Virtual climate action summit connects students

Virginia Wesleyan University served as a host for the 2021 Climate Action Pursuit event. This event was held virtually from February 24 to February 26. Professors, faculty members and students were given the opportunity to participate in these events that had the presence of professionals who were providing learning experiences and planning on how the participants could work together towards climate and justice. 

Junior Sophia Gonzales participated in one of the three events that were held that week. Gonzales is currently an Earth and Environmental Studies major with a double minor in Business and Communications. She related to topics that were about the environment and climate because of her experience in the field. Nonetheless, the topic that combined social justice with environmental factors was one that caught her attention. 

“The one that I attended was about Racial Equity Investing 101 and it was called ‘No Justice, No Peace without the person’s free portfolios,’ and I heard from a diverse panel of women, topics that I didn’t even think about until I listened to it,” Gonzales said. “The event was pretty engaging, we had 20 people on the call and even though we didn’t really have time for a lot of questions, I still felt that what they had to say was so important.” 

The event was made with a relaxed and flexible schedule for students to connect whenever they got the chance. “For the event, you just had to sign up and you can go whenever you want, you don’t have to miss class or anything,” freshman Edward McDonald said. 

McDonald said that of all the themes that they talked about in this event, the most interesting topics for him were the financially responsible ones. “I went to a bunch of different sections that had to do with being more environmentally conscious with your money. They were talking about how to invest in communities along with ESG foams.” 

He also added that this conference gave him ideas and knowledge on how people can invest in companies that will help the environment. “The companies that they present were kind of more ‘morally okay’ to invest in,” McDonald said. “Like investing in green technology and divesting from fossil fuels.” In the future, McDonald would like to specialize more in this field of financial and environmental studies. 

Being her first event that she attended at VWU, Freshman Alecia Fischman expressed that equity being connected with environmental discussion is one of the most important topics that people have to know about. “There is a problem in the U.S. today where environmental issues are affecting minorities more and I do not think that this is talked about enough or recognized about enough,” Fischman said. 

One of the topics that was most interesting and important for these students was the combination of social justice and environment. Students expressed that the communication of the message was fluid and understandable. 

“It was easy to understand these topics. They went into what racial equity investing and the definition of racial equity versus racial justice,” Gonzales said. She firmly believed that this conference helped make her a better agent of change. 

“It was not people saying only facts or anything like that, there were a lot of key note conversations that were about what is going on right now in the world,” Fischman said.  

The event was held virtually to comply with social distancing protocols. Students claimed that despite this, it was very interactive and informative. “I think that being virtual kinda makes me more comfortable, it made me feel better,” Fischman said. 

McDonald explained that he really liked the fact that he did not have to miss class to attend one of these conferences. “I was able to switch between meetings without causing much of a disruption, so I was able to get the highlights of each one,” McDonald said. 

The speakers of these conferences made everything more accessible and easy for the audience members. Gonzales expressed that she would have enjoyed an in-person conference, but it was still engaging and interesting. 

This event was one of the four milestone events that the Second Nature organization has planned. Other events will take place on June 10-11, October 7-8, and December 9-10, 2021. Students interested in these events have the opportunity to also submit session proposals for them to be discussed in these virtual conferences.

By Steven Serrano-Cruz