Sociology and the Environment Intersect at the First Environmental Action Summit

Extending environmentalism past the “CC Bubble.”

There is a direct correlation between our environment and society, and the implications between these two subjects are massive. In fact, the parallels affect nearly every portion of daily life. The Environmental Action Summit sought to bridge the connection between environmentalism and all academic disciplines, demonstrating to attendees that environmentalism is not solely limited to certain individuals, but that it is accessible to anyone who wishes to participate.

Colorado College’s first Environmental Action Summit occurred on Tuesday, March 5 from 6–8 p.m. in Gaylord Hall. The EAS had individuals in attendance from University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the Colorado Springs chapters of the Sierra Club, 350.org, and Empowerment Solidarity Network.

Photos by Matthew Maciag

The EAS was the brainchild of Mark Scaggs ’18, paraprofessional for the Department of Sociology. During his time as a CC student, Scaggs took note of the passion among CC students for environmentalism. Yet, Scaggs also noticed a large problem: the student body’s passion for environmentalism did not extend outside of the “CC Bubble.” That is, while students themselves are progressive in improving the environment and combatting climate change, the local community beyond CC did not embody similar values. Scaggs hoped to create a means through which students would be able to engage in environmentalism with the Colorado Springs community.

The EAS was organized by the Department of Sociology and the Office of Sustainability. In their collaboration for this event, both offices hope to offer attendees a deeper understanding of the ways in which social structures have a direct impact on climate change.

But how does sociology relate to environmentalism?

Sociology is a lens for interpreting social phenomena. Climate change is a direct consequence of the ways in which humans have chosen to use natural resources for social growth. Therefore, in order for humans to combat climate change, it is necessary to first change fundamental societal structures.

Historically, environmental activism has been limited to the domain of science. Yet, as stressed at the EAS, all parts of society have a firsthand impact in environmentalism. The intended purpose of the EAS was to connect students to a wide range of community groups who are combatting climate change.

One way this happened was by bringing representatives to the event from various fields within the sustainability and environmental industry. The keynote speaker for the EAS was Kevin Mitchell from Empowerment Solidarity Network. Mitchell addressed environmental concerns from the lens of social justice.

Additionally, the panelists explained how they incorporated environmental justice principles into their daily line of work. In particular, the panelists emphasized the importance of community cooperation in making a difference in environmental issues.

“As with any issue that students are involved with at CC, it’s easy to talk about and discuss [environmentalism] but fail to actually engage in as much meaningful action as it warrants,” Benjamin Swift ’21, the Buildings and Grounds Intern at the Office of Sustainability said. “When students do take meaningful, tangible steps to enact environmental change, that’s great, but, owing to the magnitude of the environmental issues facing humanity, these actions aren’t as large as they need to be. Thus, through this summit we’re hoping to connect people working in the environmental space and inspire and empower more ambitious action.”

Mutual accountability and “ambitious action” were highlighted in the roundtable discussions, which were a highlight of the EAS. Each table featured an organization that was represented at the event, along with a discussion facilitator. 

At the tables, attendees were encouraged to pledge themselves to take action toward a specific environmental issue. Then, attendees were instructed to pair themselves with a buddy, with whom they exchanged pledges. Each pair of buddies were urged to follow up their respective pledges in order to keep one another accountable. 

For example, attendees who were interested in energy consumption pledged themselves to partake in a Utilities Policy Advisory Committee meeting, which occurred the morning after the EAS, at 8 a.m..

Though the organizers of the EAS are unsure of whether the summit will become an annual event, they anticipate CC and the Colorado Springs community collaborating to combat climate change. 

Ellen Loucks

Ellen Loucks

Ellen Loucks, class of 2021, is majoring in the humanities. She is from Champaign, IL, and is passionate about delivering authentic and reliable news to readers. She intends to pursue a career in writing following college.

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