USF played host to one of few events where one could find designers, international politicians, Native American leaders, scientists, businesspeople and students all gathered in the same place. From Sept. 11-14, these individuals were on campus as part of the wider, San Francisco-hosted Global Action Climate Summit (GACS). The GACS, created by Gov. Jerry Brown (“probably two minutes after President Trump backed out of the Paris Accords,” according to Professor Rachel Beth Egenhoefer) consisted of different rallies, events and panels around the city focused on strategizing next steps to fight climate change.
“Being a Human in the Anthropocene: Understanding the Human in our Impact”
“What does it mean to be human in the anthropocene?” was the central question of this panel, which addressed ideas of how to own our impact on the environment. (Anthropocene, or the current geological age, is denoted by dominant human influence on climate). Professor Rachel Egenhoefer’s fellow panelists came from diverse departments: Marilyn DeLaure from communication studies, Gerard Kuperus from philosophy, Vijaya Nagarajan from theology and religious studies and Stephen Zavestoski from environmental studies, who each offered their own perspective on the matter in relation to their respective fields. Sophomores Jenny Kram and Alexi Spooner both happened upon the event, but were intrigued by what they heard. “I never thought of it that way,” Kram said, referring to Delaure’s idea about the connection between the rhetoric we use surrounding the environment and its impact on our perception of the issue of climate change. “It’s crazy that they all have something to say,” Spooner said. “And that [climate change] affects so many fields you wouldn’t even think about.”
“Climate Change: Extractive Industries and Indigenous Land Rights”
The message of this event could be summarized by Chairman Valentin Lopez, a panelist, who said, “The destruction and domination of Native Americans [and their land] never ended, it just evolved.” He and his fellow panelists focused on the negative effects of cultural discrimination and racism perpetrated by the U.S. government on the land of the Bay Area Amah Mutsun tribe. The panel was made up of Lopez, a tribal chairman of the Amah Mutsun, Corrina Gould, co-founder of Indian People Organizing for Change, Adrienne Johnson, assistant professor in environmental studies, Dana Zartner, associate professor in international studies and Caleen Sisk, chief of the Winnemem Wintu tribe. The event was moderated by senior Alexii Sigona, who is also a member of the Amah Mutsun tribe. The panel offered information about combating the environmental degradation disproportionately affecting Native Americans, such as destruction of local sacred and burial grounds of the Amah Mutsun for commercial use, or the pollution of water housing salmon and shellfish. “It was just so important,” junior Gretel Baur said after attending the event. “The voices that were in that room were not in a lot of rooms. That big decisions get made without Native voice… there were so many moments where I just thought, ‘Wow, that’s exactly right. That exactly what needs to happen.’”
“Global Catholic Climate Summit”
Father Thomas Insua, executive director of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, led the final formal event of the week: a discussion on how the Catholic Church and its members have reacted to the global climate crisis and steps the Church is taking to combat this problem. The event was livestreamed to over 100 people all over the globe according to August Zampini, Vatican dicastery for integral human development. “Action [should be] about a common action because the problem [the earth] is facing is enormous. Not just a Catholic problem, but a global problem, and therefore requires global solutions,” Zampini said. The summit referenced Laudato si’, a recent document out of the Vatican recognizing and addressing climate change. It identified three spaces to take action: spiritual life, everyday life and in the public sphere. Speakers included Fathers Paul Fitzgerald, Joshtrum Kureethadam and Dermot Lane. Senior environmental studies major Mckayla Edwards, one of the only students present, was encouraged by the presentation. “[The speakers] had a really fresh perspective on how to come together and get different people from different religions and non-faith backgrounds to combat climate change,” she said. Edwards herself does not identify as being religious, but recognizes the Church’s community and presence across the world and hopes this push for change can influence its audience for the better.