Tag Archives: environmental activism

My Problem with Having a Problem With Activism

by Conor Doherty, ’13

Activist workshopThe efficacy of Stanford’s student activist movements has been a frequent topic of conversation around campus and in the editorial pages of The Daily the last few weeks. Most prominently, outgoing Executive Editor Brendan O’Bryne wrote an article questioning our “campus’s definition of activism” and raising important concerns about troubling events and policies that have received little attention. While I disagree with some of Brendan’s comments about our the insularity of Stanford’s activist community and narrowing the scope of issues we should be addressing, I appreciate his call for more focused and effective engagement with pressing on-campus problems.

Others have been more dismissive of Stanford’s student activist movements. Toward the end of Fall Quarter, The Daily published an editorial explaining one student’s “problem with activism.” More recently, another writer went so far as the say that the word “activist” should be “banished” from the Stanford lexicon. On the surface, these “critiques” are broad and ambiguous. I recognize that, if you look past the dismissive facades, their author’s are (I think) calling for “better” activism, rather than no activism at all. However, their reductive use of straw man arguments is frustrating and undermines substantive discussion. I get that the “panel on muskrat rights in 19th-century Bulgaria” line was supposed to be funny but, as someone who has written a lot of bad satire, I know it when I see it. Continue reading

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A Drop in the Bucket Has a Ripple Effect: Lessons Learned Founding Stanford’s Free Store

by Nicole Gaetjens, ’13

This piece originally posted on Shareable.

Our initial proposal was called the Stanford Re-Use Campaign, but, in hindsight, a more accurate title would have been Baiting People with Free Stuff to Change Their Consumer Behavior.

In February 2011, Nicole Greenspan and I were given a class assignment to create a business plan for a social enterprise. We came up with the idea of a campus thrift store and decided that, if we were going to make a plan for it, we might as well try to actually do it. As environmentalists, we hated seeing how many reusables were discarded by students, and, as money-tight students, Palo Alto’s version of Goodwill wasn’t exactly cheap. We e-mailed out a survey to gauge interest in a thrift store, and over 900 students responded with support. This number got us pumped… especially since students basically never answer surveys. We had validation!

After validation came a reality check. We needed a space and stuff to put in the space. First, we reached out to anyone and everyone we thought might have insight, such as Stanford student groups and other college’s thrift stores. Then, armed with best practices, statistics, and a growing team, we approached our student government with our plan, and they suggested locating in the basement of the student union, which was, at the time, being used for storage. The catch: Zoning restrictions prohibited financial transactions in the basement. This was a huge blow for us.

Shoppers rummage through the goods at the Stanford Free Store's grand opening. Photo credit: Union Underground. Used with permission.

Shoppers rummage through the goods at the Stanford Free Store’s grand opening. Photo credit: Union Underground. Used with permission.

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The Earth is Not a Commodity: How Capitalism Perpetuates Global Warming

by Jovel Queirolo, ’14

Capitalism is designed to promote competition and social inequality (Parjis, 1995) which cannot accommodate a climate change movement meant to benefit the entire earth and its inhabitants with an even distribution. As an international leader, the United States government along with its citizens must shift from a mindset of social and economic capitalism toward a political framework that encourages collective equality. In the U.S., capitalism privileges wealthy, upper-class, white individuals who hold positions of power (Keister and Moller, 2000) over the rest of the country’s diverse constituency. This constituency must be invited into the climate change movement, and granted equal access to technology and research geared towards addressing dangerous levels of human-induced climate change.

