Claremont, Calif. (December 18, 2017)—The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has awarded Pitzer College’s Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability a $50,000, two-year grant to increase public understanding of climate justice and find creative, effective ways to address climate change’s global repercussions. The grant supports two public symposia at Pitzer that will engage communities both on and off campus with some of the most pressing environmental issues facing the world today.
“California, an international leader on policies that mitigate the effects of climate change, is also on the frontlines of many of the threats it poses. It is fitting that Pitzer College, a trailblazer of higher education fossil fuel divestment in the state, and its Robert Redford Conservancy should highlight climate justice in its public forum,” said Elizabeth Campbell, vice president for programs at Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “Pollution and the challenges of climate change don’t distinguish between populations who suffer their negative impacts, but our policies must be more equitable and fairly protect all people, as well as provide all communities with fair access to an economy rooted in sustainability.”
Brinda Sarathy, the director of the Redford Conservancy and an associate professor of environmental analysis at Pitzer, says that the grant helps address a key question: How can the Conservancy meaningfully engage the public with climate-related problems?
“How, for example, do we connect people’s everyday lives and concerns to the seemingly abstract and overwhelming socio-ecological and existential crises of a dramatically changing climate?” Sarathy asks. “Everyone needs to be engaged in order to advocate for not only policy change, but also to fundamentally restructure the dominant and extractive socio-economic systems that collectively harm the wellbeing of our one shared home.”
The first symposium, “Climate Change, Climate Justice: Organizing in the Face of a Changing Planet,” on February 16, is part of the official opening of the Robert Redford Conservancy’s permanent facility north of Pitzer’s main campus. Held during Pitzer’s Family Weekend, the event will feature climate-science experts and environmental justice activists who will discuss challenges and opportunities stemming from the climate crisis. The Conservancy will follow the symposium with a climate-action workshop on March 3.
“Climate Change, Climate Justice” will join a series of public forums that the Redford Conservancy has hosted to explore some of Southern California’s biggest environmental concerns, including compromised air quality, diminishing ground water and the future of the rapidly shrinking Salton Sea.
The Conservancy’s programs build upon and expand a commitment to the environment that dates back to Pitzer’s early years when it became one of the first colleges in the US to launch an environmental studies program in the ’70s. In 2014, Pitzer launched the Fossil Fuel Divestment-Climate Action Model, making Pitzer the first private college or university in California to divest from fossil fuels and committing the College to reducing its carbon footprint by 25 percent in two years. This year, Pitzer partnered with the investment firm BlackRock, Inc. to create a global equity index fund that is both Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-focused and fossil fuel-free.
Pitzer President Melvin L. Oliver says that the College’s approach to environmental education and activism make Pitzer a natural partner with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which divested from fossil fuel stocks the same year Pitzer did and aims to foster sustainability and peace around the world.
“In this age of unprecedented anthropogenic climate change, we believe that students pursuing a liberal arts education are uniquely poised to bring the needed mindset to act upon the scope and impact of this crisis,” says Oliver, who signed the “We are Still In” pledge to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement in June. “As change agents, we realize that knowledge is not enough; engagement and practice are also critical.”
The Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability at Pitzer College, established in 2012, creates innovative academic programming and interdisciplinary education around environmental challenges while facilitating Pitzer’s own commitment to sustainability. Academically driven by the liberal arts, and guided by the College’s core values of social responsibility and environmental sustainability, the Redford Conservancy engages interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to environmental problem solving, promoting the longevity of Southern California’s natural environment and the wellbeing of its peoples.
Founded in 1940, Rockefeller Brothers Fund advances social change that contributes to a more just, sustainable and peaceful world. The fund’s grantmaking is organized in three thematic programs that support work in the United States and at the global level: Democratic Practice, Sustainable Development and Peacebuilding; and in two pivotal place programs that address these themes in specific contexts: China, and the Western Balkans. The Charles E. Culpeper Arts & Culture program, focused on New York, nurtures a vibrant and inclusive arts community in the fund’s home city.