This weekend is the culmination of months of work from members of the environmental community. Spearheaded by the Student Environmental Resource Center, and with representatives from other student environmental organizations, we have been working long hours planning to bring hundreds of students to Berkeley from colleges all over California.
Community college, state university and private university students are coming together at UC Berkeley for a weekend aimed at creating an environmental community which transcends our individual campuses. The California Student Sustainability Coalition hosts a convergence happens every semester at a college around California, but I feel so incredibly lucky to be able to help host this event at my own college.
Last fall, I was invited by my good friend Zen to go to the CSSC’s Fall convergence, which was happening at Butte College, a community college in the Chico area. I hitched a ride with some other first-time convergers and found myself in the middle of nowhere on a two acre property littered with tents of different sizes and shapes. The three days that followed were filled with the sounds of laughter and guitar, pledges of dedication to the environment and workshops and speeches led by students with so much drive and dedication to their beliefs it amazed me.
I danced with strangers who became friends in front of bonfires, sang Radiohead songs and contemplated our common future. I asked honest questions and got even more honest answers, and got into long, complex discussions about climate change, pollution and permaculture. I ate tons of hummus and huddled close to new friends in our freezing cold tent and went to sleep each night in disbelief that I had found a community such as this one.
As I drove back through Davis and into Berkeley, my experiences at the convergence lingered at the forefront of my mind. There, I had found hundreds of people my age, all equally passionate, motivated and dedicated to the very things I hope to spend my life fighting for. When Zen told me of his plans to bring the spring convergence to Berkeley, I found myself psyched at the possibility of reconnecting with this community and puzzled at how we would be able to pull this off. In Butte, we had acres of space to talk, hang out and sleep, as well as a relatively empty community college to take over. In Berkeley, we don’t have that kind of space, and so we’ve had to adjust the convergence model to prepare to deliver the best experience in relatively little urban space.
But we’ve gotten this far. We have more than 450 people who have RSVP’d for the convergence at Berkeley. Various co-ops have opened their doors to our community, offering sofas, floors and lawns as we try to house students in this immense urban landscape. I personally have worked since early March planning the food for this event, which has been an incredibly frustrating and rewarding experience ordering immense quantities of food and drink and accommodating a range of dietary choices and restrictions. I can feel my excitement building and a fierce pride for my school and the accomplishments of the amazing CSSC team here at Cal and throughout California.
The CSSC has introduced me to countless individuals that are going to be leaders in the environmental field once they begin their professional lives. The action on individual campuses comes together to create meaningful change for our state. Last semester, we discussed fossil fuel divestment and through the work of campus organizers and CSSC staff, along with substantial mobilizations on each campus, many colleges including Berkeley have passed fossil fuel divestment bills in their student government.
Not only is this weekend an opportunity to share ideals and exchange thoughts and possible solutions, it is also a place where tangible change does occur. Through this network of young California environmentalists we cannot only work together to solve problems, but hold each other accountable to the goals of our movement and ensure that these efforts don’t fade away once people graduate. I can’t wait to introduce so many new Berkeley students to this organization, this movement. I look forward to reconnecting with my “sustainabilibuddies” and reveling in the power of around 500 students coming together with a shared optimism in our ability to control our future and thus save our planet.