Environmental Activism Takes A Front Seat in Building Community Relationships at Chabot College

The disastrous effects of climate change are no longer up for debate as changes are felt increasingly every day. Eroding shorelines, record-level heat waves, and the following droughts are just some of the very real changes we are experiencing. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Despite pandemic shutdowns, carbon dioxide and methane surged in 2020. Levels of the two most important anthropogenic greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide, and methane, continued their unrelenting rise in 2020.”

Since then, businesses have returned to normal routines along with employment schedules, which is an increase in human activity from this estimate taken during a time when everything around us slowed to a standstill. Yet climate change continues to become a more significant threat with no reversal. This has led scientists, politicians, and community members worldwide to hold summits, events, and meetings to bring people together in the hope of finding a solution together. This is precisely what Chabot College Climate Action Coordinator Katie Dickinson has set out to do with her call to action environmental community event, which was held in the Chabot event center Friday on, April 28.

“There were 120 people who signed up, and we invited a triad of people, schools, community colleges, and universities. Nonprofits who are working diligently in the trenches on these environmental injustices, cities and municipalities who actually have the capacity to make laws and ordinances that affect communities. So we invited those three main entities to get together in a room.”

Throughout the day, there were appearances from organizations and public officials like the Pachamama Alliance, San Mateo County sustainability office, Oakland District Attorney’s office, and Hayward Mayor Mark Salinas, just to name a few. The goal was to unite these groups in order to facilitate communication, ideas, and shared goals. 

Public officials, non-profits, and students were discussing how to practically and effectively bring the changes we all want to see on a local level and beyond. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California released up to 94 million metric tons of carbon in 2022. The majority of this gas was produced by transportation and the industrial sector.

Additionally, speeches were given during the event by public officials but also by students who make up the club membership and internships for the climate action program. The students wrote a sentence simply stating that “They want to live in a world where?” And the student elaborates on the rest; this was in response to a number of climate crises and environmental issues. “This was a very powerful moment when they all stood up across the room, and that set the tone for the day,” said Katie Dickinson. 

Representatives from the City of Hayward came forward to speak about their progress in collaborating with students to get feedback by conducting interviews in the community. “they’ve collaborated with students to do this work, and it’s been great to see,” stated Dickinson. 

The agenda shifted to breakout groups where a pre-questionnaire was given with a specific focus; according to Dickinson, “We sent a pre-questionnaire to every attendee asking what the main challenges you’re facing in the environmental justice space are. What steps have you taken to address environmental injustices in your area? And so we utilized that and printed out case studies from our attendees’ actual work. We placed those at each of the tables, and we asked the tables to read through all of the different case studies and asked them to answer the question. How would this collective, you know, nonprofits, schools, and municipalities work to help address these issues that we’re all dealing with?”

Moving forward in the schedule, there was some elaboration and expression of ideas. Getting things to flow in a synchronous manner by asking what the group’s shared goals are and what some students hope to accomplish overall by working in the group. After a round of some insightful and heartfelt commentary on behalf of students and community professionals, there was a break for lunch. The conversation didn’t really stop, it was just at leisure, and there was food, but the discussions were lively, and lots of people freely discussed ideas and personal ambitions. Community professionals were no exception, and it seemed that just about everyone who attended was fully engaged in the content and purpose of this community college climate action event.

After lunch, a few students spoke about some posters they had made in regard to specific climate issues that were of concern to them, such as threats to biodiversity and how to maintain biodiversity. “This is a complex issue; I don’t think there is just one solution. It’s a combination of a lot of work. That’s the reason why we invited these three entities to the room. Nonprofits have been in the trenches working with frontline communities, working with actual residents on the ground on these issues. Cities and municipalities have the authority to make laws and ordinances that affect our future. And the last ingredient is students and college teachers, and then you talk about solutions,” stated Dickinson. 

One of the positive results for students who participate in this group is the internship opportunities. Katie Dickinson’s group of students operates as interns, and she focuses on developing a student’s career from the very start of their commitment to the group. The event came to an end with a general discussion on how people felt about the day and any closing remarks or questions they might have for the panel of students and professionals. There were a few light questions but mostly gratitude and excitement from students looking forward to the next event. Handshakes, pictures, smiles, and information exchange would be the send-off until the next climate action event, which is said to be held sometime in December.

“Our focus has been getting students jobs, internships, and opportunities in the green workforce. Change isn’t going to happen overnight, but it will happen gradually as we educate our students and youth about these issues. They’re smart; once you give them a chance to really work and get down and do the nitty gritty work, they take off. They do it themselves, and they’re passionate. I have hope for the future; that’s why I got into this work. It’s because I’m a young person, and all the students I work with are even younger than me. There are social justice issues that they bring to bear, my students live in these communities that are going to be most impacted by the climate crisis, and that’s what makes this a need for them to be central to this work because they know that if they aren’t, then our ways are just going to continue,” stated Dickinson.

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