“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs, but not every man's greed.” These were the words of Ghandi that Professor Brinda Sarathy used to set the tone of the “Green Lifestyle” expert panel on the day of Claremont’s Know Tomorrow event. Students, faculty and local residents alike converged in Rose Hills Theater at Pomona College to hear advice from a panel opened by William Powers, award-winning author and senior fellow at the World Policy Institute.
Using powerful images and data that unfortunately comes to us with no surprise, Powers demonstrated how income and consumption only improve our happiness to a limited extent until its effects plateau. Offering alternative examples such as Bolivia, he presented a societal and government structure that values happiness and the environment over rampant consumerism. He drew upon his past travels to reform his lifestyle.
He sold 80 percent of his possessions and downsized his apartment to a mere 12-feet-by-12-feet studio in Manhattan, New York. Living in a communal self-sufficient space is a far cry from the bustling city life and sprawling suburbia that most of the audience was familiar with. He presented excerpts from his book New Slow City, which details how his minimal possessions and living space forced him to be outside and nurture his love for Mother Nature.
Blair Subbaraman PO ’18 felt inspired but also questioned the applicability of his advice. “I can see value in the lifestyle he described, but it isn’t realistic to expect recent college grads to demand a three-day work week from their employers when finding a job is our main challenge,” she said.
In a following talk, Anne de la Bouillerie, founder of the Earth Rights Institute and current delegate to the United Nations, was inspired by the the impassioned appeal made by Pope Francis before the United Nations Assembly as she extolled the virtues of education among students in the Inland Empire. She spoke of her experience as a consultant for nonprofits and businesses before moving her focus once again to education and the Green Initiative for Today, a platform sharing online videos and lectures free of charge with students across high schools and colleges in the Inland Empire.
She hopes that “just as Silicon Valley has become synonymous with big tech, we could hopefully with green innovation.” The panel was closed by Professor Brinda Sarathy, director of the Robert Redford Conservancy, who drew attention to the strifes of the residents of the rapidly changing Jurupa Valley in Riverside County. Describing the aggressive expansion of warehouse space of 159 million square feet in the last few years, she expressed that not only had there been a systematic destruction of nature; there was also a physical fragmentation of local communities consisting mostly of disenfranchised people of color and undocumented workers.
Drawing upon the teachings of Gandhi, Professor Sarathy called for action through aggressive non-violence. She urged the crowd to go far deeper than the environmentally-conscious consumerism that the modern day American has come to accept as sufficient. She encouraged the audience to instead challenge the larger structural problems. She argued that 'green consumption' has in many ways allowed us to become divorced from political activism.
“I was really excited to hear from three panelists who are successful in different ways and fields relating to environmental activism,” Casey Goodwin PO '19 said. “Though there was a caveat: I feel that in these talks, there is a lack of advice in practical ways for us to move forward. The audience is already on their side, and I think this is a common issue in environmental events—everyone wants to do something, but nobody is really sure how or where to focus their efforts.”