Climate Conference held for second annual year to promote environmental consciousness

CHLOE SFERRA & SHANTI BASU — When your home is being destroyed will you sit back and watch, or take a stand to make a change? What if that home was everyone’s home, would you do what is necessary to protect it?

This past Saturday morning, students, parents and faculty members streamed into Mitchell as usually, but this weekend for a reason out of the ordinary. Buckets marked with ‘compost’ ringed the first gymnasium, and art was displayed on tables and walls. Returning for its second year, the Community for Climate conference ran all day in the first gymnasium.

Summer Aldred ‘18, Anandita Gupta ‘18, and Craig Freeland ‘19, who organized the event, are proud members of a group called IntersectECO. An Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Sustainable Design, Aldred ‘18 explains the groups purpose as increasing education on an important cause.

Climate justice is inherently intersectional, but due to the ‘special interest’ categorization of environmental education, so many of our peers lack exposure to such a vast subject matter that truly affects us all. As an organization, we have a dual focus on urgent action and organic community growth. IntersectECO aims to develop a more accessible environmental movement through conference like these by creating a platform for individual self-discovery with regards to the planet, the valuable opinions of one another, and, subsequently form a more united body of change agents,” said Aldred. Freeland, an Environmental Studies and Educational Studies major with an Art History minor added, As an organization, we try to live intersectionality and enact this however possible in our actions, but there are so many avenues to take.”

The three realized that they could use IntersectECO’s platform to spark a movement for insectional environmental action in their local community. By hosting this conference, they hope to prompt the first steps to wider change. In their efforts to efforts to advertise the event to anyone in the surrounding area, the conference was intended to ‘facilitate networking passionate people from all backgrounds, building tangible skills and sparking conservations around the topic of Environmental Communication.’

In addition to a variety of workshops, the event featured two keynote speakers, Dr Cecilia Martinez, Executive Director of the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy out of  Minneapolis, MN, and Heather Taylor-Meisle, Executive Director of the Ohio Environmental Council. Craig Freeland discovered Martinez through his personal research on “…activists and academics that were actively trying to change the way that environmental communication is enacted.” “Dr Martinez has been working and studying the environmental justice world for over 25 years, and she also identifies as an indigenous person from New Mexico, providing a unique, and needed perspective about the history of environmental justice when it comes to marginalized communities,” said Aldred. “Heather’s organization, the Ohio Environmental Council, is one of the largest stakeholder in the State of Ohio in terms of protecting our natural environment in this state. Heather was able to provide perspective to how OEC as a large organization communicates to all different types of communities, from local people to large corporations.”

Additional presenters included Nicole Jackson, from the Urban Environmental Education to Youth of Color, who spoke on the importance of effective communication in the workplace, to Paulino Mejia, a Mayan artist and activist who conducted a workshop on Indigenous Community Expression through art, to students from University of Dayton and from Denison’s very own Homestead community. Steve Krak of the Red Frame Lab also stepped in with a Design Thinking session towards the end of the day to wrap things up.

This event was first founded last year by then-senior Liam McIlroy. It was originally called the Midwest Student Coalition for Climate Action (MWSCCA) and was envisioned as a way for the Five Liberal Arts Colleges of Ohio could join together in empowering and growing from each other’s environmental actions. After the first conference, the team that organized it realized there was potential for a longer lasting tradition. This brought them to INtersectECO.

“IntersectECO is a national organization, with affiliated campuses stretching from Minnesota to New York! Next year, we have hopes that IntersectECO’s branch on Denison’s campus will become a C3 organization and have weekly body meetings like a lot of organizations on campus. Rumor has it that the 3rd Annual Community for Climate might be coming to us from a college very close by, that may or not have purple and white school colors,” said Aldred.

Each college was also given the opportunity for their own presentation, as well as time for IntersectECO to discuss networking and future plans.

“So often in the fight for climate justice, activists get caught up in the necessity for urgent and immediate action. At IntersectECO we work to balance that urgency with tangible action steps toward self-sustaining, organic community development. We hope that intersectional events like the Community for Climate Conference can provide just that platform,” Said Aldred

IntersectECO thanks The Office of Sustainability for making the event financially possible, as well as the passionate students that came to the climate conference last year that really made the founding team realize that this was an event worth doing.

You can check out more on IntersectECO by checking out their website here: https://www.intersectthemovement.org/our-history