By Richard Coca
“Hey hey ho ho fossil fuels have got to go.”
As I walked down to Palo Alto’s City Hall, I heard a familiar chant that made my ears perk up at first listen. The day was September 20, but more importantly, it was the day of the Global Climate Strike. A culmination of multiple climate justice movements, the Global Climate Strike sought to show to the world that climate justice advocates come in many sizes, ages, cultures, and from almost every place on our collective planet.
Kids from toddlers to high school students were among the crowd and quite frankly, they were the ones who really made me smile and gave me hope. One young student was also given the microphone during the event and made a passionate argument for the adoption of the Green New Deal. While opponents of the Green New Deal might have you believe that such a policy would be too difficult for a child to understand, this student made it clear: our planet can’t afford inaction.
Among the crowd were also student activists working with Sunrise Movement. Many of them brought with them megaphones that allowed them to lead chants. Others brought signs expressing their support for the Green New Deal.
As I heard one of them lead a “fossil fuels have got to go chant,” I was reminded that organizing for climate action extended beyond just the global strike. That chant reminded of when Fossil Free Stanford lead a protest and rally in order to get Stanford to divest from fossil fuels. It reminded me that there are many organizations on campus working to make sure Stanford does its part.
To make it clear, organizing for climate justice is a long-term commitment. It means not only centering the environment and ways to mitigate the climate crisis. It means centering indigenous voices, Black voices, the voices of people and color, and the voices of most marginalized who have been and will continue to be disproportionally affected by the climate crisis.
By Julia Simon
In your first few weeks at Stanford, there is already so much to take in. Between figuring out classes to take, navigating which clubs to join or what programs to get involved in, and managing life at Stanford, there’s a lot to learn quickly and lots of avenues to explore, especially when it comes to sustainability on campus. Stanford aims to lead college campuses in efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, including becoming 80% carbon free by 2025 and achieving zero waste by 2030 among other goals for greater energy, water, and resource conservation. This blog post details many of the ways we can support these goals as students, engage in the process of making Stanford an even more sustainable place, and learn how to lead sustainable lives in the future. While this is not a comprehensive list of all the ways to support sustainability on campus, it’s a great place to start!
The easiest ways to engage in sustainability on campus involves practices in your dorm. Every room is equipped with recycling bins, and each dorm has some central location. It’s essential to learn how to properly sort your paper, plastic, and other wastes to help minimize the amount of waste Stanford sends to landfills. The Stanford Recycling Center uses this great graphic to detail what trash goes in which bin. Generating less waste helps meet that goal, too. Buying Tupperware and reusable cups and dishes to store food or secondhand books or clothes and donating any surplus you can help to reduce how much waste we landfill.
There are a number of little things you can do to conserve energy and water. Unplug cords and appliances when you’re not using them. Try just to wash clothes when you have a full load and use cold water. Think before you print and try to use the backs of old papers when you can. Not only do all of these small actions help reduce your footprint, but you can even get rewarded for many of them on My Cardinal Green. My Cardinal Green is a platform created as a part of the Sustainable Stanford effort to promote ways to participate in Stanford’s sustainability efforts. You can sign into the site, take a survey that will help determine which sustainability actions best align with your lifestyle on campus, and then you can begin completing suggested actions. Once you complete the actions and submit them with any relevant documentation, you can earn points, and for every 100 points you gain, you can redeem your choice of $75, a sustainability-related item or experience, or an equivalent charitable donation. So it pays to live sustainably on campus, too.
RD&E has published a great guide for sustainable living that is also worth checking out, as it lists ways to engage in sustainability in your room, around campus, and beyond:
Besides day-to-day sustainable actions, there are clubs, programs, and events you can participate in to learn more about sustainability and promote it on campus and beyond. Here are some sustainability-related clubs:
• Students for Sustainability: We are one of the largest sustainability-related groups on campus that aims to strives for long-lasting sustainable practices on and off the Stanford campus through discussion, engagement, and direct action.
• Engineers for a Sustainable World: ESW strives to improve the quality of life in underserved communities through building partnerships with those who share their vision and developing the necessary perspectives and skillsets.
• Stanford Farmers: Stanford Farmers aims to increase community involvement in the campus farm to connect people to their food and food system, particularly through experiential learning.
