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Ramapo Green Leads Discussion on Climate Activism

Read this article on Ramapo News

On Oct. 21, Ramapo Green hosted a climate conference called “Reaching the Turning Point: The Youth Climate Movement and Our Election.” Moderators included director of the sustainability major Dr. Ashwani Vasishth, Dr. Michael Edelstein from the environmental studies program and adjunct professor and Executive Director of ClimateMama, Harriet Shugarman.

The event consisted of several different presentations with multiple speakers to discuss the different facets of environmentalism. Speakers approached the topic from all angles, but they mainly focused on the aspect of climate activism, showing Ramapo students all that is being and can be done.

Chief Vincent Mann from the Turtle Clan of the Ramapough-Lenape Nation began the day by giving a prayer of thanks to the creator of Mother Earth and for our lives. He talked about the intersection between climate change and issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement. He noted the visible changes in the world and in universities as youths gain awareness of the responsibility they have to each other and to future generations to find solutions.

Tipping Points: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

After the introductory prayer, Dr. Edelstein transitioned with a summary of the day’s objectives to discuss turning points with the youth climate movement and the upcoming presidential election.

A tipping point was defined as when a small change pushes a system into a large or accelerated response. In 1980, we exceeded the tipping point of 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 in the atmosphere, and today we are at 411.15 ppm. Rising global temperatures and melting arctic ice have entered a positive feedback loop as a result.

Dr. Edelstein spoke about how today, colonialism, capitalism and corporate globalism drive us to use the resources 1.5 times more than Earth needs. Human activities like burning fossil fuels have already caused 1 degree Celsius of global warming above pre-industrial levels.

Climate change is only one planetary boundary, but it can cause catastrophes by itself and amplify other more critical boundaries such as species loss. Dr. Edelstein shared personal experiences of witnessing damage caused by climate change. On Aug. 9, 2010, he was in Russia during a major heat event. Fires and crop failures were abundant, and nearly 55,000 people died.

Dr. Edelstein went on to summarize big oil’s historical hold on both US political parties. President Obama entered the U.S. in the Paris Agreement, but he did not remove the energy policy created by President Bush that favored big oil. This occurred even after InsideClimate News revealed Exxon Mobile had systematically funded climate denial despite 80 percent of their research proving the existence of climate change. Within the past four years, the Trump administration has weakened or withdrawn 462 environmental regulations.

There is a bright side. The world is on the verge of a paradigm change. Organizations such as Extinction Rebellion are advocating for nonviolent protests for climate action. Climate change has become a political issue that politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been elected on. This movement is being driven by people of color and youths, and as a result, 18 million people stated they will be climate-first voters in the 2020 election.

Young Voices of the Climate Action Movement

These diverse youth leaders were given an opportunity in the afternoon to share their journeys with climate change activism, and the ways they’ve turned their passion into action.

Two of the presenters are still in high school, but political climate action is still incredibly important to them. High school senior Rachel Lee gave a presentation about her involvement in Zero Hour, a New York City based youth-led organization that recognizes the intersections between climate change and oppression of minority groups.

“Now more than ever, students are rallying behind comprehensive solutions like the Green New Deal,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, many of us lack the ability to vote.”

Ashley Park, a high school junior, is engaged in activism that also aims to empower younger generations to interact with climate action. She became aware of her concern for the environment in fourth grade, and later on she realized how her passion for art could become a vehicle for the activism she wanted to partake in.

Park co-founded a magazine, “Generation Green,” to unite climate activism and art. She also works with the organization Voteless Not Voiceless, which gives an artistic platform to 13-17 year-olds and donates to support voter mobilization. One of Park’s accomplishments since beginning her role in climate activism was successfully protesting against a power plant being built in North Jersey.

“The movement that grew behind stopping the North Jersey power plant… transformed my almost lost hope into inspiration and even more motivation,” Park said.

Voting Climate-First

Dr. Vasishth began his segment dissecting the key points of the presidential nominee’s climate plans. Explaining Biden’s, he said the candidate’s day one objectives include limiting methane pollution for oil and gas operations, driving towards 100 percent clean energy and zero emissions vehicles, making U.S. government facilities more efficient, implementing new standards on building efficiency, making plans to conserve 30 percent of America’s lands and waters by 2030 and enhancing reforestation and renewables on federal lands. The Trump administration, on the other hand, shows signs of following past trends of dismantling climate protections.

Dr. Vasishth then introduced the audience to a simulation program by Climate Interactive and MIT that dissects variables contributing to a global mean temperature increase. Currently, the program anticipates an increase of 4.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. Dr. Vasishth let participants request for him to alter certain variables in the program to see how that affected the anticipated temperature increase.

