“To see beyond what despair sees—to move from the feeling toward the possibility—calls for things we have in abundance: love, imagination, and a willingness to simply tend the world as best we can, without guarantee of success.” ― Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis
I chose to start with this quote (taken from our course materials) because I think it fully encompasses the vision of the Climate Justice Action Resilience Scholars Program. Throughout the course of this program, we are fostering a relationship filled with love–where we spend time to find the love we have for ourselves, with each other, and to the world around us. And in doing so, we foster ways in which we can be kinder to ourselves. We spend time thinking about that through reflections, fostering relationships with our peers, and spending time outdoors–away from our stressors. In this space, we can cultivate good practices where we are all encouraged to imagine a better world. Whether it is through the mini assignments throughout the first half of the program or the uplifting assignment in the second half, we are given the opportunity to see the good in the world and imagine a place where we are all passionate and resilient. It is through that, where I am able to see the willingness we all have to continue our work on climate/environmental justice. The one where we all get to talk about the readings from the week, the one where we get to share about our capstone project–they allow me to see the solutions that we have to heal our world.
So far, we’re getting there! The world that we imagine might feel far fetched, especially in the current state of the world. We constantly talk about the balance between taking a step back to take care of ourselves from the overwhelming thoughts, while also acknowledging the not-so-pretty side of the world. This brings me to discuss how we are getting closer to the world we imagine. Through our collaboration with the YEJAAs, we really get to integrate our learning with the younger generations. There’s so much we can continue to learn, and there’s so much we can imagine together. It excites me to share that our Resilience Fest “Block Party” is coming along, and this festival is planned by students who care. We are imagining a world that is filled with both love and willingness to serve and heal. Let us all do our part to Let us all do our part to better ourselves and the world!
As a UC San Diego Climate Justice Action Scholar, I’ve gone on my fair share of outings with my fellow scholars. Together, we’ve visited a number of organizations focused on sustainable farming and land practices throughout San Diego County. First, we explored the streets of Barrio Logan and Little Italy in order to compare the natural resources—such as trees and ocean views—available to both of the communities. We then visited the San Pasqual Indian Reservation and helped farm at Solidarity Farms, which provides farming plots and food to low-income members of the Native community. Finally, we traveled to southeastern San Diego and saw Project New Village and Ocean View Growing Grounds, two urban farming organizations that focus on reducing food insecurity within inner-city communities. All of these experiences were productive and enlightening; however, they all shared one thing in common—we were interacting with other adults, not young people. Young people, especially those in high school, are particularly passionate about the climate crisis, and often have novel solutions or ways to engage with communities that adults would not have thought of.
To gain this important perspective, we as a cohort of scholars met with the Young Environmental Justice Advocates Academy (YEJAAs). The YEJAAs are part of an internship program run by the Ocean View Growing Grounds. The students are mostly in their sophomore or junior years of high school. On Saturday, April 8th the students from the two programs came together to socialize and share perspectives on the climate crisis and how we as advocates can best engage and mobilize people in our communities. I found that talking to young people was a breath of fresh air—students and academics on a college campus may be more knowledgeable by virtue of having taken more formal classes, but we often lack the perspective, optimism, and curiosity of young students. I had the chance to lead a small group of YEJAAs on a tour of the UC San Diego campus, where we chatted about college life and how climate activism works on a college campus.
Speaking and organizing with the YEJAAs for only a few hours gave me more hope for the future of the climate justice movement. I feel that many adults in climate-oriented movements overlook the importance of youth organizing; as political opinions often solidify during the teenage years, reaching people at this stage in their life is crucial to ensuring that future generations are engaged with the cause of climate justice. Young people and their perspectives are an important source of learning and inspiration. Interacting with the YEJAAs strengthened my commitment to working towards a better world for these passionate, optimistic, and funny young people, and I’m looking forward to working with the high schoolers more during my time as a Climate Justice Action Resilience Scholar at UC San Diego.
Being in a climate-centered field of study, it’s easy for me to forget that A, not everyone cares about the climate crisis as much as I do, but also B, that plenty of other people do care just as much as I do. Sometimes, I leave the “green” bubble of the classroom, check the news, and deflate because so many things are going wrong and are destroying our planet. I find myself questioning what I’m doing with my life, why I’m trying to work in the climate space, and if anything I do will even make a difference in a melting world. That feeling is isolating. It’s easy to only see the people working directly beside you and those working against you. We tend to miss those who are working toward the same goal from different starting points.
When I signed up for CJARS, I didn’t know what to expect about my future classmates. Part of me thought they’d be mostly people from my major—Anthropology: Climate Change and Human Solutions—or Urban Studies; most of me didn’t have a clue. What surprised me, however, and what gave me a lot of hope was the fact that most areas on campus were represented. Molecular biology, business, cognitive science, and so many more disciplines had all turned out in spades to learn about the climate crisis through a social justice lens. This was a pleasant surprise for me. I’ve loved seeing how people from various academic backgrounds approach the same issues and immediately notice things that I never would have thought of. It’s refreshing, and I’ve learned a lot from them.
Somehow, through our shared climate grief, day-long adventures, and intense projects, our motley crew of undergraduate climate warriors went from a class to a community that is entirely our own. We all bring something different to the table: academically, personally, mentally, and emotionally. We really couldn’t do what we’ve done without the others. We wouldn’t be us.
So, that raises the question: who are we, and how do we each shape our CJARS community?
Lily is one of the most accepting people I’ve ever met and has such an open mind. Xavier never fails to make everyone laugh, nor Sally to brighten the room with a smile. Emily was brave enough to be one of the first to open up emotionally to the group when the rest of us were scared to after our long day at San Pasqual. Nika brings an analytical approach to every conversation and Rain brings ideas full of passion and drive.
Gabi’s zest for life is truly infectious; coupled with Gabriella’s contagious laughter and Allison’s wry, quiet sense of humor, there’s never any shortage of smiles. Cassi is always willing to step up and take charge; in turn, Jasmine is always willing to learn and lend a helping hand wherever possible. Andrea’s insightful nature makes every conversation one that lives rent-free in your mind hours later.
Daniel grounds us, keeps us on track, and works tirelessly from a space of compassion and care. Donika’s passion for children and those she loves reminds us to look for our own “whys” that keep us moving forward. Anna’s kindness and warmth turns your day into a good one before you even realize that it was a bad one before you talked to her. Claudia’s open, easy to talk to, and ensures that everyone has the chance to be heard in a conversation.
Lenia joined CJARS this quarter and has jumped in with so much zeal and enthusiasm; her sweetness has already made our community stronger. Nate stays true to themself and brings a valuable sense of candor to the group. Anika stays calm, cool, and collected in stressful situations where many of us panic. Gabriel is incredibly genuine; it’s clear he’s fully listening when you talk to him and cares about what you say. Arlene’s connection to her communities makes us all want to be better members of our communities.
We all have a lot to learn from each other—I know I do. Truthfully, I should have realized way before this class that other people care. You may have guessed by now that I have a hard time putting faith in people to do the right thing. While I can’t say for sure that this class has fully restored my faith in people, I have a lot more faith and hope in humanity’s willingness to try to do the right thing than I have in a really long time.
As strange as it might sound, I’m grateful for that. Everyone in this community pushes me to step outside my comfort zone, stay recklessly and desperately hopeful, and to be a better person. I hope I can try to do the same for them.