Miles Christopher, contributor
Augsburg’s Climate Action Committee held a meeting to discuss its sustainability policies and the commitment that the school had previously made to be “green” by 2019. On Monday, the committee discussed the 2009 climate plan and the significant strides that Augsburg has made in an attempt to bring the university to net carbon neutrality by this year. President Pribbenow offered his words of encouragement to all those attending, helping to put into perspective both the good that Augsburg has already accomplished through new policies, investments and projects in the surrounding community and the work that he hopes that Augsburg will be able to do in the coming years.
Helping to focus and lead the event was RFTP (pronounced roof-tap), a narrative-driven social justice and discussion organization which works to facilitate difficult conversations through shared stories and experiences. Jamie, an environmental justice worker, shared her story with the attendees. She spoke about her experiences with white male dominance in environmental work and the false-narrative that non-white groups are apathetic towards environmental issues. She described how her work with the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council showed firsthand how the concentration of white men in leadership positions in environmental committees impacts minority groups, speaking about a specific incident in which the council decided against allowing an indigenous group to purchase land for preservation purposes, despite the fact that the group met all of the necessary criteria.
Allyson Green, Augsburg’s Chief Sustainability Officer, spoke as well. She focused on Augsburg’s commitment to the growth of the community and its continued devotion to the value of stewardship. She also spoke about the importance of seeing issues of environmental justice and sustainability through the lens of culture. In order to be able to truly change action and policy, she said that Augsburg must cultivate a “culture of sustainability”. With such a culture, individuals would be empowered to present ideas and find like-minded people who can support those ideas, rather than being silenced or suppressed.
After that, the official presentations ended and coordinators encouraged attendees to introduce themselves to one another and to discuss topics posted around the room on Augsburg’s various commitments to environmental sustainability. The discussion portion lasted for half an hour, during which both students and faculty were able to talk through ideas, worries and issues that they had, as well as brainstorm solutions and improvements for the future. Once the time elapsed, the discussion was brought into the whole group, with attendees sharing what they felt they had learned, and what they hoped to be able to do with their newfound knowledge.
As with any committee meeting, many of the attendees were individuals who already had some degree of interest in advocacy, either in work that they had done, or work that they hoped to do. However, there was a decent portion of those attending who had neither and instead attended in the hopes of learning how they could best apply themselves to an issue that they see as important. This begins the culture shift Green asked for: becoming more willing to listen and advocate. This lines up perfectly with the final piece of the 2010 climate proposal: that Augsburg will evolve “into a community where sustainability is at the core of who we are and what we do.”