Thursday, November 12, 2015

December Sustainability Profile: Catherine Alfaro and Amran Khan

Each month, our newsletter features a person or group on campus that is working toward a more sustainable world. 

This month features American Indian Resource Center and People of Color Sustainability Collective interns Catherine Alfaro and Amran Khan. Catherine and Amran work together to showcase the historical, current, and future impact of people of color in the sustainability movement.



What is your title, affiliation, and year?
Amran: American Indian Resource Center and People of Color Sustainability Collective intern; College 10 affiliated junior.
Catherine: Intern for the American Indian Resource Center and Student Coordinator for People of Color Sustainability Collective; College 10 affiliated senior.

What does “sustainability” mean to you? 
Amran: Sustainability to me is more than just trying to preserve our environment, but also our culture, language, history, people, and future. There is no way of talking about sustainability without talking about issues like social justice and inequality. Sustainability involves everyone and everything from class, color, religion, et cetera. Being sustainable is important because it helps us to remember our roots and how we got to where we are.  

Catherine: Sustainability to me means sustaining the balance of many parts of life. A great reference for me is the web of life which shows the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. Culture, community, health, education, animals, individuals, food, the living and non-living things, et cetera are all connected. We all affect each other in positive and negative ways, but learning how to sustain every aspect of life is important. By sustaining I mean learning about culture, community, education, animals, health, food, the living and non-living things and preserving these entities. One important thing that I have learned is that there are many ways to define and practice sustainability. There is not a one size fits all or guidelines to being sustainable. I would only think about ecology when people would mention sustainability. It took a long time for me to define sustainability in a holistic way.

How would you describe the goals of the People of Color Sustainability Collective?
Amran: The goal of People of Color Sustainability Collective is to educate and show UCSC students the contributions people of color have made and will make for environmental justice. We also want to create spaces for people to be able to share their knowledge and experiences in the environmental justice movement.

Catherine: I would say that our main goals are to bring awareness and highlight the work that People of Color are doing in regards to sustainability. Also, to create spaces where people of color feel comfortable to share their views, experiences, and outlooks on sustainability as well as to redefine sustainability to include a variety of interpretations.

Any projects you're looking forward to this year?
Amran: People of Color Sustainability Collective has a lot of exciting projects in the future ahead. I am excited for more discussion, events, and activities in the future and next quarter to come. Also in the winter quarter, People of Color Sustainability Collective will be conducting research at UCSC, based on environmental and social justice.

Catherine: I am excited for the research Amran, Adriana (the People of Color Sustainability Collective Coordinator), and I will be working on in regards to student opinions, experiences, and perceptions about inclusivity in the campus sustainability movements. Also, I am excited for the different collaborations and events that we will be working on throughout the year.

What made you interested in sustainability?
Amran: Growing up as a person of color, I became interested in sustainability when I realized how much people of color are impacted by environmental issues and how little people recognized this. 

Catherine: Before joining the People of Color Sustainability Collective, I thought I did not know much about sustainability. I did not think I was sustainable myself. What changed my outlook on sustainability was re-defining what it meant to me. Both mentor Adriana Renteria and Dr. Rosser’s recommendation that I read the book by Enrique Salmon, Eating the Landscape: American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience, helped me re-define sustainability. Learning that there are many components to sustainability and realizing that my family, my culture, and the work that I do are sustainable practices made me feel comfortable with the concept of sustainability. Realizing that all my life my family has been sustainable through actions that are seen as minuscule things like wearing hand-me-downs, re-using containers, trying our best to not waste food, and finding ingenious ways to work with what we have made me interested in sustainability. Validating the work that I have done within College 10 and the Ethnic Resource Centers that foster community, culture, and retention of students as something sustainable also made me interested. Being able to highlight the work that I do and redefine sustainability has been a big motivation.

If you could send one message about sustainability to everyone at UCSC, what would you say?
Amran: You can be sustainable about anything that impacts you or your greater interests.

Catherine: What I would say to people is that it would be good to reflect a little about their own definition of sustainability, why they think that, and how they could link it to the work they do. Also, that we might want to rethink our strategies on how to sustain our earth, and that people from a multitude of backgrounds and disciplines need to get together and talk about what is going on. All the different perspectives are needed to create a more inclusive and sustainable campus.

You can find the information and contact page for the People of Color Sustainability Collective here and check out the Facebook page here!

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