Profile in Sustainability – Graduate Student Association, Climate Action and Policy Committee

UC San Diego graduate students across disciplines are coming together to strategically pressure the administration to achieve ambitious goals like the full decarbonization of campus operations as quickly as possible. Pioneering this initiative are the members of the Graduate Student Association who recently established the Climate Action and Policy Committee (CAP). One of the founding members, Erica Ferrer, answered some questions I had about this committee on behalf of CAP and its additional eleven members!


From left to right: Pascal Polonik (SIO – Climate Sciences), Peter Sloan (Music), Tricia Light (SIO – Marine Chemistry & Geochemistry), Erica Ferrer (SIO – Marine Biology), Luke Stroth (Anthropology), Kelly Hunter (Chemistry and Biochemistry), Jason O’Neill (Mathematics), Akanksha Harish (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering), Nathan Mariano (Political Science), Krish Bhutwala (Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering). Members not pictured here: Veronica Uribe-del-Aguila (Communication, Science Studies), Viona Deconinck (Visual Arts)


Why is sustainability important to your committee?

We are a group of graduate students from across disciplines, with a variety of interests surrounding sustainability and the natural world. While we each have our own specific reasons for participating in CAP, we are united by our shared concern for living creatures and human well-being now and in the future.

Where did the idea for a committee like this originate? Can you speak to the formation of this committee?

We noticed a need for a space and institutional umbrella under which graduate students could plug into sustainability efforts here at UC San Diego. Like many other campus organizations and student groups working to promote social justice and positive change, this committee was born from the “fierce urgency of now.” We must act to reduce the impacts of climate change and stave off environmental degradation in every way we know how!

As graduate students, we are in a unique position to contribute climate solutions and adaptations in our daily lives, both on campus and beyond. As founding member of CAP, Peter Sloan, explains in his Triton op-ed, we are turning our climate grief into hope and action.

What are the primary goals of the Climate Action and Policy committee and what is the role of this committee within the Graduate Student Association?

The role of CAP within the GSA is two-fold: CAP seeks to communicate the sentiments of UCSD graduate students on climate action and sustainability, especially those that reflect an urgent need for cultural and policy changes at all institutional levels of UCSD, while foregrounding voices of frontline and marginalized communities.

We exist under the auspices of GSA to foster oversight of our work and provide a clear channel for recruiting graduate student members and staying connected to the larger student body. Additionally, if anyone has disagreements about the actions or opinions espoused by our committee, they are free to express them during the public comment periods held at the beginning of all GSA Council meetings.

How do you hope to impact the GSA and UCSD as a whole, particularly in regards to graduate students like yourselves?

We hope to foster a sense of empowerment and hope amongst graduate students who care about the environment and want to contribute to a more sustainable future. We also want to act as a liaison between graduate students and sustainability services available to them here at UCSD. We understand that graduate students generally do not have a lot of spare time and benefit from groups like ours that can distill information and act as an“information desk” for sustainability news and services that pertain to them.

Graduate students interested in joining the GSA Climate Action and Policy (CAP) committee can email vpcampus@gsa.ucsd.edu for more information.

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