Capitalism as an economic and social theory, as popularized by the United Sates, will not work as a tool for organizing the climate change movement because the environment is not a commodity, nor is the environment a human construct. Continue reading

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The Trouble with Environmentalism

by Christina Ospina, ’12

Being “green” is one of the sexiest trends that has arisen in the past several years, made popular largely by increasing concerns over Climate Change.  People want to buy clothes made from organic cotton, use biodegradable laundry detergent, eat free-range chicken, invest in solar energy, and protest to save polar bears.  But we must ask: who are the people behind this movement?  Realistically, someone struggling to pay rent might not feel compelled to invest in solar power to avoid using electricity generated from coal-fired plants.  Today, the American environmentalist movement’s biggest challenge isn’t Climate Change, it isn’t over-fishing, it’s not rainforest degradation, and it’s not it industrialized agriculture; the main obstacle the environmentalism faces is transforming into a movement for all socio-economic levels.  Environmentalism shouldn’t be a movement for the privileged, it should be integrated in all levels and all communities that comprise the American population.

Historically, lower classes and minorities have been left out or overlooked in American environmental and conservation movements.  Just look back at the emergence of conservation with the Romantic movement in the mid 1800s, with influential figures such as Roosevelt,  Muir and Thoreau, who evoked imagery of the sublime in their writing and praised the powerful beauty of wilderness. Continue reading

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Farms, Culture, and Choice

by Maria Deloso, ’15

Farming directly determines what foods are available to us, which, in turn affects our own cultures and social norms. Looking at different ethnic foods, we can see certain trends. East Asian food tends to incorporate bok choy frequently, Indian foods lentils, and American food potatoes. While some of these choices may be attributed to the plant’s native land, others can be traced all the way back to history. But what is grown is just as important as how the crop is grown. The widespread use of conventional pesticides in lieu of a biointensive integrated pest management system (IPM) limits the consumer’s options in purchasing healthy, risk-free food. In essence, farms control our cultures and choices.

The case of Hawaii demonstrates the influence that Westerners had on the native diet, creating a trend that even exists now, centuries later. The Hawaiians preferred dog meat, a delicacy that the mutton and beef-loving Westerners were unused to. Cattle and sheep were soon brought in to satisfy these cravings. With a lower population density than usual, thanks to the diseases brought in by the Westerners, the cattle soon took over the cultivated fields. Continue reading

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Closing the disconnect between the food you eat and where it comes from

by Christina Ospina, ’12

When you see “natural flavoring” on the “Ingredients” listing on food packaging, beavers might not be the first thing you think of, but this animal and the additives in your processed food might be more related than you think.  Many items you consume every day are flavor-enhanced by ingenious molecular combinations, often derived from sources completely unrelated to the foods you eat.  It’s important to think about where food flavoring and food additives come from, and it is your right and responsibility to know what you are eating and drinking every day.

So what do beavers have to do with natural flavoring?  Vanilla, raspberry, and strawberry flavorings can come from castoreum, an excretion from a beaver’s castor sacs, found in their backside (to get a little graphic, these sacs are located in their genital region by their anal glands.  Since this food flavoring is derived from a source found in nature, it qualifies as the “natural flavoring” you can see listed in certain candies, ice creams, yoghurts and more. Continue reading

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Dear President Obama…

This letter was originally posted at the Stanford Undergraduate Sustainability Scholars blog.


Students for a Sustainable Stanford (SSS) is a project-based student group concerned with addressing sustainability in all its forms on Stanford’s campus, with sub-groups dedicated to water, waste, climate, and environmental justice issues. With President Obama set to approve or reject the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline by the end of the year, the SSS Outreach team is campaigning on campus to involve the Stanford community in this national issue. Below is a letter written by outreach leaders Judee Burr, Noemi Wazlebuck, and Akwasi Abrefah and signed by concerned Stanford community members.  We challenge our President to support the well-being of the American people over large corporate interests and reject the measure to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. Join us this Friday, 3pm at Columbae to discuss these issues! Contact sssoutreachaction@gmail.com with questions or to join our anti-pipeline campaign.


Dear President Obama,

We are writing to you as members of Students for a Sustainable Stanford and as concerned citizens of the United States. We are asking you to take a stand for the well-being of the American people – block the measure to build the Keystone XL Pipeline. Continue reading

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