Environmental activism at LMU remains virtual this semester. After coming to a sudden halt last spring, campus sustainability clubs and movements are refocusing to education and outreach rather than campus demonstrations. Clubs such as ECO Students LMU and Herbicide Free LMU formulated new ways to promote sustainability practices for students.
ECO Students LMU, a club focused on environmental legislation and sustainability at the University, transitioned from physical work on campus to more discussion-based Zoom meetings. Emilee Smith, a senior environmental science major and president of ECO students, said that last year most of the work was with Divest LMU and helping out with the garden on campus.
Since being online, Smith said they started a book club. “We would have meetings every other week on Zoom. [The books] related to environmental and social issues. We read Parable of the Sower last semester and are picking a new book for this semester.”
Last semester, ECO Students collaborated with ASLMU in creating the LMU Makers Collective. Reilly Gryzwacz, the director of sustainability in ASLMU, spearheaded the project which aimed to set up a space for LMU artists and creatives to promote and sell their work.
“Ideally it was going to be launched way ahead of the holidays and instead of having our students shop for their family members in larger stores, they would be able to support their fellow students in a sustainable fashion and help publicize their work and also give them some financial relief,” said Gryzwacz.
Gryzwacz also co-founded Divest LMU, a coalition of students, faculty, staff and alumni calling for LMU to divest from fossil fuels on campus. The coalition, founded in January 2020, held a protest on campus last spring a few weeks before in-person learning ended.
“We have an endowment made up of all sorts of money and part of that is indirectly invested in fossil fuel companies,” said Gryzwacz. “A lot of universities around the country, including the entire University of California system and a lot of large schools, have taken their money or divested their endowment out of fossil fuels.”
While LMU is remote and on campus activities and demonstrations have been put on pause, Gryzwacz wants students to know that the coalition is still actively working to push the University to divest.
“Now it's really more about support … It's really about keeping projects going. It's so hard to stay motivated during all of this and even harder to communicate with administration and higher-ups,” said Gryzwacz.
Herbicide Free LMU, another sustainability-focused club, started meeting with LMU groundskeeping to discuss how to make LMU an herbicide-free campus.
Rose Williamson, a junior economics and international relations double major and co-president of Herbicide Free LMU, said that herbicides have “not only an environmental impact on the soil, but also human health. Synthetic pesticides are tied back to a lot of health issues including cancer and autoimmune disorders. There’s ongoing litigation about that, but we just feel it's not the safest thing to have on our campus.”
Emma Dax, a junior screenwriting major and co-president of the club, said last spring they moved through campus hand-weeding plants with groundskeeping and working with them to see what they would need to make LMU herbicide-free. Last semester, they spent their time trying to make their club a Registered Student Organization (RSO), but this semester they have plans to host more events and reach out to more people who might be interested in joining them.
“Sustainability issues have historically been exclusive. You think you have to be an environmental science or environmental studies major to be involved, but it's such an interdisciplinary field,” said Gryzwacz.
Williamson echoed Gryzwacz and said that she loves how Herbicide Free, as a national organization, is committed to an intersectional approach to environmentalism because sustainability issues impact humans as well as the environment.
Smith said that in addition to hosting another book club, ECO Students LMU hopes to get a plot of land in a community garden from club members to care for.
“I'm really hoping that when everyone gets back on campus the spark will still be ignited and people will regain that passion and focus on sustainability issues on campus,” said Gryzwacz.