• Stanford Gleaning Project: At the intersection of food equity and sustainability, the Stanford Gleaning Project harvests excess fruit from the Stanford campus for donation to underserved populations in the Bay Area.
• Stanford Oceans Society: Stanford Ocean Society is a community of students wishing to support interests in oceans related issues through social events, networking, arts projects, and other extracurricular activities.
• Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability (SEEDS): SEEDS is dedicated to ecological education. They teach local high school students about ecology, bring students to Jasper Ridge, and hold an annual Bio Blitz at Lake Lagunita.
Sustainability in the Classroom
Over the years, SSS has compiled some of our members’ favorite sustainability classes. Since sustainability is a multi-disciplinary topic, these classes span several departments and cover a wide variety of sustainability topics. Whether you’re new to the sustainability world or not, classes from this list are well worth squeezing in to your four-year plan.
• CHEMENG/ENGR 25E: Energy: Chemical Transformations for Production, Storage, and Use
• CS 325B: Data for Sustainable Development (EARTHSYS 162, EARTHSYS 262)
• GSBGEN 335: Clean Energy Project Development and Finance
• EARTHSYS 160: Sustainability Cities (URBANST 164)
• PWR 194EP: Topics in Writing & Rhetoric: Introduction to Environmental Justice: Race, Class, Gender and Place (CSRE 132E, EARTHSYS 194, URBANST 155EP)
• EARTHSYS 114: Environmental Change and Emerging Infectious Diseases (EARTHSYS 214, ESS 213, HUMBIO 114)
• CS 50: Using Tech for Good
• HISTORY 203C: History of Ignorance
• EARTHSYS 243: Environmental Advocacy and Policy Communication
• CEE 107A: Understanding Energy (CEE 207A, EARTHSYS 103)
• BIO 105A/B: Ecology and Natural History of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (EARTHSYS 105A/B)
• BIO 30: Ecology for Everyone
• AFRICAAM 241A: Gentrification (CSRE 141, URBANST 141)
Whether you decide to participate in My Cardinal Green, join a sustainability-focused club, or take a class on a new topic, you’ll be well on your way to learning how to balance sustainability in your own life and career. We hope you’ll share all you learn with us over the years!
by Becca Nelson
When people think about “nature” or “environmental” writing, writers like Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, and John Muir often come to mind. However, more recently, the canon of environmental writing has expanded to include a greater diversity of voices and perspectives. In the 21st century, writers are increasingly sharing stories about environmental justice, climate change, and other intersectional facets of sustainability.
Here I list ten really amazing creative nonfiction and poetry books about social-environment issues that have been published within the last thirty years. This is by no means a comprehensive list. More just some reflections on books I’ve nerded out over. I was able to access most of these books through the Stanford Libraries.
1. The Turquoise Ledge by Leslie Marmon Silko
This vivid memoir came out in 2010. Silko, a Laguna Pueblo writer, interweaves stories of her family’s history and discussions of spirituality with walks through the Sonoran desert in Arizona.
2. Trace: Memory, History, Race, and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy.
Savoy, an earth scientist, published this narrative nonfiction book in 2015. Savoy examines the interconnections between the histories of her multiracial family and the geologic histories embedded in the American landscape. She discusses race and the environment from a range of places, including the US-Mexico borderlands and Washington DC.
3. Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
Rush, currently a lecturer at Brown University, published this book of narrative journalism in 2018. Incisive and elegiac, she examines how sea level rise is currently impacting a variety of communities across America’s coasts as well as the salt marsh ecosystems they rely on.
4. The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams
Williams, one of the most talented contemporary nature writers, explores social-ecological issues across different National Parks. Publishing this work in 2016, she grounds her writing with a combination of natural history, personal memoir, and reflections on a politically polarized America.
5. The Colors of Nature: Culture, Identity, and the Natural World, co-edited by Lauret Savoy and Alison Hawthorne Deming
This 2011 anthology centers the narratives of writers of color, amplifying stories that blend together discussions of cultural identity and the environment. It includes works by Jamaica Kincaid, Yusef Komunyakaa, Camille Dungy, David Mas Masumoto, Ofelia Zepeda, and many other writers.
