Curated for you by the Sustainable Dartmouth Interns Sunday, February 14th, 2021
This term the Sustainable Dartmouth Interns hosted our first ever Environmental Changemakers Speaker Series! We talked to four environmental professionals about what they do, what their path in the environmental sector looked like, what they enjoy about working in such a dynamic field, and more. Find our recap below.
Latria Graham '08
First up on January 13th (wow, Week 2, remember her?) was Latria Graham ‘08. Latria walked us through her very nonlinear career journey, giving sage advice about pursuing what makes you fulfilled and owning your struggles for how they make you stronger. She expressed how some publishers that she’s encountered in her freelance outdoor, environmental, and cultural writing career have only “wanted Black bodies, but they didn’t want Black voices or Black perspectives”; in the face of such blatant tokenism and racism, she’s come into the voice she has now only through lots of trial and error, guidance from mentors in the field, and, most importantly, a resolute assertion of her core identities. Additionally, though the freelance publishing world often revolves around the dollar, in her work Latria centers the question, “What have you done for the community or to make this a more just and equitable world when money is not in the equation?” One of the ways she accomplishes this through her writing is by pushing the boundaries of dominant perceptions of what it looks like to be in relation with the outdoor world. In our conversation, drawing from her background as a South Carolinian farmer whose family has been working the land for five generations, she said, “When you summit a mountain...how are you caring for the ground that you’re standing on? We’re asking that question now. As a farmer, you always have to be constantly giving back [to the land].”
You can find the full conversation with Latria here!
Alisa White ‘17
On January 20th, Alisa White ‘17 talked to us about what drew her to environmental law and how she hopes to leverage her skills and privileges to aid communities fighting for Indigineous environmental rights. After completing her B.A. in Environmental Studies at Dartmouth, she went on to work in environmental consulting as well as non-profit research before attending Yale. She is now a JD Candidate at Yale School of Law and a Master of Environmental Science Candidate at Yale School of the Environment. When asked about what drew her to public interest law, White shared that “you get to provide support to communities that might otherwise not have access to legal services because of the cost. That’s something that’s very important to me too - expanding access to the law to BIPOC and low-income communities.” Watch the recording of our conversation with Alisa here.
For our third Changemakers event, we were privileged to speak with Vivian Lin, founder of Groundcycle, a closed-loop composting org in Brooklyn. Vivian is just about the best spokesperson for compost you’ll ever meet, and we were absolutely wowed by her initiative in identifying a need in her community, responding quickly to that need, and staying nimble as a business to continue addressing needs as they evolve. Being grounded in the community has been crucial to Groundcycle’s model–in spite of starting a compost delivery business, Vivian doesn’t actually have a license, so she had to rely heavily on her personal support network to make Groundcycle a reality. We also got to dig into the inequities baked into New York’s municipal composting system and the ways that Groundcycle provides affordable, accessible options for everyone, regardless of their housing and financial situations. Her one piece of advice to the audience: “just get involved!” Check out Vivian's talk here.
Carter Strickland ‘90
On February 3rd, Carter Strickland ‘90 joined us to share some thoughts about this long career in environmentalism and sustainability. He started in environmental law, then transitioned to working for the city of NY on municipal level sustainability initiatives, and finally he now works as the NY State Director at the Trust for Public Lands. Carter gave some great insight into what it’s like to work in the public sector at the city level. He says, “cities are not recognized [enough] in our governmental system but they have a lot of power on their own. I think that was kind of a realization and something I hope you all take a look at because it’s very satisfying since you’re close to the action. Like, you put in place a composting program and you can see the results right there, and you really feel like, ‘wow, I’m having an impact’" (surely this is how Vivian feels too!).
One of Carter’s most rewarding and impactful experiences was helping NYC transition away from burning #6 residual heating oil. In response to finding out that Dartmouth still burns 3.5 million gallons of this fuel every year, he exclaimed, “Protest! That should not happen!” Carter gave us some ideas for potential alternatives, such as biogas, and then said, “I hope they find a better solution than using #6 heating oil, which is the worst! They should at least switch tomorrow to ultra low sulfur diesel #2.” He wrapped up the event with some discussion around his current conservation work at the Trust for Public Lands and shared what it looks like to engage communities in participatory planning to build parks that serve everyone. You can watch the entire recording here.
More Changemakers to Highlight
In addition to these wonderful changemakers that joined us in conversation, we would also like to highlight a few more changemakers who are doing amazing work at the intersections of sustainability, environmental justice, activism, scholarship, and (add any additional things here according to your changemakers).
Dr. Chelsea Mikael Frazier is currently a faculty fellow in the Department of Literatures in English at Cornell University. Her scholarship exists at the intersections of Black feminist literature and theory and the environmental humanities, and she explores a Black feminist ecoethic as it manifests in the environmental writing, visual art, and and activism of Black women. She is the creator of @AskAnAmazon - an Instagram launchpad of curated tools, services, and events in the arena of Black Feminist Ecology and navigating academia. Check out a powerful piece of work she penned titled Black Feminist Ecological Thought: A Manifesto.
Niki Franco is a Caribbean abolitionist organizer, writer, educator, and podcast host of Getting to the Root. Their work centers on navigating the need for global solidarity, contesting capitalist structures in knowledge production and community building, and centering environmental and ancestral preservation. They currently lives in Miami, where they work as the political education director for (F)empower Mia and as the civic engagement organizer for Power U Center for Social Change. Niki is coming to Dartmouth next week through Visibility:2021 to lead a two-workshop series entitled “Abolition or Extinction,” sign-ups for which can be found here.
Tamika Butler is a speaker, writer, and an expert on issues related to the built environment, equity, anti-racism, change-management and organizing. She has worked as the Director of Planning in California and also as the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, building parks and urban green spaces in low-income communities to address social and racial inequality and increase wellness. More recently, Tamika has transitioned to policy work to increase equality, and she also works as a cultant, trainer, and coach for organizations in the public and private sectors. Read more about her here.
We started each Changemakers event with a land acknowledgement. Here at Dartmouth, we are on what remains to be to this day ancestral, unceded Abenaki land. This is a tenuous acknowledgement that we should sit uncomfortably with and keep with us throughout our time at Dartmouth for those of us who are settler colonizers on this land.
Abnaki-Penobscot Language Donate to support care packages for the Abenaki community (run by the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association). Donate to the Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi in Swanton, VT
That's it for now.
Be well and take care,
Jess Chen, Jasmine Butler, and Rachel Kent Sustainable Dartmouth Interns
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