Early this summer, Lilia Harlan ’22 began to strategize about how to connect students and faculty who are concerned about sustainability, climate change, and climate justice. The result was a Sustainability Fair organized by Harlan and other Hamilton sustainability coordinators.
Harlan envisioned the fair, held Sept. 9, as a catalyst for further campus conversation and action this academic year and beyond. She’d like to see it become an annual event.
“It feels like a push toward a changing culture on campus. I've been seeing this change happen over the last three years I've been here, and I hope we create more spaces like this for important conversations and moments of connection between all kinds of people,” she said.
At the heart of the event was a panel discussion that included representatives from the Black and Latinx Student Union (BLSU), Student Assembly, the Aquaponics Club, the Sunrise Movement, and the Hamilton sustainability coordinators. Panelists also included Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Priya Chandrasekaran and Professor of Government Peter Cannavò.
At one point during the discussion, an estimated 60 people gathered under a canopy on Dunham Green to hear panelists take on questions: Why are young adults and college students so important for the climate justice movement? Do you see a connection between climate justice and other issues students are raising on campus? Has Hamilton's climate action community been inclusive, and what actions can be taken or are being taken to make it more inclusive?
When the panel concluded, audience members joined small, informal groups to talk about issues such as climate change and social justice and emissions and climate action. Participants had a chance to mingle with faculty, members of Slow Food, the Sunrise Movement, and the Feminists of Color Collective, among other groups.
Panelist Malik Irish ’22, who is co-chair of BLSU, hopes that the fair prompts students to get active with the groups represented there — or start their own initiatives to make change.
“But I also would hope that they bring it up to those higher up (in) administration and actually push them to do more,” Irish said.
By holding the fair early in the semester, organizers aimed to introduce new students to the many opportunities for sustainability activism on campus, said sustainability coordinator Avery Morgan ’22, who moderated the panel discussion. “And I think one of the things we were most excited about is just trying to show that there's a lot of opportunity to do these types of things at Hamilton and as long as you're connected with the right people, you can get those resources, and you can look at the things that you're passionate about,” she said.