By raising a tax on carbon, implementing a total electrification of transport, supporting technological carbon removal, and implementing a total electrification of buildings and industry, the expected temperature increase was reduced to 2 degrees Celsius. Dr. Vasishth believed carbon price is the key to the problem and can lead to more changes for the better. There is only a ten-year window to implement changes before the planet is locked on a course of high global temperature increases, though, so they must be implemented quickly.

Voting was a major topic of conversation for the day. One presenter, Daphne Frias, spoke about her project “Box the Ballot,” which encourages voting and voter engagement by taking advantage of ballot harvesting. This practice is legal in 26 states when signed off and delivered within three days of collection.

“The reason young people don’t vote isn’t because they don’t necessarily feel empowered to vote,” Frias said. “It’s that there are barriers to vote that we aren’t recognizing.”

Frias’ campaign not only aims to engage young voters, but even youth who cannot vote yet. Minors are able collect ballots for the campaign, which Frias said they often do with parents, creating intergenerational dialogue about voting. “Box the Ballot” creates pamphlets for this purpose as well, teaching voters how to vet out climate-first options on their ballot.

“Many of you may be asking, what does this have to do with the climate crisis, this has everything to do with the climate crisis,” Frias said. “It’s a voting issue. For the first time in any American generation, we have to legitimately ponder if we have a future.”

Climate action was identified by Frias as an issue that can be confusing for voters, because the term Green New Deal can be used in vague contexts. Frias said she wants to “demystify” the climate crisis so that solutions can be more accessible.

Effective Climate Communication

In the same topic of creating communication between generations, Dr. Vasishth led a segment called “Effective Climate Communication.” He began by expressing his disapproval of Al Gore’s approach on talking about climate change. He argued that a barrage of bad news will paralyze people instead of inspiring them to action; language is vital to inciting change, and there should be a greater focus on dispelling metaphors and sayings that minimize how people view climate change.

Currently, American metaphors that create a warped view of climate change include “all on the surface” and “drop in the bucket.” As a result, Americans view the ocean as a resource, underestimate the damage caused by oil spills, and assume human activities are incapable of causing significant damage.

Dr. Vasishth presented several alternate metaphors to give a better view of the effects of climate change, mainly ocean acidification. One was that carbon dioxide is Earth’s heat-trapping blanket.

Despite making up about 0.03 percent of breathable air, the gas is responsible for absorbing most of the heat that gets trapped in the atmosphere. Another was that CO2 causes the osteoporosis of the sea. Similar to how the disease causes decalcification of bones, too much CO2 being absorbed by the ocean leads to acidification.

Professor Shugarman hosted a segment talking about her new book, “How to Talk to Your Kids about Climate Change,” and flipping the script onto older generations. She was inspired by growing up in Alberta, Canada, where many people worked in the oil industry and were reluctant to talk about the realities of the situation.

Having conversations with members of older generations about the current climate crisis has been made difficult due to the politicization of the issue. The key to starting the conversation is by being truthful, because the science is clear, according to Shugarman.

Ramapo students participating in the Sunrise Movement first year seminar course volunteered to share their personal stories of coming to care about the environment and encouraging others to do the same. One student expressed the challenges he has faced during the process of convincing his father to believe that climate change was a real problem.

Another relayed how her older sister became environmentally aware during her university years, and together they convinced their parents to care as well. Overall, the presentations were evidence of how today’s youth continue to mobilize in large numbers to protest, spread awareness and advocate for the changes needed to minimize the damage climate change has already been inflicting on the planet.

Sunrise Movement

The Sunrise Movement was a topic that several presenters talked about, as Ramapo will potentially be opening its own chapter of the organization soon.

Ananya Singh, who works with Sunrise Morris County, gave a short presentation that identified the barriers to activism, which Sunrise aims to break down for youth activists. Singh identified five barriers: apathy, inertia, isolation, self-doubt and fear. She aimed to help activists find ways to turn these barriers into strengths.

“We all are so much more capable than we were brought up to believe,” Singh said. The fifth barrier of fear was one she focused on especially, saying that fear is healthy to have in a certain amount, but that activists should not doubt their abilities.

“It’s so easy to believe that story,” Singh said. “That we’re not the right people at the right moment, but we are.”

Samantha DiFalco, also a member of Sunrise Morris County and a member of Food and Water Action New Jersey, spoke more about the movement during her presentation. She gave three main components that the movement needs in order to be successful: people power, political power and people’s alignment.

