Hampton University celebrates Earth Day with first ever Environmental Justice panel
For Hampton University in Hampton Roads, Virginia, Earth Day marked a new day in history for the school: Hampton's inaugural Environmental Justice & Sustainability panel. Over 100 students came out to the panel discussion Monday evening to hear from professors, fellow students, and local non-profit organizers to learn about environmental and climate justice and how they can take action on their campus, in the local community, and beyond.
The Earth Day panel started as a small idea between myself a few professors just a few months ago, and quickly grew into a campus-wide event aimed at bringing in new energy and support for a long term environmental justice vision at the university. According to Dr. William More, Atmospheric and Planetary Science Professor and panel organizer, Hampton is on a path to educate, advocate, and empower students to take on the most important environmental and social issues facing our generation.
With the help of Hampton's greek community and a handful of dedicated student climate activists, the panel presentation was a big hit, to say the least! Even State Senator Maime Locke attended to show her support.
We kicked the evening off with an overview of Hampton's future vision for both an interdisciplinary program and an environmental justice and sustainability department on campus, and showcased winners of Professor Andrij Horodysky's climate change messaging challenge. Students put together videos and visual art aimed at conveying the urgency of climate change and encouraging fellow students to take action. We were also joined by Dr. Erica Holloman of the Southeast CARE Coalition, who provided the audience with a history of environmental justice, and looked at local community examples of environmental racism in Newport News, VA.
Representing the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, I provided an overview of climate change, including the global, statewide, and local affects we are facing because of our climate crisis. We discussed how the impacts from global warming will disproportionately affect marginalized communities both on international and local levels. But we didn't end with that -- a large part of Monday evening was dedicated to plugging students into ways they can work towards real change.
The biggest takeaway from Hampton's Earth Day? We have a lot to lose by not taking action -- we are already seeing the affects first hand -- with sea level rise, more frequent and more severe weather events, alterations in agriculture, droughts, heat waves, and pollution-related illness from coal fired power plants and burning other fossil fuels.
No community should bear these disproportionate risks because of their demographic characteristics or economic condition, but that is what is happening right now with climate change. Because some people will be more vulnerable to the impacts of a heating planet, we must take action together to benefit everyone.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities to fight environmental racism and show leadership in the transition to clean energy! We must work together to step and lead on addressing the climate crsis, and we have to act now.
To get involved with Erica at the Southeast CARE Coalition, email her at: [email protected]
To get involved with Hampton's environmental efforts, or join a CCAN campaign to fight Virginia fossil fuels, reach out to me and I'll make sure your energy is put to good use! [email protected]