There are more than 30 environmental student groups on campus. Most have a unique focus on one, maybe two aspects of environmentalism, but all are united through a belief in actively working to make our world more environmentally friendly. I’ve been a member and supporter of many of these clubs throughout my time at Cal, but I am always amazed at how little I hear about some of the amazing work that these organizations do on a daily basis.
The lack of communication between clubs is not new, but it seems to me that communication among similar environmental organizations requires more than just posting on each other’s facebook groups. We should all be working together as a collective of individuals passionate about environmentalism rather than disparate groups of 10-20 students focused on a single aspect of sustainability or environmentalism.
This isn’t meant to be an attack on environmental clubs, but rather a reminder that environmentalism is more than just a sums of its parts. I may be super passionate about reducing food waste, and integrating a more sustainable agricultural model into our food system, but that does not mean I don’t care about pollution, alternative transportation, restoration or any of the other innumerable facets in environmentalism. When I’m not super busy doing things for all my other environmental orgs I’d love to help out on a waste audit or learning how to fix my bike, or fighting for fossil fuel divestment.
We have organizations such as the Environmental Coalition (ECO) and the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC) aim at providing such forums for communication and cooperation between all of the different environmental organizations.Yet from the point of view of someone who has been a member of many different organizations, I’ve yet to see these groups integrate themselves fully into the fabric of all of these different organizations. My emails from my clubs should include some awesome events that I might be interested in attending. If I have a free weekend I should be able to find something cool one of these 30 organizations is doing and know who to contact to get involved. This isn’t any single group’s fault but rather a problem with a Berkeley mentality of having to do everything yourself. Most of us are strong, individualistic students that it can be hard- at least for me- to know my own limits and find support when its needed.
How do I think we can foster a more inclusive, community-styled set of environmental organizations? First, I think we need regular environmental organization townhalls. We need to all get together and hear about what each organization does. On the ASUC website for example, I found three separate organizations about bikes. Alternative transportation like biking is awesome, but are these groups really distinct enough to warrant separate memberships, meeting times and mission statements? I don’t know. But conversations like this need to happen so that we can be a more cohesive and effective force to create change in our community and beyond.
Second, an environmental activity calendar (on bMail or some other platform) would be an easy and effective step toward communicating all the amazing activities that environmental organizations are doing and ensure that we minimize overlapping events. Third, we need to actively promote organizations like ECO and SERC to be our collective voice and hold them accountable for providing environmental organizations the support they need. We are a community, and a community that doesn’t know its neighbors is a weak community vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I know our environmental organizations are comprised of amazingly dedicated and strong individuals, and I’m hopeful that we’ll begin to energize as a community and show Berkeley what a strong and powerful voice we can have when we work together.