Sustainability Summit

A series of virtual events will comprise the Sustainability Summit next week to educate the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Lincoln community about sustainability and inclusiveness at the university. 

Dave Gosselin, co-chair of the Chancellor’s Environment, Sustainability and Resilience Commission, said the Sustainability Summit in past years has been a one-day affair, but the summit expanded to three days this year to adapt to a virtual setting and to break down each topic, like the Sustainability and Resilience Master Plan, diversity and inclusion, climate change and other environmental concerns. 

The Office of Sustainability hosts the events, and all events will be virtual via Zoom and take place Sept. 1-3, according to Gosselin.

“That may actually enhance or maybe increase the number of people that can be engaged because you don't have to be in a place,” Gosselin said. “To expand the coverage or to expand the reach of the summit is certainly an advantage.”

Anna Oetting, first-year master student studying natural resource sciences and communications specialist with the Office of Sustainability, said in an email that the office wanted to focus on current issues and topics this year like social justice and climate change, and how those intersect.

“These events offer an opportunity to participate in valuable dialogue between a diverse group of individuals,” Oetting said in an email. “Through this dialogue, students can grow in their own knowledge and awareness of current topics in their UNL community.”

Brittni McGuire, senior fisheries and wildlife major and sustainability specialist for the Office of Sustainability, said in an email that she took the lead on planning the Intersections of Climate Change event.

The event will cover the intersections between the racial justice movement and environmental sustainability. It will take place on Thursday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m., according to Nebraska Today.

“The Intersections of Climate Change event will bring real, meaningful conversation about the intersections of climate change and systemic racism to campus in hopes of moving the campus community to learn, reflect and take action,” McGuire said in an email.

The Office of Sustainability also partnered with student and university organizations, including the Black Student Union, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska and the LGBTQA+ Center, for the discussion panel at the event, according to Nebraska Today. 

“One of the most rewarding parts of planning this event was getting to know and learn from some amazing people from the organizations we partnered with,” McGuire said.

Students who have experience living with and organizing around these issues will lead the panel discussion, and there will be time designated for audience questions and participation, according to McGuire.

McGuire, who will moderate the panel, said panelists include Nile Red, Madison Whitney and Rohan Thakker. Colette Yellow Robe will provide a Land Acknowledgement, a formal statement that recognizes Indigenous peoples as traditional stewards of American land.

“That’s actually a key part of sustainability, is to bring everybody into the conversation with regards to how our environment is going to be used and how it’s going to impact people,” Gosselin said. 

McGuire said the issues of climate change and systemic racism can no longer be ignored.

“Both issues have local impacts right here on our campus, and it’s our job as a community to get to work to mitigate and dismantle them,” McGuire said. “That starts with conversation and understanding how we got to this moment, which is exactly what this event is about.”

Oetting said the Sustainability and Resilience Master Plan Discussion event, occuring on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 2 p.m., kicks off the week and will feature the executive council and co-chairs of UNL’s Chancellor’s Commission on Environment, Sustainability and Resilience.

The discussion will detail UNL’s first Sustainability and Resilience Master Plan and show the community the efforts UNL made in the last year and its future plans for sustainability on campus, according to Gosselin.

“Students are so interested in the topic, it seemed like a very important audience for us to engage with and to talk to us about it,” Gosselin said. “To let students know that there are things going on and they can certainly be involved in it in a wide variety of ways.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m., the E.N. Thompson Forum on World Issues will go over polar exploration, grassroots activism, environmental justice and environmental history, according to Nebraska Today. 

Mary Pipher, an author, activist and clinical psychologist, will present “Trauma and Recovery: A New Story of Interconnection and Action” at the event.

Gosselin said he hopes students will attend these events and participate in the discussions to create a more sustainable environment on UNL’s campus.

“I’d like to see students get really engaged and find out what they can do,” Gosselin said. “Getting engaged early and often and having your voice heard is a huge thing, and these events will provide that opportunity.”

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