainable energy design and implementation, receiving a Leadership Award from former President of Mexico Vicente Fox, the Friendship Award from United Nations (UNFCCC), the High-Achievement Award from Santander, and full academic excellence scholarships. Diana Guzmán Barraza has a wealth of experience as a climate activist from serving as a delegate in the United Nations to collaborating with NGOs, such as: Climate Reality Project, Citizen Climate Lobby, and the Citizen Observatory of the Air Quality of Monterrey. She appeared on Al Gore´s international live transmission 24 hours of Reality. She shared with us her experiences in affecting sustainable change in implementing energy efficient policies on college campuses.
Together, SSS and PES hiked through the ancient redwoods at Big Basin State park and discussed what we could learn from each other. After a series of collaborative discussions, we signed an agreement as organizations to engage in long-term collaboration, share best practices, and engage in ongoing communication regarding our initiatives. I would like to extend a warm thank you to our visitors from TEC and look forward to future collaboration.
by Chris LeBoa '19
“Hey Mrs. Grant” I call out and wave to the always smiling matriarch of the East Palo Alto Senior Center.
“Hey honey” she responds while pushing an empty cart in front of her. “Just pull your car right in there. I have called some of my homeless friends and the people from Project WeHope to come by and get some food too”. We unload the boxes of produce, frozen chicken, loaves of bread and pasta from the car together, and she comments on almost every item that emerges from the trunk. “Oh the seniors are going to love this” she exclaims while holding up a box of leftover pastries from Meyer dorm’s ski trip. “Oh my friend Olga can take these to the people who live in an RV” Ms. Grant points to a box of apples and oranges left over from Arroyo’s trip. It is a process that has almost become routine as we try to redistribute Stanford’s excess to those in need locally.
At Stanford we have the luxury of food any hour of the day or night. Our student ID cards give us access to dining halls and cafes that greet us every day with platters and trays piled high with salmon, chicken, roasted vegetables, etc.
So many in the community around Stanford do not have the same privilege of having food on their tables or knowing where their next meal is coming from. The housing crisis in the Bay Area has forced many to make the hard choice of feeding their families, paying the rent, or paying for medical bills. Today over 1/3rd of school-aged children in East Palo Alto are homeless, according to a report by the Guardian.
Some at Stanford have have been working for many years to redistribute our leftovers to those in need. The Residential and Dining Services allow volunteers from Peninsula Food Runners to pick up leftovers from some dining halls weekly. Volunteers from the student group Stanford Project on Hunger (SPOON) collect forty to sixty pounds of food daily from Russo Café and the Faculty Club. The volunteers freeze the food and work with Ecumenical Hunger Program to get the food to their distribution centers.
Stanford Project on Hunger has also been working with Students for a Sustainable Stanford to collect leftover food from the row house kitchens at the end of each quarter, ski trip leftovers, athletic events, other catered events on campus.
While we try to do all that we can to redistribute food from campus to local communities we need more administrative support and action on this issue. A recent positive action is that a local nonprofit has offered us a refrigerated truck for our food collection purposes. However we are still plagued by challenges.
First, food rescue is labor intensive and we do not have enough volunteers or time to handle this almost full time job. I believe that Stanford should create a new full time position, an employee who would oversee the logistics of collecting from all dining halls, cafes, athletic concession stands, and large catered events.
Secondly, we lack the timely support of ASSU. When our freezers stopped holding temperature last quarter and we requested access to our reserve funds to purchase new freezers, they took more than a month to approve our request and have still not transferred the funds despite multiple visits and emails. This has prevented us from collecting any food from Russo Café and the Faculty Club because we do not have the appropriate storage to safely store the food until EHP volunteers can pick it up.
Lastly, if your dorm is going on a ski trip this weekend and you would like to donate the leftovers, or if you would like to get more involved please email me directly at email@example.com.
Welcome to our blog!
This is a forum for students to share their writing on intersectional environmental topics, curated by Students for a Sustainable Stanford. Writers of all backgrounds, abilities, and perspectives are welcome.