February 10, 2013

Organizing for Social and Environmental Justice

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Correction appended

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, records from thousands of land-based buoys maintained by a diverse group of national climate agencies, such as NASA, show that world temperatures have risen dramatically within the 20th and 21st centuries.

At the Organizing for Social and Environmental Justice Workshop last Monday, Dani Neuharth-Keusch ’12, a Green Corps Field Organizer, led a seminar on organizing campaigns and coalitions to change or stop negative social and environmental legislation.

Green Corps, which co-hosted the event with KyotoNOW!, is a non-profit field school for environmental organizing. A year-long program, Green Corps pays and trains students to become leaders of environmental and social change programs.

Neuharth-Keusch began the workshop with a question on what issues were most important to the audience: climate change, gender equality, immigration, water quality, etc.

“It can be a bit overwhelming,” Neuharth-Keusch said about fighting for any one of these hot-button issues, but she assured the audience that anyone can become an organizer.

The workshop was split into two sections: “Planning and Packaging a Strategic Campaign” and “Building and Managing Effective Coalitions.” The participants were split into groups, and each was given the same scenario based off a real successful campaign at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill to make the campus coal-free. Each group discussed goals and strategies in targeting decision makers in the community through persuasion or pressure. Participants also deliberated the risks and benefits of forming a coalition to help support their campaign. Coalitions help build power through numbers, gain more resources, show solidarity within the community and build relationships for future endeavors.

However, “When you enter into a coalition, you give up some control of your campaign,” said Neuharth-Keusch. All the participants decided a coalition was worth the risk and developed creative ideas for forming one.

The workshop was just a taste of Green Corps’ education programs. Audience members finished the workshop by promoting some of the social and environmental organizations at Cornell, and Neuharth-Keusch closed the seminar by encouraging the audience members to organize a social or environmental campaign that they are passionate about.

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this post inaccurately stated that Samantha Klasfeld is a former Sun associate editor. In fact, it is Dani Neuharth-Keusch.

Original Author: Samantha Klasfeld