Sustainable Storytelling

When it comes to the subject of sustainability there’s something for everybody. Sustainability is a multifaceted concept that can appeal to a wide variety of people.  Lectures and films are a great way to introduce audiences to the diverse range of sustainability issues and solutions. A 1-unit undergraduate course, Environment 185 –Education for Sustainable Living Program (ESLP) Speaker Series, brings sustainability to life.

The series consists of seminars and documentary screenings. Guest speakers from across the country deliver talks on topics including green economics, environmental health, sustainable living, green building, food systems, green chemistry, biodiversity, water accessibility issues, as well as sustainability projects across Los Angeles. To check out past lectures on UCLA BruinCast click here.

The documentary component connects students visually to sustainability issues. The screenings are followed by a question and answer session with the filmmaker. Documentaries presented in the past include “Food Inc.,” “No Impact Man,” and “King Corn.”

Seniors Joanna Wheaton and Julie Kelleher serve as co-directors of the Speaker Series. As co-directors they are in charge of researching, contacting, and booking speakers. In addition to filling the Speaker Series calendar they are also responsible for creating and grading the assignments students enrolled in the course complete.

Joanna is a Political Science major pursuing three minors in Environmental Systems and Society, Urban Regional Studies, and Geographic Information Systems and Technology. In addition to being involved in sustainability academically, Joanna is also the co-president of E3, UCLA's largest student environmental organization.  Joanna hopes to secure a career in urban planning and never commute by car. Julie is an Environmental Science major and Environmental Systems and Society minor. She’s interested in greening water systems and business practices.  Julie interned at Atherton 2020, a consulting firm specializing in energy efficient technologies and spent a summer working for the Artemis Project, a company that offers sustainable consulting for water technology start-ups. Julie would like to work in sustainability consulting. Both students are set to graduate in June 2013.

With graduation looming in the springtime Joanna and Julie felt a sense to “go big or go home” when it came to coordinating the series. Joanna said, “We would love to have a lasting impact on the way younger students view the relevance and urgency of addressing environmental challenges and encouraging participation in ESLP is a great way to accomplish this. As a freshman the lecture series was the gateway that eventually led me to become increasingly involved with sustainability efforts across campus.”

Joanna and Julie elaborated on their approach to planning the series, which features sixteen speakers from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds.  “When we were thinking of which topics to cover and who to invite, we drew upon past experiences, asking ourselves which subjects and speakers were most interesting and memorable. When reaching out to groups we had no prior relationship with, we tried to pick those who would be most relevant or attractive to students,” they stated.

This year’s line-up includes the writer and editor of GOOD Magazine, the founder of Urban Homestead, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s sustainability coordinator, and the director of the Social Justice Learning Institute. Last week extreme athlete, adventurer, and environmental activist Sebastian Copeland screened his documentary “Into the Cold” and held a discussion afterwards.

ESLP’s leaders believe there are two important purposes to the series. Primarily it broadens and enriches students’ understanding of contemporary environmental issues. Finally, it helps undergraduates relate what they are learning about the environment to future career considerations.