Wednesday, February 15, 2017

HUMANS OF SECS: SOHINEE OSWAL

It's time for this semester's first Humans of SECS post! Today, we're introducing you to Sohinee Oswal, who is one of our Sustainable Business co-chairs. Sohinee is a junior studying Environmental Economics and Policy, and she has been an active member of SECS since January 2015. This is her second year as a Sustainable Business co-chair, and is currently very busy leading the campus Skip the Bag campaign. Last year she and Sustainable Business led UIUC to first place in the nationwide Kill the Cup campaign, which is one of her proudest accomplishments in SECS.



"I first realized I wanted to dedicate my life to the environment when I was 10. I was watching An Inconvenient Truth, and learning that plants and animals were losing their habitats due to anthropogenic causes completely devastated me. Immediately, I started recycling, turning off lights, and telling everyone around me to do the same. My 10-year-old-self was so passionate about this that I proceeded to make signs and tape them to my room door telling my family to recycle, go solar, conserve water, and care about the environment. Since then, I’ve been eager to learn and do as much as I can to protect the environment. Continuing to learn about the devastating impacts of climate change/several other environmental problems as well as the importance of environmental services always solidifies my resolve to protect the environment."



Photographs by Maggie Golden


Monday, February 6, 2017

Spring 2017 SECS Updates

Happy spring semester everyone! SECS is just beginning our fourth week of the semester, and as we all know, environmental activism is now more important than ever in the face of the country’s new presidential administration. Everyone in SECS is more determined than we’ve ever been to make a difference. There is certainly a lot of work to be done, but we have plenty of hope in the power of the people to have their voices heard!
Without further ado, here’s a quick recap of what our five project groups accomplished last semester and an update of what our plans are for the remainder of this term!

Beyond Coal
            As always, Beyond Coal spent last semester working hard to convince the University to finally divest our endowment from coal and other fossil fuels. The group has started to build a UI Fossil Free Network of students and allies at the UI Chicago and Springfield campuses, since the heart of the UI’s Beyond Coal movement has always been here at UIUC. Beyond Coal also held several events in support of #NoDAPL and Standing Rock, including a bake sale, rally, and donation drive. Finally, the group spent a lot of time working on the Fifth and Hill Campaign. This Champaign community has been struggling with the effects of an Ameren gas manufacturing plant since 1917, and Ameren is only now admitting that they may be responsible for health issues many residents of the community have experienced.
            This semester, Beyond Coal will continue to build on all of last semester’s work. Plans include convincing Chancellor Jones to give a public statement vowing to divest and convincing the UI Board of Trustees to divest at an upcoming board meeting. We are hoping to use the UI Fossil Free Network to send a Divestment Petition to the whole University and plan a Tri-Campus Divestment Day of Action. The group will continue to be allies with Fifth and Hill in our common fight for climate justice. Finally, there are also plans to set up a town hall meeting with iSEE, financial and other university administrators, and students to discuss divestment and sustainability.

Bikeface
            Bikeface’s fall semester was very exciting with an increased number of rides and events! Among them were weekly Friday social rides, a community activity they were able to restart last fall. They also took a ride with the Chancellor so he could personally see the conditions of bike infrastructure on campus. The group also continued working with the university to manage the funds of the bike fee that each student pays in their tuition.
            For the spring, Bikeface will focus on recruitment of new members, holding more educational events, and working to revamp their Friday rides. And of course, to have a good time while doing it all!

Education
            Education spent last semester teaching fourth grade students at Yankee Hill Elementary school about renewable energy. The kids even got to work hands on with solar ovens! The group also put on an excellent vegan and vegetarian Thanksgiving food workshop.
            Spring goals include returning to Yankee Hill to teach about Illinois’ native species and plants, helping with the aquifer at the Orpheum Children’s Museum, and looking for volunteering opportunities at the Anita Purves Nature Center and the Prosperity Gardens. They also hope to invite more speakers to talk with the group and are already working on events to hold during Earth Week in April. Finally, production has begun on a series of short educational videos to post online. It looks to be a busy semester in Education!

Political Action
            Political Action’s main focus last semester was working on the Skip the Bag campaign with Sustainable Business. The group had two exciting visitors in former Champaign mayor Don Gerard and Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council, Jennifer Walling- both had great advice for Skip the Bag and political activism in general.
            In the works this semester are petitions for the Skip the Bag campaign as well as the iCAP. A protest trip to nearby Patoka, Illinois is also being planned. Should the Dakota Access Pipeline be constructed, it will end in Patoka, where there are already massive oil storage tanks for other pipelines. Finally, Political Action will be holding a series of events to encourage student involvement in grassroots activism, speak about the importance of contacting your representatives, and increase climate change awareness on campus.

Sustainable Business
            Sustainable Business’ focus has also been on the Skip the Bag campaign for the last few months. The group visited several business around campus to encourage their involvement with the project, and held an awareness event with Carlos the Fish- a great visualization of the sheer amount of plastic bags that are being constantly produced.
            For this semester, Sustainable Business has ordered more reusable bags to give out. Also planned are consumer surveys, more awareness events, working to get more partnerships with local businesses, and participation in Earth Week festivities. Finally, we are hoping to make progress with the Illini Union Bookstore and increase networking of group members!


           
As a reminder, SECS meets each Wednesday night at 6:30 pm in the Murphy Lounge of the campus YMCA. We hope to see you all there this semester, whether you have come before or not- we're always happy to welcome new members!