Researchers now recognize that individual action alone will not suffice to tackle the most significant environmental problems of today and that collaborative action will be required for success in addressing deeply rooted unsustainable patterns. As climate change continues to threaten our way of life, particularly the lives of those who are already burdened by other social inequities, the Mount Holyoke community is dedicated to doing our part to address the crisis at hand. While the college has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2037 and has implemented a number of sustainability initiatives at the structural level, the Community Commitment to Climate Justice (CC2CJ) offers a way for everyone on campus, from students and administrators to staff and faculty, to get involved in the fight against climate disruption in ways that are ongoing and transformative for our community and beyond.
To date, there are significant sustainability plans taking shape across campus, yet these plans remain elusive to many. Goldberg, Gustafson and van der Linden have found that key factors in cultivating lasting change on climate action include
- “active thinking about climate change via deep discussion with close members of one’s social network;
- revised mental models that make it easier to understand, think about and feel motivated to act on climate change
- reinforcement of pro-climate social norms so they become internalized over time.”
In this vein, the CC2CJ would bring together diverse actors from across campus to center conversations around environmental issues and to coordinate sustainability efforts across campus. More importantly, this commitment would build community around sustainability and justice issues in ways that can be empowering and institutionalized over time.
In a nod to the Paris Climate Agreement, the MHC CC2CJ seeks to enhance communication and coordination on sustainability efforts and identify commitments from the college’s primary stakeholders to address both carbon neutrality goals and sustainability actions. Where other climate action plans often have one committee responsible for setting goals across campus, MHC’s CC2CJ requires actions to be defined by the actors to incentivize long-term commitment and ultimately empower the community as a whole. We recognize that the commitments from each stakeholder will look different based on their abilities and levels of responsibility. For this reason, we rely on a transparent and sustained dialogue to develop goals that are agreeable to each stakeholder group and that can be revisited regularly.
Through the CC2CJ and the opportunities to pursue these commitments, we believe that this coordinated effort on sustainability goals will achieve many of the recommendations of the MHC Sustainability Task Force, including the following:
- Increase awareness and communication on sustainability efforts and measures, including the interconnectedness of sustainability and justice
- Center conversations on environmental and sustainability initiatives
- Increase transparency around sustainability-related decision-making
- Provide opportunities for organizing, community-building and communication
- Provide opportunities for leadership, interdisciplinary studies and teamwork
- Integrate a culture of sustainability across campus and empower community members
The CC2CJ is a place where every stakeholder on campus can contribute to a global movement through a local and meaningful approach. Because climate change affects us all, members from across the campus representing facilities, dining, LITS, staff council, administration, faculty and students are invited to contribute to a vision for our campus that would create an overall just and sustainable community. Involvement in the CC2CJ is meant to be impactful but also manageable. Members will gather three times over each academic year to 1) hear about sustainability initiatives occurring on campus; 2) identify new initiatives that their peers/colleagues may be interested in pursuing; 3) find support and resources for implementing new initiatives and 4) coordinate sustainability initiatives across campus.
Between meetings, participants in the CC2CJ will be asked to explore and communicate with their peers/colleagues to identify what initiatives people might be willing and able to commit to and help communicate initiatives already in the works. With an accountability structure that comes from outside the administration in which members begin to hold themselves accountable for their personal and collective actions, the community commitment will move us toward not only carbon neutrality but also a more just and empowered community.
- Kickoff, fall 2021
- Check in to envision possible campus commitments, early spring 2022
- Reconvene to discuss implementation of commitments, April 2022
- Kickoff with increased participants to discuss implemented initiatives and envision new commitments, September 2022
- Check in to identify successes and obstacles to initiatives, December 2022
- Reconvene to discuss implementation of commitments, April 2023