HomeEducationSustainability, Equality, Justice: Eco-U 2016

Sustainability, Equality, Justice: Eco-U 2016

Our world is changing rapidly. More and more people are thinking and talking about the need to change the ways we interact with our planet. This conversation is taking place among students and faculty here on campus every day and lawmakers around the world are thinking about the need for innovation in how we access and use natural resources. As important as conservation and technical innovation are, an important piece of the conversation about sustainability that sometimes gets lost is the ways in which environmental degradation and change have already affected the lives of many people in our communities and around the world. The effects of environmental change largely reinforce existing structures of race, class and gender-based inequality. Environmental justice is a lens for looking at issues of sustainability and global environmental change with an emphasis on human effects and problematic inequalities.


Environmental justice is the theme of this year’s Eco-U symposium, organized by the Environmental Student Association. ESA Secretary Lizzy Selvik says that the event “aims to bring together students, faculty and community members of all different backgrounds in a discussion on an issue that affects us as members of a university, as a community and as members of the planet.” Speakers will focus on the role of environmental policy, environmental preservation and human rights in creating equality, aiming to strengthen democratic processes and create space to explore practical steps and strategies to help establish environmental justice for all regardless of race, gender or income.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. on October 11 at Coffman Memorial Union Theater. The event will start at 6:00 p.m.  The event is free, with online pre-registration requested. Panelists James E. Dorsey, co-founder of Advocates for Human Rights, and Say Yang, program coordinator for the Center For Earth, Energy and Democracy, will open the symposium, followed by hors d’oeuvres and a brief intermission. Keynote speaker J. Drake Hamilton, science policy director for Fresh Energy, will speak on the role of scientific analysis and the development of clean energy solutions in creating economic opportunities for all. Hamilton has recently been featured in the New York Times and on Minnesota Public Radio, and has met with President Obama to highlight the success of Minnesota’s clean energy policies. A short Q&A session will bring the evening to a close.

The Environmental Student Association hopes that everyone who attends will leave not just with new knowledge but with clear strategies for making a positive impact towards environmental justice for all. ESA is a student group open to all majors; in addition to organizing amazing events like Eco-U, ESA organizes volunteer opportunities, creates space for students to explore environmental career options and plans outdoor trips.

Lizzy just became involved in ESA last year and encourages students to check them out:

“What attracted me most to ESA was the opportunity to hang out with a fun group of like-minded friends, who are all about doing something about the state of our planet and protection of its inhabitants.”

To learn more about ESA, visit their Facebook page or join their regular meeting every Tuesday at 5:30 in 220 Bruininks Hall.


(Photos courtesy of Lizzy Selvik/Environmental Student Association)

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