During the 2014 fall semester, senior Rachael Blum added a honors component to the International Environmental Issues course. She chose to host a short-film film festival with discussions between each film. The project came to fruition through the course, after instructor Brennan Lagasse and Blum were discussing how the rest of the SNC community does not have access to the Sustainability curriculum. This idea was also acknowledged at a Justice Club meeting with current and former students at the time. The students agreed that a discussion-based space must be made accessible to the entire campus.
The Holistic Sustainability Film Night was created, featuring a variety of short films highlighting biodiversity, desertification, capitalism, and welfare with discussions between each. Faculty Brennan Lagasse, Samantha Bankston, and Bob King were present as experts in the topics and aided in facilitating the discussions.
Approximately 23 people attended, and the event was cut short after 3.5 hours spent viewing and discussing the films. Those in attendance were happy to have a space made available to ask questions, express views, and learn about these issues. Snacks were provided by Uncommon Kitchen and the Justice Club. This also benefitted Kelly Benson’s coat drive for Project Mana. Overall, the event was successful.
Films that were shown include: Forest Man, Freegans: Living Outside of Capitalism, Love and Capitalism, How Welfare Does Not Work the Way You Think. All movies can be found on Films For Action.
A winter clothing drive, which was an idea born in the Social Justice Club, contributed over 150 warm items for underprivileged families in North Lake Tahoe.
Sierra Nevada College Senior Kelly Benson has organized the coat drive for the past two years. After collecting items for six weeks at five drop-off locations, the warm clothing was distributed by Project Mana on Dec. 17. An article about SNC’s gift to the community was published Dec. 23, 2014, in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.
Kelly is majoring in Global Business Management, but has a strong interest in sustainability and social justice.
“I thought that it would be really interesting to learn about even if it’s not the career path that I choose, because it includes things that you can implement into your daily life,” Benson said. “And so, coming here and having that be a major, and knowing that I could just learn what it means to be sustainable. Then, my mind was blown when I learned about Social Sustainability, because I didn’t even think about that before I got here. I started thinking holistically about the term, the environment and the people.”
Justice Club adviser Brennan Lagasse hopes to rally enough students in the fall to continue Kelly’s work for next year’s warm clothing drive.
Professor Brennan Lagasse and six students from Sierra Nevada College had a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience with the Gwich’in tribe in August 2014 in Arctic Circle, Alaska.
SNC students who visited the Gwich’in Tribe in the remote town of Arctic Village, Alaska last summer, are sharing their experiences through a series of articles on Ecowatch.
Two of the six articles have been published at this point, detailing the sustainability issues the Gwich’in tribe faces as proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would threatens the “Caribou people’s” way of life. The first article, “How Drilling in ANWR would threathen the Gwich’in People’s Way of Life,” was written by Rachael Blum and published Feb. 9. The second article, “Trash or Treasure?,” was written by Aaron Vanderpool and published March 5.
Six students were able to stay in the village for a week and learn about the Gwich’in culture because Gwich’in Tribal Elder Sarah James invited SNC Adjunct Professor Brennan Lagasse to come and visit the tribe in Arctic Village, Alaska. Lagasse jumped on the rare and precious invitation to stay a week in the Alaskan village with James and her tribe, and the students traveled to Alaska in August 2014.
Brennan Lagasse, adjunct professor in Sustainability
Ecowatch has chosen Sierra Nevada College as one of its university partners and will showcase work by Sustainability students at the college. Ecowatch is a website reporting on environmental news, green living and sustainable business. As portion of its coverage, the website says it features content from students around the world, providing a venue for the millennial generation to voice their environmental concerns.
Lagasse said the affiliation with Ecowatch is a great way to show off the work the Sustainability program is doing, and encourage students that their work can make a difference in the “real world” as well as get published.
The Gwich’in town of Arctic Village lies north of the Arctic Circle and just south of the border of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), often called “the last great wilderness.”
In August, six SNC students met SNC Professor Brennan Lagasse in Fairbanks AK and took a bush plane to Arctic Village, to share the traditions of the Gwich’in Tribe and experience firsthand the majesty and vulnerability of ANWR. Those students will be sharing their experiences at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences Room 106. The event is free and open to the public.
The once in a lifetime opportunity for SNC students resulted from tribal elder Sarah James’s respect for Professor Lagasse’s previous work with Indigenous peoples, and the tribe’s commitment to make “friends in the south” to advocate for their environment and way of life.
During their time in Arctic Village, students went hunting and fishing with their hosts; participated in elder celebrations, and many interviews and discussions with local tribal members; ate traditional meals of caribou, fry bread, and ground squirrel; and hiked and camped amongst the rugged peaks of the Brooks Range.
The experience is one that excites Lagasse about the sustainability program at SIerra Nevada College. He was quote in an Eagle’s Eye story as saying, “What we did in Alaska, that’s it man. I guarantee any liberal arts school, any progressive sustainability program, anybody sees that and knows what’s up in the sustainability world would look at that say ‘Wow, that’s cool.’
The Chandalar River near Arctic Village, Alaska. Photo by William Troyer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Students will be camping in the Arctic Village of the Gwich’in Tribe, while learning about the potential impacts of petroleum exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) during a Sustainability field course in August.
Sustainability Instructor Brennan Legasse will lead a group of 5-7 students to Alaska on Aug. 6-15. This field trip intends to immerse students in the Arctic environment to help them better understand the traditional and contemporary lives of Indigenous people living in Arctic Village, those that advocate for ecosystem health in the local bioregion, and how the world’s dependence on a finite, polluting resource compromises the attainment of holistic sustainability.
