When 2021-22 Eco Warriors President Destiny Suarez thinks of sustainability, she thinks of impoverished neighborhoods.
“They can’t reach a level of sustainability, because they don’t have the resources, because of how much is put on them that isn’t sustainable, like fast food,” Suarez, a Stanislaus State junior political science major said. “Mental health also plays into social sustainability. You cannot be sustainable if you don’t have mental health. Sustainability is having resources and services that you need around you.”
Sustainability is not just rejecting plastic straws, cups and water bottles or recycling, as Suarez once thought.
She learned sustainability penetrates every aspect of life while serving as director of sustainability with Associated Students, Inc. and by joining student organizations Ag Ambassadors, Eco Warriors and Climate Action Now to learn more.
Eco Warriors seemed the best fit for her when she joined in fall 2020, and now she leads the group.
“Our mission is advocacy, to bring more awareness to our campus and the community as a whole about climate change and sustainability,” Suarez said.
That’s the impetus for Stanislaus State’s Third Sustainability Month Celebration as well.
While the University does tremendous work in its water and energy use, there is always more to be done, said Wendy Olmstead, sustainability coordinator.
“We need to focus, using our campus as an example, on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our energy needs, improving our transportation,” Olmstead said. “A large part of Sustainability Month is education, to help people understand that.”
Social justice, Olmstead said, is the most important aspect of sustainability.
“People who don’t have equity and equality bear a disproportionate share of what’s wrong environmentally, and they’re not the people causing it,” Olmstead said. “If we all don’t have the same opportunities for food, water, education, housing, we don’t have sustainability.”
Virtual programs scheduled throughout October are meant to shed light on the various components of what it means to be sustainable.
Perhaps the most unexpected event is Director of Gender Studies Betsy Eudey’s showing of the documentary “Fire and Flood” at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19. Co-hosted by Carolina Alfaro of the Warrior Cross Cultural Center and the Council for Sustainable Futures, the screening will be followed by a Q and A with filmmaker Vanessa Raditz, a University of Georgia graduate student.
Her film looks at the impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico and the fires in Santa Rosa, both occurring in 2017, and their impacts on LGBTQ people.
“The displacement of LGBTQ people often creates special burdens on them,” said Eudey, who is teaching a fall class on Gender, Environment and Sustainability. “It isn’t something experienced by others. The social services that aren’t available, and people not supported by their families create different kinds of experiences that often go unaddressed and unnoticed. I think that there are few opportunities to talk about differential impacts based on ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender identity and sexual orientation.”
The film will be a rough cut of the documentary scheduled for a spring release.
“Whenever we’ve addressed sustainability issues, we keep branching out into our understanding of differential impacts in different ways,” Eudey said. “The LGBTQ community is a component that doesn’t get as much attention, but there are some good queer eco projects going on, and a lot more attention to how migrations and displacements have a differential impact on queer folks.”
Olmstead embraced the film as a Sustainability Month event.
“Betsy is showing a side of this that we don’t talk about on our campus enough,” Olmstead said. “She’s showing the impacts of unsustainability on real people. That’s such an important and impactful thing.”
Other programs planned for the month are highlighted on the Sustainability website:
Oct. 6-27: The People’s Ecochallenge, where campus teams commit to making changes large and small to contribute to a more sustainable planet. Visit People's Ecochallenge for information and registration. Follow the instructions to create a team, challenge other teams and earn points.
Oct. 12-14: AASHE Global Conference: For the second year, Stan State will be a host institution for the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s (AASHE) virtual global conference, enabling all with a current csustan.edu email to attend free of charge. Check the conference schedule for sessions and keynote speakers. Register by Thursday, Oct. 14.
Oct. 12, 5-7 p.m.: Indigenous Peoples Days: Healing Waters in Us and Around Us. Register online.
Oct. 15, 9 a.m.: Stan State Solar Power: Geng Liu, energy manager, Stan State Capital Planning & Facilities Management, discusses Stan State’s solar projects. Register to attend.
Oct. 18, 3-5 p.m.: The Condor and the Eagle. The documentary follows four indigenous leaders on a journey from Canadian Boreal forests to the heart of the Amazon jungle to unite the peoples of North and South America and deepen the meaning of “climate justice.” Presented by Stan State’s Ethnic Studies Department, the Council for Sustainable Futures and the Eco Warriors.
Oct. 26, 4 p.m.: Only Rain Goes in the Drain: Louie Oliveira, Stan State’s chief engineer, discusses the campus’ new stormwater permit and how everyone can help to ensure that our drains are free of contaminants.