Environmental Futures Initiative Outlines Plans

The Environmental Futures Initiative, a group of students and faculty committed to making change in environmental policy, recently attended two international environmental conferences in Nairobi, Kenya, and Merida, Mexico. Following these trips, EFI advocated the importance of the current generation in addressing climate change and outlined plans for an upcoming speaker series with the Georgetown University Lecture Fund in a debrief event Sep. 29.

The group is looking to host a speaker series centered on environmental challenges with the Lecture Fund this semester. In conjunction with the Global Futures Initiative, the EFI will host, among others, Anote Tong, the former president of Pacific Ocean island nation Kiribati and an environmental advocacy icon, this fall.

The group also plans to partner with the Undergraduate Journal for Global Citizenship at Fairfield University to create a special issue dedicated to the problems that were explored by the delegation to Nairobi.

The EFI was able to send a delegation to Merida, Mexico, for the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in September, funded by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Global Engagement.

The students and faculty who attended the CEC were given a thirty-minute session with Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gina McCarthy and were able to meet the Canadian Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna.

EFI founder Aaron Silberman (SFS ’18) said the EFI delegates to Mexico were able to make an impact on policy at the conference.

“While in Mexico, Justin McCartney and Sophie Faaborg-Andersen helped lead a push with youth delegates from Mexico and Canada, where they drafted a list of demands to environmental ministers there, focused specifically on how sincere youth engagement should be built into the fundamental process of the CEC,” Silberman said.

The EFI also sent three students and one faculty member to the United Nations Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya in May where they met with world leaders in the field, including the former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program Achim Steiner. The EFI delegation to UNEA was the only one at the assembly comprised in part by students.

According to Silberman, the trip was successful in furthering the initiative’s mission to find space at the table for student voices in environmental policymaking.

“They brought back a good amount of knowledge and clarification for how we, as a group, can direct our efforts to be able to attend to our mission,” Silberman said.  “We are trying to do the work today that is necessary to have a viable tomorrow.”

UNEA delegate and professor Randall Amster said the size of the conference proved effective for conference attendees.

“The interesting thing at UNEA was that it was an event big enough to hold both the policy and the activist sensibilities, and it was fascinating to see how they wove together,” Amster said.

Sophie Faaborg-Andersen (SFS ’18) and Justin McCartney (SFS ’19), the only two members of the EFI to attend both conferences, said this generation of young people has incredible potential to make a difference on environmental work.

“What I have taken out of these two trips is that there is so much capacity for youth particularly to get involved in these kinds of issues and make a meaningful change on the ground and in policy making,” Faaborg-Andersen said. “To me that’s what the EFI is all about — to allow students to engage in these opportunities.”

McCartney said bringing interested students together to work on pressing environmental issues can yield unexpected results.

“What can we do if we can harness this energy for engagement from students across the U.S.?” McCartney said. “Bringing together students who are passionate about these issues and who have such amazing ideas into one collective can produce incredible results.”

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