Besides exploring the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, the students will be meeting with tribal elders about climate change and tribal members about socio-cultural issues born from colonization and proposed resource extraction plans.
The Arctic Village Visitor Center.
Photo by Wazefaire via Wikimedia Commons
The cost of the course is just under $3,000, including airfare, food, a one-night stay in Fairbanks, camping fees, and a tribal donation. The course number is Sustainability 381 for those interested in signing up.
Students will live in Arctic Village, camping during their trip and will have daily interdisciplinary engagements that touch on Outdoor Adventure Leadership, Sustainability, and Environmental Science. This is a special opportunity to live with members of the Gwich’in Tribe, visit the wild landscape of ANWR, and address issues of sustainability through an intimate experience in a unique place.
Sustainability Professor Soraya Cardenas speaks at the Desert Research Institute on Feb. 21
Sustainability Professor Soraya Cardenas visited the Desert Research Institute Feb. 21 to discuss how collaboration with various agencies can help obtain competitive grants. She used a case study from Fort Kent, Maine about a $97,000 grant, funded by a National Science Foundation Sustainability Initiative.
Senior Samantha Van Ruiten continues to be a huge asset for the Tahoe-Truckee community as she works with several area nonprofits organizations on community events. She has created an event for the Tahoe Food Hub called Turnip the Heat Tuesdays.
She began working on a community soup night last semester for her Service Learning project and is now continuing this semester for her Senior Portfolio. The goal of Turnip the Heat Tuesdays is to create a more food-focused community, using fresh, sustainably grown ingredients.
The first Community Soup night was held Feb. 11 at Spice. The next one will be from 6-8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Full Belly Deli in Truckee’s Pioneer Center. Cost is $5 for soup and bread, and the event includes a raffle, music and drinks.
The next event will be March 11 at Coffeebar in Truckee.
Go have some soup and support Samantha!
Sierra Nevada College’s Sustainability major was included in the High Country News’ annual Special Issue on the Future. This year’s theme: Building a more sustainable West, one city at a time, focused on the region’s more notable efforts to build sustainable urban environments.
There was a special pull-out section Sustainability Studies Guide – Sustainability: Higher Education’s New Field of Study which included SNC as one of the leading programs in the country and what we are doing to help meet the challenges of the future. Go to page 49-51 on High Country News’ pdf version of the magazine to see the blurb about SNC and the photo of Lake Tahoe next to it. We also have an ad for SNC on page 44.
The High Country News says that next year it will continue to explore the future and its challenges. As it uncovers what academic institutions, innovative and non-traditional educational programs, conservation groups, companies and others are doing to address those challenges, we expect and hope that SNC will continue to be included for its innovative work in Sustainability.
Sustainability Professor Soraya Cardenas will visit the Desert Research Institute Feb. 21 to discuss how collaboration with various agencies can help obtain competitive grants. She will use a case study from Fort Kent, Maine about a $97,000 grant, funded by a National Science Foundation Sustainability Initiative.
The DRI conducts cutting edge applied research in air, land, life and water quality in Nevada, the U.S. and internationally. It has 500 employees on two main campuses in Reno and Las Vegas and generates $50 million in total annual revenue. However, its faculty members are responsible for their own salaries from external grants and contracts.
She will be talking about her case study with the DRI scientists at noon on Friday, Feb. 21, in the DRI’s conference room. Below is the explanation of her presentation:
Adopting Collaborations with Social Sciences in Grant Opportunities: The Case Study of Fort Kent, ME
Obtaining grants have become more competitive and agencies have required greater joint parameters between institutions, such as the partnering of varying sciences. This presentation will demonstrate how this collaboration is possible through a case study, which was funded by a National Science Foundation Sustainability Initiative. Environmental Sociologist, Dr. Cardenas who was the PI for the grant, successfully secured $97,000 for an exploratory research initiative with the possibility of renewal for 4 years. This project explored the potential for biomass introduction and adoption in Fort Kent, ME and surrounding community. This grant supported faculty from the Biological Sciences, Forestry and Social Sciences. They were solicited to study varying aspects of the issue. Social Scientist, Dr. Cardenas project consisted of utilizing her students in her Environmental Sociology class and developing a documentary that describes biomass and explores the feasibility of biomass as an alternative heating initiative. This presentation will introduce the biomass project, a 15 minute video of the students’ work, followed by a brief discussion of how DRI scientists can collaborate with Sierra Nevada College to increase funding opportunities through the inclusion of student assisted research.
The editors of the Eagle’s Eye queried a group of students Monday night about what they like to read about in the campus newspaper. One of the top choices that the students mentioned were the interesting and exciting projects students created through Service Learning.
Every semester, Interdisciplinary Studies students develop a personal project which clears a path to their future career, according to an Eagle’s Eye article. SNC offers an innovative interdisciplinary class called Service Learning where students dig deeper and become involved in unique volunteer opportunities. The SNC website, says “Through the required Service Learning course, which challenges students to explore how their actions, their academic interests, and their own initiative can contribute to the community, students learn to make a difference AND maximize their learning. This hands-on, experiential program dares students to get out and do it—and they do.”
If you want to see the inspiring projects completed by this semester’s students, there will be presentations from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, in TCES 139. Stop by to hear the following students talk about their projects: