The second State of the Environment (SOE) Conference was held on Friday, April 26, in the CSULB USU Ballroom. The day-long event was hosted by the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC) in conjunction with the Environmental Science & Policy student club, Sustain-U, and the CSULB Office of Sustainability. The event, which was free and open to the public, attracted over 150 guests from across campus and the local Long Beach community. The student organizations raised approximately $6,000 to make the conference a reality and to be able to provide participants with high quality, free vegan refreshments and lunch, thanks to funding from the VegFund and donations from Food Finders.
The conference featured an expert panel highlighting the environmental research and activism of professors and community leaders: Dr. Wade Martin (Economics), Dr. Kimberly Walters (International Studies), Jan Victor Andasan (East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice), and Daniel Rossman (The Wilderness Society). During the lunch hour, conference attendees enjoyed a vegan taco lunch catered by Tacos Sin Karma and a musical performance by indigenous singer-songwriter Kelly Caballero. Caballero, a member of the Tongva-Gabrielino tribe of the Los Angeles Basin, shared stories of life, love and indigenous resistance.
The afternoon conference program consisted of an inspiring keynote by Rishi Kumar, a small-scale organic farmer and sustainability educator who has been a leader in LA’s ecological transformation. Rishi’s talk, titled "Towards Regenerative Culture," challenged the audience to rethink their environmental philosophy and existing assumptions and. Attendees were also encouraged to “grow their footprint” by participating in lifestyles and activities that create vibrant, regenerative ecologies in their urban backyards. The conference closed with a screening of the new documentary film “The Need to Grow,” followed by a Q&A with the film's producers.
The State of the Environment Conference is the brainchild of the Student Sustainability Coalition (SSC), which was founded in 2017 by four young women and sustainability activists from different disciplines at CSULB: Meg Workman, Adeline Morley, Amber Ceja and Diana Sanchez. The coalition was intended to create an overarching network for communication and collaboration between organizations and individuals that are involved in sustainability initiatives to promote sustainability in the face of the current political climate.
“The State of the Environment Conference was born out of a desire to bring together people from all walks of life for a day of community building, engagement, education and networking,” said current SSC President Diana Sanchez, “It was rejuvenating to see so many individuals come together simply because they care.”
With many of the SSC officers graduating this month, the student organization is currently seeking new members to take on leadership roles and participate in organizing the 3rd annual State of the Environment Conference next spring.