UCSB Students Speak Out

UCS Comes to UCSB

Sebastianne Kent

On May 8th, 2017, I was lucky enough to moderate a forum hosted by UCSB’s Environmental Studies department - Standing Up for Science: Resistance, Persistence, Inspiration, and Innovation in the New Political Landscape - that included Deborah Moore from the Union of Concerned Scientists as a special guest. Meeting her felt akin to meeting an academic and environmental advocacy rock star, and the event: exceeded all expectations and provided a valuable opportunity for students and faculty to gather together and talk about our future in the age of Trump and in an era of attacks on science and justice.

Beach at sunset - Image Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia.org

As Western States Senior Campaign manager, Deborah advocates for sustainable policies and practices for UCS in the Western United States. The reach and influence of this position is as intimidating as its occupation by someone who abandoned pursuing a PhD in intricate protein synthesis research in favor of applied science in the public interest; however, Deborah was encouraging and as eager to answer questions as myself and other forum attendees were to ask them.

The questions asked during this space of collaborative learning and collective effort to better the world we live in despite the hurdles environmentalism seems to face at every turn, ranged from my general introductory questions about Deborah’s career path and UCS campaigns to more pointed questions about community choice aggregation energy sourcing. Hearing the responses of someone who had attended the People’s Climate March in Washington, DC and who had spent the day in meetings with various lawmakers and on the front lines of protests was invigorating. She sent hope to myself and my peers who are looking to put our cherished and hard-earned knowledge to work in a world that can seem scary and unwelcoming to ideas of sustainability and environmental justice.

One of the most important takeaways, and what galvanized many people to action, is the importance of community action. Our society is built on both top down and bottom up change, but people often lose sight of the ripple effect of community and grassroots action because we’re overwhelmed by the stories of corporate interests and corrupt politicians navigating the direction of our country. But with Deborah’s visit and responses to the enthusiastic questions of students and faculty, she reminded us that it’s possible to start change around us. Her sustainability in schools initiative started with her daughter’s school and widened into a statewide program , for example. And she shared how scientists and supporters are making change by supporting strong climate action in California and beyond , sharing research and speaking out for ambitious climate goals, renewable energy technologies, clean electric vehicles, and sustainable water management – and winning new laws! In her presence and discussion of her work she reminded us that we are not powerless.

The Environmental Studies department is a driving force of change on campus, and moreover it is a driving force of change as it instills values in its students that cause us to attempt to generate innovation and positivity in our community and for our planet. This event, hosted by professors, and teachers like Dr. David Pellow and Celia Alario, and greatly encouraged and facilitated by the Environmental Studies department heads, chairs, and administrators, represents a response to changes in our government that have left students afraid and worried for our futures. While many campuses have stayed silent, UCSB has made efforts to assuage our worries and instill in us the values and confidence we, as graduates will use to drive our country and its policies forward.

Sebastianne Kent is a fourth year environmental studies major.