In a political landscape where environmental issues are a dire topic, a club whose roots date back to 1892 is fighting for a better future on campus.
The Ohio State Sierra Club Student Coalition is a university chapter of the national environmental organization. The student organization is looking forward to opportunities for environmental activism in the coming months, including its spring installment of Voices on Sustainability, a semesterly public program in which the club invites a guest speaker to talk about environmental issues, Luke Bobay, a third-year in environmental science and evolution and ecology and the club’s president, said.
The club works to combat environmental issues through three main areas: education, service and advocacy, Bobay said. Voices on Sustainability falls under the club’s education efforts.
This semester, the club will host a conference call with Vincent Stanley, chief philosophy officer of clothing company Patagonia, to discuss how businesses can adopt sustainable, environmentally conscious practices. Callia Tellez, a fourth-year in environmental policy and decision-making and the club’s advocacy chair, said the club is hoping to involve business students in the discussion.
For its service work, the club works on projects such as Olentangy River trash cleanups and invasive species removal, Bobay said.
The club’s advocacy work primarily consists of working with local and national organizations, including Appalachians Against Pipelines and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, as well as helping students connect with their local government representatives to talk about environmental issues, Tellez said.
“It’s really exciting to help students — for the first time — look up who their local representative is and call them or have a meeting with them, because people need to remember that it is their right as citizens to be able to communicate to your representatives,” Tellez said.
Brian Bush, a third-year in environmental science and the club’s vice president, said the fourth component of the club’s activities is recreation.
“A big part of it, and in the Sierra Club’s founding, too, is not only preserving these things and advocating for these things, but enjoying them, so we try to periodically do some group outings,” Bush said.
In April, the club will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Tellez said. While the club plans to look back on the progress made in the past half-century, she said they will also discuss what needs to be done in the future.
“The Cuyahoga may not be on fire anymore, but we are losing our mountains in West Virginia due to mountaintop removal, and we’re losing our regulations due to the current administration, so 50 years into this celebration of Earth Day, what is our attention going to be on in the next 50 years?”
Bush said the club also advocates at the university level — most recently in October 2019, when it sent a letter to the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences expressing concern about the hiring of former Trump EPA administrator Clint Woods, who left his position at Ohio State Jan. 31.
Tellez said one of the major roadblocks when working with the university is how easy it is for the administration to brush students off due to the quick turnover of the student body compared to the slow process of structural change.
She said that in the future, the club would like to be more included in university discussion on environmental issues.
“It’s been a challenge in the past for us to communicate with the administration, and so we’re hoping that we can open that dialogue more, especially in problematic relationships such as investments in fossil fuel companies and our dependent relationship on Coca-Cola funding,” she said.
Voices on Sustainability will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 18 in the Busch House Valor Room. Sierra Club meetings are at 7:30 p.m. every other Wednesday in Enarson Classroom Building Room 245.