Inclusive Sustainability: Environmental Justice in Higher Education
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate why and how efforts at UC Santa Cruz have begun to shift from sustainability as a technical, expert-oriented activity focused on aspects such as built environment, climate, energy, food and water, to more of a concern with inclusive sustainability, which centers on issues of power dynamics, difference, and ethical considerations. As the campus undergoes significant demographic change (e.g., UCSC’s undergraduate population is 66% non-white and 43% are first generation college students), framings of sustainability must resonate with these increasingly diverse populations. The People of Color Sustainability Collective (PoCSC) is a groundbreaking partnership between UCSC’s Ethnic Resource Centers, Colleges Nine and Ten, and Sustainability Office. PoCSC’s efforts to recognize, celebrate, and validate diverse understandings and expressions of sustainability is a response to evidence of exclusion among certain sectors of our student population. Based on a recent campus-wide survey, this paper compares and contrasts responses between white, non-Hispanic students and students of color in terms of their participation in and perceptions about the environmental sustainability movement, finding that the former participate at a higher rate and rate mainstream environmental concerns such as conservation of biodiversity as more important, while environmental justice issues such as food access were rated more important to students of color. However, many areas of convergence between the two groups was found, notably a broad agreement about the importance of environmental issues.
KeywordsInclusive sustainability Diversity Higher education People of color sustainability collective Race Ethnicity Environmentalism
The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of Executive Vice Chancellor Alison Galloway, Dean of Students Alma Sifuentes, the Dreaming Fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, the Student Fee Advisory Committee, Carbon Fund Grant, Campus Sustainability Plan Grant, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, CARE, and Measure 43. A special thank you to Vice Chancellor of Business and Administrative Services Sarah Latham for her leadership, collaboration, and dedication to this initiative. Deep appreciation goes to El Centro Director Judith (“Dr. J”) Estrada, AARCC Director Shonté Thomas, and ERC staff and student interns, especially Catherine Alfaro, Ashley Carrillo, Jenn Figueroa, Cristal Gonzalez, Raymond LeBeau, Julisa Lopez, and Aniela Quintanilla. The authors thank graduate student researcher in IRAPS Priscilla Sung for analytical support.
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