Five-College Workshop in Environmental Leadership

1 Feb

In mid-January, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Five-College Workshop in Environmental Leadership. This was a week long workshop that included a movie screening, panels with alumnae of the Five-Colleges, a workshop with the Center for Environmental Civics, and keynote speakers.

The week started with the film screening of “A Fierce Green Fire: The Battle of a Living Planet” a documentary that outlined the history of the environmental movement. It tells the story of the grassroots, global fight for the environment of the last fifty years. Some of the campaigns the film highlighted included stopping construction of dams in the Grand Canyon and Greenpeace working to save the whales. I have seen many documentaries about environmental movements, but this one did an especially good job at  showing the history of each of the particular campaigns and why they were successful.fierce green fire

For the rest of the week, we attended a panel in the morning and a lobbying workshop in the afternoon. The panels were split into different categories: law, business/industry, government agencies, engaged science and elected officials. These panels were very interesting because, with the exception of the elected officials, they were all alumnae of the Five-Colleges.  Many of the panelists spoke about their careers and how they got there; it was great to hear this from individuals who once sat in the same seats that we did. The conversations also illustrated how many different paths you can take with an Environmental Studies major. I was impressed with the many different ways these individuals thought of their education and were able to then translate that into different career fields. The best part of these panels was the networking that went along with them; we were able to engage in informal conversations and share ideas with all the speakers. I felt like I got some advice that I will be able to use for the rest of my life.

The afternoon lobbying work shop run by Chris Bathurst and Paul Newlin from the Center of Environmental Civics, Inc. was a great help in giving us the basic skills to run our own successful environmental campaigns. Chris and Paul were great at giving us the basic guidelines of an issue and then letting us run with it. One of the things I liked the most was that we were able to work in groups with students from the other colleges. The relationships we were able to build will be invaluable when we go out to run a real campaign. I enjoyed that we were given the freedom to find our own issue and work in small groups, but that Chris and Paul were still available for questions and feedback.

We were also fortunate enough to have Gus Speth, renowned environmental lawyer and advocate, author of Globalization and the Environment (2003), America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy (2012), and many more books. Mr. Speth spoke of the need for the U.S. to change economically and socially in order to ensure that future generations will have the same resources we have today. As someone who believes in the need to think in new ways to address environmental issues going forward, I agreed with Mr. Speth on many points; like having prices reflect the true costs of goods and services and making sure that society is truly happy. I have yet to read Mr. Speth’s latest book, but it is definately on my reading list for the semester.

This workshop was just the thing I needed before starting my last semester at Smith. I enjoyed getting the chance to see what my education can translate into once I am out of Smith. And I also enjoyed meeting people who embody the idea that you can connect the environment to any field out there.  It doesn’t matter if you are interested in business, politics, or education, it’s all connected.
-Stefanie Cervantes, ’13

One Response to “Five-College Workshop in Environmental Leadership”

  1. Dan M. Johnson February 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    I assume that “A Fierce Green Fire” comes from the essay by Aldo Leopold “Thinking Like a Mountain.” I read that essay to many students in my career as an ecology professor. It’s nice to know his eloquent phrases are still inspiring today’s conservationists.

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