From policy to practice, more than two dozen Cobbers spent their spring break learning about sustainability in D.C. and California.
Concordia’s student-organized High Impact Leadership Trip (HILT) has exposed students to conservation efforts around the country for the past five years. This is the first year that two separate groups made the trip, traveling to opposite ends of the country with different goals in mind.
Environmental studies major Joleen Baker ’16 led the group that met with organic farmers in northern California. The goal? To increase knowledge and awareness of sustainable agriculture practices while reflecting on how to increase the availability of sustainable foods at home.
“Hands-on learning is the best type of learning, and students had the opportunity to do just that [in California], while also thinking of ways to implement similar practices in the Fargo-Moorhead area,” Baker says.
Students toured and volunteered on farms, visited farmers markets and met with community members who promote local, organic and sustainable agriculture in California. These experiences helped Baker’s group learn about the systems shaped by policy at the national level.
That policy was the focus of 11 students led by biology major Katie Black ’17 and global studies major Erica Bjelland ’16. Their trip to D.C. explored the federal environmental policy that drives conservation initiatives. The group began with two questions: what does it really take to bring about meaningful change and where do you start?
“After symposium last semester we heard a lot of people getting excited about addressing the sustainability issues we learned about, but few people knowing exactly what they could do to combat big, complex issues like climate change or deforestation,” Bjelland says.
The D.C. group made the most of their time, visiting with a grassroots group and touring the offices of Rep. Collin Peterson, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Sen. Al Franken.
“Having knowledge of how the individual, community, and federal governments' roles intersect is key to creating successful initiatives,” Black says. “Making your voice heard to local and federal politicians actually does have an impact.”
During the group’s return trip, they also visited Oberlin College in Ohio. They met with members of the Oberlin Project, a community-led initiative to eliminate carbon emissions.
Dr. David Orr, executive director of the Oberlin Project, was the opening plenary speaker for Concordia’s 2014 Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium.
While both groups left with different goals in mind, both returned with the understanding that accomplishing change requires both the voices of individuals and cooperation between every level of community and government.
“Without good laws and representation, we are limited with what we can do,” Bjelland says. “Without enthusiastic people making change on a grassroots level, we may not be able to come together to make meaningful change on a wider scale or in our area.”