6. In Search of the Canary Tree: The Story of a Scientist, a Cypress, and a Changing World by Lauren Oakes
This book recently came out last year and the author received her PhD from Stanford. Lauren Oakes shares the story of yellow-cedar trees in Alaska that are dying due to climate change and the communities of people that rely on these trees.
7. Iep Jāltok: Poems from a Marshallese Daughter by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner
In her 2017 collection of poetry, Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner bears witness to how climate change, racism, colonialism, and nuclear testing have affected the Marshall Islands. She weaves together her lived experiences with her family’s history, creating a language of resistance and resilience.
8. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Kolbert, a writer for the New Yorker, received the Pulitzer Prize for this book in 2015. Kolbert tells the story of alarming biodiversity loss, showing that people are causing a mass extinction through climate change and habitat destruction. She translates the research that scientists are trying to do understand and mitigate these losses into a compelling and accessible narrative.
9. Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
Like most of Oliver’s work, this 2004 collection of poetry seeks solace in the natural world. Oliver, who passed away in early 2019, was one of the most widely read contemporary nature poets.
10. Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Hidden Wars of the American West by Rebecca Solnit
Solnit juxtaposes historic violence and dispossession against Native Americans in Yosemite National Park with anti-nuclear activism at the Nevada Test Site. She integrates historical analysis, journalism, and personal narratives.
By Katherine Nolan
I woke up the Saturday of April 27th feeling groggy, sick, and lethargic. The hecticness and sleep deprivation of week 3 had taken its physical toll on me; that past friday night had I found myself going to bed at 6:30 PM only to reemerge on Saturday at 11:30 AM. I wasn’t sure I would feel up to going to Earthtones, but despite my lethargy I biked across campus to the O’Donahue Family Stanford Farm. I didn’t regret it.
At Earthtones I made saw beautiful and moving student artwork, listened to fantastic music, flower crowns, tea and salves with friends, ate tasty snacks from Rendezvous Cafe (a food-justice centered caterer), picked radishes from the farm to donate to a local homeless shelter, and met with other students who care deeply about centering people of color and their connection to the environment, environmental justice, and healing. Listening to Bay Area herbalist Camille-Lillian talk about the long history of natural medicine, I became aware of how this event--which had brought me outside to bask in the sunshine, get my hands dirty in the rows of radishes, laugh with old and new friends, and reflect on my own relationship to the outdoors--was healing me.
I thought I would bike home feeling just as groggy and stuck as I had when I first arrived, but instead I felt inspired to recenter environmental justice and the outdoors in my own life, and appreciate the many people on campus who are working toward a more just and sustainable world.
By Edith Pan and Zoe Brownwood
This post was originally posted on the blog Stanford Dumpsters--check it out for more about waste reclamation, waste reduction, and dumpster diving!
Hello, and welcome to the Waste Sorting and Reclamation Project! It’s basically a fancy way of saying that we dive into dumpsters, sort trash, and, more often than not, find treasure. We’re on a mission to rescue recyclables, reclaim compostables, and bring new life to salvageable goods once doomed to a dark fate in a landfill!
Our project started innocently. Zoe was taking out the trash and paused to toss some soda cans from the dumpster into the recycling just as I was biking back from class. I stopped at the dumpster to help Zoe bring back our room’s trash tubs, but fifteen minutes later, I was in the dumpster sorting out residential trash. What we found was disheartening— bags full of plastic bottles that had ended up in the dumpster, unopened and perfectly good food, items that could easily be repurposed or donated. Something had to be done, no matter how icky! Every few days, Zoe and I would make a trip down to our residential dumpster and do as much damage control as we could by ripping open trash bags, sorting out recyclables and compostables, and salvaging useable items.
A couple weeks later, Anthony joined us in what ended up being one of our most successful dumpster dive yet. We recovered a fully-functional baby crib (later sold of Craigslist!), several sets of dining hall silverware, children’s toys and hair accessories (donated to a happy mother after being sanitized), artwork, and a Kendall and Kylie brand bodysuit.
Now, we’re taking our initiative campus-wide. If one dumpster has hundreds of recyclable containers to be sorted out each week, we can only imagine how many bottles and cans could be rescued from all of Stanford’s dumpsters! By documenting our findings online, we hope that we can change how Stanford sorts waste. Thanks for joining us on this journey!
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.