The first and third necessity work hand-in-hand, pointing to a need for passionate people to band together to create political power. DiFalco said that history shows when a movement has 3.5 percent of the population behind it, it is always successful. The power of the people is key to the Sunrise Movement, in making heard the voices of those concerned about climate change and promoting legislation addressing it.

“We know the time for middle of the road and weak legislation is far past,” DiFalco said. “I think a lot of people are critical of Biden’s climate plans and that’s ok, because they aren’t really where we need to be to fight this climate crisis.”

After hearing from young activists, alumni, professors and students, the day concluded leaving all attendees with more information about the climate crisis and gave them the tools to become part of the action against it.


Written by Danielle Bongiovanni ( and Tori D’Amico ( on October 23, 2020


Categories: Sustainability

Potter Library Takes Sustainable Initiative in Eliminating Plastic Bags

Read this Article on the Ramapo News

Social distancing on campus has required many different resources to get creative with their methods of connecting with Ramapo students. Being one of the biggest assets to any student, the temporary George T. Potter Library made sure books were accessible.

They promoted their new access on Instagram, with a photo of books bagged and ready for pick up. This presentation did not sit well with sustainability activists from Ramapo.

Comments soon flooded in asking about the necessity of using plastic bags. Students commented that surface contact has been disproven as a major spread of the virus, and therefore single use plastic is not needed.

Better sustainable practices are a prominent cause on Ramapo’s campus. Ramapo Green, the overarching organization of all sustainable clubs on campus, has been pushing for a variety of different improvements, including severely limiting the presence of single-use plastics.

Plastic shopping bags are a long time enemy of nature-lovers. Whether they’re filling up landfills or being mistaken for jellyfish, their role in the ecosystem is no good.

The library heard the students, commenting back to invite collaboration between the students and future endeavors. Change was made quickly, and the original post has since been deleted.

In their new post, the library wrote “Curbside pickup is a great way to still check out library materials,” and added, “Please bring your own bag, or we have some if you need one.” The books in this photo are posed in stacks, out in the sun, ready to be picked up plastic free.

“Thank you for taking action on combating plastic pollution,” commented student Patrick Monahan. “Every step counts!”

Change happens quickly when students take initiative. The same students who asked for change filled the new comments section with thanks and emoji hearts, seeing their efforts turn into actions.


Written by Tori D’Amico ( on October 14, 2020


Categories: Sustainability

Earth Day 2020: A Three Day, Non-stop, Live, Online Event

 Join us on Earth Day, 2020–for three days of non-stop live events…!

Categories: Sustainability

Earth Day 2018

1STEP (Students Together for Environmental Progress) and several other Ramapo clubs came together for the “Jamapo Green BBQ” in celebration of Earth Day on April 22, 2018. The event included catered food from local vegan restaurants, an interactive performance by the Brazilian Percussion group, yoga sessions, a clothing swap, a t-shirt design event, and of course music. The turn out for the event was great and the weather couldn’t have been better.

The highlight of the day came with the unveiling of “Trashzilla,” a sculpture in the form of Godzilla, designed entirely out of trash collected from campus cleanups of the parking lot and other areas on campus. The idea for the project came from 1STEP co-president, Afnán Khairullah, and was assembled by volunteers from 1STEP and the Visual Arts Society over a series of weeks leading up to Earth Day.

Trashzilla is currently on display in the grove area on campus and will be there until April 27. Trashzilla serves as a reminder of the waste problem that permeates our campus. Too often we see improperly disposed of trash, especially materials that could be recycled. Hopefully this art installation will inspire members of the community to be more mindful of their waste disposal habits. Earth Day comes once a year, but shouldn’t we consider our relationship and impact on the Earth every day?


Categories: Sustainability

Film Screening: Plastic Planet

We are students in Professor Pat Keaton’s Global Communication Capstone Course.  For our project, we chose to create a campaign based on promoting sustainability and minimizing waste on Ramapo’s campus. Working closely with Ramapo Green and two of its participating organizations; 1STEP and the Garden Club, we hope to raise awareness and educate the Ramapo community on proper recycling, composting and waste-reduction habits. Our campaign will work to not only promote our events but assist the organizations on campus that have been working tirelessly on related projects.

For our first event, we will be screening Plastic Planet on Wednesday, Feb. 21 from 1–3pm in Friends Hall (SC-219). This documentary directed by Werner Boote provides an ​inside look at plastic and its effects not only on the planet but our health.

