Written by Elizabeth Pepper, ESLLC 2017-2018
This year was the first year that DU combined the Diversity Summit and Sustainability Summit into one. I had the unique opportunity to not only attend parts of the Diversity and Sustainability Summit but to also run a workshop with two other peers from the Environmental Sustainability Living and Learning Community.
The intersection between diversity and sustainability offers an eye-opening perspective into how climate change produces cycles of inequality within communities. I did some research about my hometown, St. Louis, MO., to see the impact of climate injustice within my own community back home. I learned within a few miles there is a life expectancy difference of twelve years in St.louis (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). This statistic shocked me. How could there be such a drastic difference of life expectancy in areas of such close proximity?
The workshop I helped lead called, Climate Justice Discussions and Practices, offered to address this very question. Within the workshop the room was divided into three groups, and each group was assigned two articles or a video to watch that related to Climate Justice. After reading or watching the media that was given, each group discussed the issues addressed. Each group then presented to the rest of the workshop the topic their group was assigned. In the workshop, we asked a related question: How does climate change relate to and affect the problem presented in the articles or video?
In the discussion that I facilitated, group members came to the discovery that climate change exaggerates issues of social injustice, especially affecting communities of color and communities of low socioeconomic status. As people discussed about personal experiences, their passion for social justice, and knowledge about issues relating to sustainability, the entire group was able to gain a new perspective on this issues of Climate Justice. We talked about how in some areas grocery stores are over two miles away, there is toxic waste found within communities, and health issues such as diabetes, rates of lung and heart diseases are higher in communities of color and or low socioeconomic status. It’s crazy to think how cycles of unsustainable practices are affecting the communities around us.
The DU Sustainability and Diversity Summit was one of the first times I was able to engage with community members, DU staff members, DU professors, and DU students allowing me to connect and learn in a unique way outside of the classroom. Finding ways to participate in community engagement encourages learning; an important tool in finding ways to solve issues of sustainability and social justice.