Eban Goodstein kicked off the Northeast Regional C2C Fellows Workshop at Bard College last Friday night with a call to action for young environmentalists. “We’ve arrived at a truly extraordinary moment in human history,” he told the audience. “The decisions you make will impact not only your lives and the lives of your children, but the lives of every human being who will walk the earth from here on out.” Goodstein is the director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) and the new Bard MBA in Sustainability Program. C2C, a Bard CEP program, hosts regional workshops in environmental leadership around the United States. The inaugural workshop was held at Bard last December, and this weekend’s gathering was C2C’s fifth. The C2C Fellows are current students or recent graduates who plan to pursue careers in sustainability through politics or business. C2C is shorthand for Campus to Congress, to Capitol, to City Hall, and to Corporation. The relationship between green initiatives, entrepreneurs, educators, and lawmakers at all levels was evident throughout the weekend.
Amid a light snow shower in Annandale, 70 C2C Fellows arrived on Friday from as far away as Depaul University in Chicago and Tulane University in Louisiana. Eleven participants were Bard College undergraduates, and four early college students drove in from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts. They were students of broad educational backgrounds, including political studies, economics, and environmental science; led green organizations and political science clubs at their colleges; and worked in their campus gardens and farms.
|Daniel Jung Dong, Harvard
They brought their own talents to share and a desire to learn new skills in sessions on networking, fundraising, and public speaking. Daniel Jung Dong, a student at Harvard University, was trained by Al Gore in Beijing to give climate change presentations to large groups, and shared stories of speaking to audiences of students and office workers across China. Alicia Leitgeb of Cornell University was fresh from a semester in Iceland, where she studied the country’s renewable energy systems. “I really wanted to investigate more about practical solutions,” she said, “and not just talk about theories in the classroom.” This desire to turn theory into practice was echoed by many participants, who were eager to talk to the panelists and facilitators who had made careers in sustainability.
|Alicia Leitgeb, Cornell
The visiting students connected with each other and their Bard hosts over shared meals, and in sessions small and large where they told their own stories—which ranged from humorous to moving. It was a weekend of building relationships. C2C helps Fellows make lasting connections at workshops here and around the country, creating a network of young leaders in green business and policy that will grow and support them throughout their careers. Benefits of being a Fellow also include scholarship opportunities and lifetime career counseling privileges from Director Goodstein. Aquaponics specialist and workshop presenter Miles Crettien reflected on his own start in the industry, “The power of networking is huge. That’s how I found myself where I am today, just reaching out to people, getting people’s information, finding new people to talk to about interesting things, as well as getting new ideas from leaders in the industry and from institutions such as Bard that are leading the way.”
Nick Stracco of Tulane found inspiration and solidarity in the workshop. “Just being in a group filled with people who also care about [the environment] and want to grow as people, and young professionals, makes me feel like it’s a fight worth fighting, because there are so many other people that think it’s worth fighting.” Fellows come out of the weekend feeling motivated to bring what they have learned back to their campuses and communities. The goal of the C2C staff and the growing national network of C2C Fellows is to keep the momentum going in the face of what Workshop Facilitator Jess Scott calls “a stark political and environmental climate.” She adds, “We help remind young people that there is hope, I think, and give them the skills and courage to act.” C2C will strive to spread that message with workshops and events in the new year. The annual C2C Fellows Day of Action will take place on April 17, 2013, featuring a nationwide showing of the film The Island President—about Maldives leader Mohamed Nasheed’s fight against rising sea levels that threaten the safety of his country—followed by a webinar with the film’s director Jon Shenk. Upcoming C2C workshops in Colorado, Michigan, and Oregon will train groups of young environmental leaders in those regions.