Along with the screening, we will have a panel discussion with members of the on-campus organization 1STEP, who will present their “Rethink Water” campaign, and Matthew Smith, Senior Organizer for Food & Water Watch, who will present their National “Take Back the Tap” campaign.

Come take part in this critical discussion.

Thank you,

Chris Bernstein, Paul Iannelli, Kristie Murru, Matt Stevens

Categories: Sustainability


A bunch of us went to the AASHE Conference in San Antonio, and feasted on an amazing array of ideas and products promoting campus sustainability

Join us, and we share these with the RCNJ community.


Categories: Sustainability


By Heather Darley

On Saturday, April 29th, 2017 at approximately 4AM, a bus filled with passionate and united Ramapo College students, staff, faculty, and alumni will be departing for Washington D.C. to make our voices heard in the People’s Climate March. With our current political climate, now more than ever, we need to gather together and stand up for our planet and our people.

We will peacefully take to the streets of Washington D.C. passing by the White House, the National Mall and the U.S. Capitol Building on the 100th day of the Trump Administration. Our presence and message will let world leaders know we’re concerned about the climate crisis and want to work together take action and build solutions.

Please stand up and join us in this movement. Whether you’re concerned for our ever-changing climate, protecting our planet, or fighting for future generations, you have the chance to march and be a part of history. Ramapo College marched in the 2013 Forward On Climate March in DC and the 2014 People’s Climate March in NYC. Become a part of our Ramapo College tradition of speaking up against environmental injustices and promoting sustainable solutions.

More on the People’s Climate March here.

Snag your bus ticket on our Ramapo College PCM Bus Registration Page.

Bus tickets are $22.09 and partially funded by the Ramapo College Student Government Association and the People’s Climate March organizers.

Any questions or concerns about attending the People’s Climate March? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the RCNJ-PCM Bus Captain, Heather, at


Categories: Sustainability


The Sustainable Living Eco-stewardship (SLE) Program is a new initiative of Ramapo Green to actively engage undergraduate students in green lifestyles and sustainability action on campus. SLE draws from the tradition of our Sustainable Living Facility (SLF) program, which was initiated in Fall 2010, and aims to broaden the agenda to include a stewardship program to promote sustainability outreach and build a conscientious student community on campus through peer education.

The program has many benefits to students besides the opportunity to live in the Village and in the Redwood CPA (for sophomores). Facilities for students include access to Ramapo vegetable gardens, compost facilities, electricity submetering—all of which are useful aids to reducing ecological footprints. From a learning vantage, the program offers opportunities to student learning about growing food, composting, building connections with local community networks such as MEVO, NY NJ Trail Conference, leadership and running sustainability campaigns on campus. In addition, the program’s experiential component, through the1 unit independent study, adds academic value.

This is indeed an excellent opportunity to live, learn and share with a community of Eco-stewards. View the details and application form here.

Categories: Sustainability

Campus Sustainability Town Hall, Fall 2016

The President’s Committee on Campus Sustainability (PCCS) hosted a Town Hall on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 in the Alumni Lounges.  Professor Michael Edelstein presented a brief but deep history of sustainability at Ramapo College.  Following that, the PCCS laid out a comprehensive view of all that is currently being done with regard to campus sustainability at RCNJ.

Categories: Sustainability

Sustainability-Oriented Study Abroad Programs

Combine the huge benefits of a Study Abroad Experience with an intensive opportunity to engage with sustainability outside the North American frame.

Explore the entirely unique possibilities here.

“Sustainability, broadly defined as the Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Prosperity), touches every aspect of the human condition.  And thus it is that a sustainability thread can be found running through every Major offered at Ramapo College. As such, we would argue that every student benefits immensely from participation in a Sustainability-oriented Study Abroad Program.

“Of course, travel really does broaden the mind.  But more significantly than that, a Sustainability-oriented Study Abroad experience gives us the ability to switch contexts, to be able to see the world through a lens that is entirely different than the one we are accustomed to using.  The ability to switch perspectives, to view things from a point-of-view other than our own, to change the frames we make in how we take the world, this is probably the most extraordinary gift that such a Study Abroad experience can give.  We become transformed, in the process of stepping into someone else’s worldview.  And our capacity for empathy is hugely enhanced.

“Experiencing life in other countries and cultures, developing foreign language skills, broadening our views of the world, and making lifelong friends while earning college credits are just some of the ways students benefit from their time abroad. For many students, the Study Abroad opportunity triggers the move to graduate school, or opens entirely new prospects for future employment. Over the years, we have found that students remember and value their Sustainability-oriented study abroad experiences for the rest of their lives.  It is, in a word, transformative.”

Categories: Sustainability