By Regan Pecjak
The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) Executive Committee on Sustainability will be hosting Stories of Sustainability (SOS) on Friday, an event that will share the stories of students affected by environmental injustices including industrial pollution and climate change.
Chiamaka Ogwuegbu ’18, who helped organize SOS, explained that the event’s role was to engage Stanford’s community with environmental issues.
“We wanted Stanford students to know more and be exposed more to environmental justice and just to be thinking more about climate change in general,” Ogwuegbu said.
According to Ogwuegbu, environmental justice consists of of two key aspects. The first is preparing all communities for the environmental impacts of climate change. The second is ensuring equal accessibility to environmental benefits, such as food and water, while also protecting communities from environmental burdens, including industrial pollution.
Four students will share personal experiences from their communities, all focusing on environmental justice. Manisha Rattu ’19 is one of these speakers. Rattu will recount her fight against the WesPac crude oil terminal and storage facility that was planned in Pittsburg, California, her hometown. Community action halted the conversion of waterfront land near the delta.
Rattu hopes to emphasize that individuals can help take action to protect their own communities.
“Regardless of your backgrounds or your experiences everyone has the ability to sort of create change or take action in their own unique ways,” Rattu said.
Stephanie Fischer ’18 will also share her story Friday during SOS. Fischer will discuss her experience during Hurricane Sandy, which she hopes will encourage people to think about climate change.
“I want people to be reflective on how they view climate change,” said Fischer. “Personally for me, prior to the day, it was like ‘Yeah climate change, I’ll be a good person and recycle this right now’ but that was basically it.”
Emily Porter, a first year graduate student in product design, will also speak on Friday night. She will talk about her time volunteering with Engineers Without Borders and will focus on her experience serving locals in Nepal.
“It’s really not about us, it’s about them asking for help and working really hard to make their problem go away,” Porter said.
Porter, who was ill during her visit, continued, “My little bit of feeling yucky when I was there for two weeks while I was there is nothing compared to the pain that these women have to go through everyday carrying this water.”
Porter also worries that people do not consider the full implications of climate change because these problems are seemingly too massive to be meaningfully felt at an individual level.
“We just can’t feel the impact of [global warming]; psychologically we’re not programmed to care about things that we can’t immediately feel, you’ll care much more if someone is holding a gun to your head than if someone is standing way over there and maybe someone might shoot you.”
Porter’s concern about a general lack of understanding is echoed by Ariel Bobbett ‘17, another event organizer.
“Environmental justice is not something I think the average Stanford student is getting through their studies or even through many conversations with friends, so we hope this event will be an avenue for people to learn more,” Bobbett said.
The organizers stated that they hope to motivate students to allow them to understand the effects of environmental justice by providing specific examples.
“[We are] featuring the stories of students themselves so it’s a lot more relatable,” said Ogwuegbu.
Stories of Sustainability will be held this Friday at 7pm in Dinkelspiel Auditorium.