First-ever forum focuses on social justice and inequality
UCSU, the CU Environmental Center and SORCE held the first of three discussions on environmental justice Tuesday evening from 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The event, a dinner followed by a series of speakers, presentations and discussions led by students and faculty, focused on the problems of environmental justice within the CU community as well as on state, local and international levels.
“The goal of tonight was to put all the problems out there,” Alexis Goggans, a senior history major, who chairs the Environmental Justice Steering Committee, said.
In her opening remarks, Goggans emphasized the progress being made at CU and the importance of communication and building community.
“Saving the environment is as much an individual effort as a community one,” she said.
A key focus of the discussion was defining environmental justice in concrete terms in order to better facilitate discussion about how environmental justice was being addressed within the CU community.
Amy Harris, a senior environmental studies major and Sustainability Director for UCSU, explained this.
“(Environmental justice) is a state where all peoples have access to the basic amenities,” Harris said. “There are many people who don’t care about this because they’re privileged.”
Keynote speaker Dr. Daniel Sturgis, an instructor who has worked in the philosophy department at CU since 2002, focused on the social justice aspect of environmental justice.
“I think that there are many people who would like to approach environmental justice issues as human issues,” Sturgis said.
Following Sturgis’ speech, the forum broke into individual tables and discussed various issues ranging from racial divisions to industrial pollution to political inequality. Even if some tables were more vocal than others, all the groups discussed the problems at hand with energy and passion.
“I wanted more information about how to get involved and what (environmental justice) is,” Davis Summers, a senior anthropology and psychology major said following the discussion at his table. “We’re leading the country, but we could do more. There’s a huge potential to grow and excel in more areas.”
The highlight of the evening was a “cross-cultural dialogue” led by Dr. Reiland Rabaka, an associate professor of ethnic studies who has worked at CU since 2005. Rabaka elaborated on the multi-dimensional nature of environmental justice and how all of its aspects need to be considered.
“I want to raise consciousness about how racism and sexism are incorporated into the movement,” Rabaka said. I see myself as a bridge builder. We can only change the issue together.I’m teaching for solutions.”
The Environmental Center is continuing the discussion series October 19-21 at the annual Bioneers Conference and concluding the forums on October 24th. Everyone present felt that a great deal was accomplished during the three hours.
“The turnout was beautiful, the energy was incomparable to other events,” Harris said with a big grin on her face.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Rob Ryan at firstname.lastname@example.org