Tulane Holds Environmental Summit

This spring, the Tulane University’s Undergraduate Assembly’s Sustainability and Divestment Committee (SDC) hosted the first ever Tulane Environmental Summit. The SDC sought strong collaboration between the wide range of campus environmental organizations pushing Tulane to become a more sustainable and environmentally just institution.

Some 30 representatives from organizations including the SDC, along with Sunrise Tulane, Green Club, Trash to Treasure, Earth Science Club, Wave Center for Policy and Enterprise, Food Recovery Network, Students Against Food Insecurity, Office of Sustainability, and Crawfest joined an open forum discussion for students to discuss how their organizations could work more closely to achieve their respective goals. But the assembled activists first voiced their frustrations with the lack of environmental organizing on campus and, particularly, the unambitious climate action offered by the university administration.

This airing of grievances was followed by brainstorming where summit participants shared ideas for organizational collaboration to build greater student environmental power at Tulane. SDC member and Summit organizer, Emerson Jacobson, stressed that forming an alliance of environmental organizations would empower students and environmental organizations by increasing their ability to organize at scale and by enabling them to present a unified voice on campus.

Vice President of the Wave Center, Adina Weizman, added that environmental organizations on campus could partner on a new member development program which would educate students on environmental issues and train them to bring about change on campus.

Emma De Leon, an SDC member, saw hope in the large turnout for the Summit and indicated that an exciting new wave of student advocacy is rolling on Tulane’s campus. If the green groups on campus united, she added, it might prompt the administration to ride the wave, joining in to enhance environmental awareness and involvement among the student body.

Over the course of the meeting, a deep consensus emerged that forming a coalition of environmental organizations at Tulane would enable students to better achieve their environmental goals.

Ultimately, inspired by the example of CACTUS, Tulane’s community action council, and by environmental alliances at other colleges, the summit participants decided to found the Tulane Environmental Action Network (TEAN) to foster collaboration, unity, and strength among member organizations. Summit participants pledged to create a website for the newly founded TEAN, to collaborate on future events such as service trips and club fairs, and, after a proposal by SDC co-chair, Zoe Friese, to introduce a resolution at the next Tulane Undergraduate Assembly to fund the new organization.

As SDC co-chair, I was asked to close the meeting on what I hoped would be an inspiring note, calling for TEAN and Tulane to aim for national leadership on climate action:

“Tulane ought to emerge as a national leader in student organizing and climate action given our location on the frontlines of climate change, proximity to environmental injustices, and the tradition of social movements starting in the Gulf South. This summit and the founding of the Tulane Environmental Action Network marks an important first step in realizing that vision.”

Given the unity, energy, and determination from students and environmental organizations across Tulane that I witnessed at our very first Environmental Summit, I am convinced that strong environmental justice and climate action will soon be the hallmark of Tulane, now and in the future.

— RCC Fellow Sahil Inaganti

RCC Fellow Sahil Inaganti is a senior at Tulane University leading efforts to divest fossil fuels from the Tulane endowment. He majors in Environmental Studies, Public Health, and Political Economy with minors in Urban Studies and Management. He has interned at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic where he analyzed emissions in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley and has conducted research on the effect of COVID-19 in exacerbating health disparities. At Tulane, Sahil is president of the School of Public Health’s Student Government and co-founder of the Health Equity Fellowship, a leadership development program for first-year students interested in advancing health equity.