Green Team Bridges Gap Between Environmental Justice and Social Justice

Tziona Breitbart ’16
Assistant News Editor

Last Tuesday, the Green Team held a spoken word event to kick off the new semester and its new campaign for environmental change both at Smith and in the larger community.

The Green Team began as a group of faculty and students that worked together as activists to foster sustainability on campus primarily through education, but it has become completely student-run since its inception.

“It is a student-led environmental group for the college, but it is supposed to be an action body that follows campaigns, where anyone should be able to go with their ideas,” said Green Team Co-Head Emma Wade ’13.

Environmental justice is less on the radar, so our goal throughout the semester is to bridge the gap between social justice and environmental justice,” said Siiri Bigalke ’15, the other co-head of the Green Team.

At the spoken word event last week, many students gathered to express their different perspectives and experiences with environmental justice.

“Almost everyone has had experiences or chances to witness climate change,” said Bigalke. “People are really interested in sharing that and letting other people know that climate change is going to have horrible consequences, not only to the planet and nature, but to individuals who cannot cope with it or handle adapting to the changes.”

Bigalke hopes that the spoken word event will “open Smith students’ eyes to see that environmental justice is really an integrate part about social justice.”

“A lot of people here at Smith don’t really think that environmental justice or climate change is really going to affect you or your family, but a lot of people at the spoken word event proved that wrong and had experiences with that,” said Bigalke.

The Green Team is also involved with national initiatives. To continue their efforts, 31 Smith students and other Five College students will attend a rally in Washington D.C this weekend. The rally is against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which will run from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Neb.

“Extracting oil form these tar sands would increase greenhouse gas emissions to really deathly degrees in terms of direction where climate change is heading,” said Bigalke.

The Green Team also focuses on improvements and educational events that can be made on campus.

“Green Team is involved in Earth Day events every year, policies that the college is doing, and what students can do to support those policies or support the creation of the policies,” said Wade. For instance, according to Wade, as a result of a conversation between the committee of sustainability Green Team and other organizations a few years ago, all the printers on the Smith campus are now by default double sided.

In March, the Green Team is also bringing in activist Majora Carter to discuss social justice, low-income neighborhoods and environmentalism.

“There are many ways for Smithies to help the environment,” said Green Team member Monique Gagne ’15. “The first step is to recognize that our world has finite natural resources. On campus, Smithies can do anything from [practicing] the habit of recycling and composting to becoming an Earth Rep for their house to getting involved with Green Team to advocating for the college to divest from fossil fuel investments, or even engage in sustainable research.”

“As an institution, we made wonderful commitments to Smith’s future as an environmentally responsible institution,” continued Wade. “But how do we get there? We need everyone’s help and everyone’s voice, which is the great challenge we face. These kind of decisions should be an entire decision and [made] by the community.”

Students interested in getting involved with Green Team initiatives can contact Green Team through their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/smithgreenteam.

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