A group of 34 students have a renewed focus on addressing climate change after discussing the lessons of the “Climate Forward: The Politics of Climate Change” conference held earlier this month at USC.
The student delegates went on a retreat on April 5 at USC Dornsife’s Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at Catalina Island, where they held discussions with leaders about the lessons they learned at the conference the day before.
Students at the Catalina Day retreat met with USC faculty and staff to discuss their ideas for addressing climate change. Some of the leaders included USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future director Robert Shrum and co-director Michael Murphy.
Ayeshna Desai. (Photo: Sara Ma.)
Activists and business leaders also joined the students, including Cool Globes Inc. founder Wendy Abrams, Daniel Richter, vice president of government affairs for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Henry Elkus, founder and CEO of Helena.
After a day of intensive discussions, the students ranked their top concerns and potential measures to improve the environment. Chief among them was ensuring that diverse groups of people are heard so that those who are disproportionately affected by issues such as drought or sea-level rise can shape policies and practices to slow global warming.
Second, the students believe that states and cities should offer incentives for businesses and communities to reduce carbon emissions and switch to renewable forms of energy. Third, the students believed that businesses need special support to compete and develop new green technologies that are sustainable and boost the economy. Governments can provide support by removing barriers to innovation, they said.
Students Ayeshna Desai, a native Angeleno, and Sam Worley, who hails from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., attended the Catalina Island retreat. Each came away with a renewed focus on how they might create positive change for the climate.
Sam Worley. (Photo: Tom Bassett.)
“I gained a wealth of knowledge about the specific intricacies in the field of politics, whether that be local or global, and the hurdles that are preventing people from taking action,” said Desai, a sophomore majoring in health and human sciencesat USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. In order to make a difference in climate change, I plan to become more involved with environmental activism including lobbying and spreading awareness on the issue, as after the conference I now have the tools and understanding to connect and bridge the gap with those who may be from completely different backgrounds and life experiences.”
Worley, a first-year student in the Master’s in Public Policy program at the USC Price School for Public Policy, points to a dearth of needed diversity.
“The Climate Forward conference highlighted the interconnected nature of climate change — politics, science, humans and Earth,” he said. “Common threads between the conference panels highlighted a need for climate change leaders with multidisciplinary backgrounds and strong communication skills to come together to address climate change. … My personal focus will hopefully lead to work with proactive adaptation strategies in private sector.”
The Catalina Day Resolution is available online.