Earth Talks 2022

Just Sustainability

Welcome to the 3rd edition of Earth Talks, a virtual showcase of short, five-minute presentations by SU faculty, students, staff, and community partners. The theme this year is Just Sustainability-Care for our Common Home. The event will be held across two sessions on Earth Day, April 22, 2022,  with a diverse array of topics including research, service, community projects and artwork, as well as a Q&A session with keynote speakers, Senator Rebecca Salaña and David Mendoza. This event is hosted by CEJS and co-sponsored by the Center for Ecumenical and Interreligious Engagement, the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, the Indigenous Peoples Institute, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. 

  • Welcome by Dr. Phillip Thompson, Director of Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability. Watch the video.
  • Video Introduction by Eduardo Peñalver, SeattleU President. Watch the video. 
    Stewardship: Recovering the Human Vocation by Anna Robertson (Community Partner). Watch the video.
  • Community Gardens and the Equity of the Distribution of Green Spaces in Seattle by Emily Tacke (Student). Watch the video.
  • "Our HOME?" Climate Story Video Series directed by Gabriella Robinson (student). See Gabby's video series here. Watch their Earth Talks video.
  • Does renewable and energy storage integration green the electric grid? by Altanai Bisht (Student). Watch the video.
  • Evaluating the Sustainability of Carbon Offsets and similar Payment for Environmental Services Initiatives by Dr. Tanya Hayes (Faculty). Watch the video.
  • An Exploration of Sustainable Death Care by Liz Colavecchio (student). Watch the video.
  • Gender Diversity in Farm Leadership by Taylor McKenzie (student). Watch the video.
  • Environmental Justice in the WA State Legislature by Guillermo Rogel (Community Partner). Watch the video.
  • 12:00pm-12:30pm: Towers of Babel, Containers of Grief, Our Daily Bread: reflections on the journey for transformational justice, peace and a place worthy of our ancestors’, our children’s and their children’s hopes and dreams. Keynote and Q&A with Senator Rebecca Saldaña. Moderated by Marrakech Maxwell, SGSU President. Watch the video. 

Rebecca Saldaña: Keynote Speaker

Sen. Rebecca Saldaña is the Washington State Senate Deputy Majority Leader and represents the 37th Legislative District. She is a proud Chicana of Mexican and Germanic roots who grew up in the Delridge neighborhood of Seattle and has lived and worked primarily in Seattle and Oregon. Read more of Senator Saldaña's bio here.

Earth Talk: Towers of Babel, Containers of Grief, Our Daily Bread: reflections on the journey for transformational justice, peace and a place worthy of our ancestors’, our children’s and their children’s hopes and dreams. 
David Mendoza : Keynote Speaker

David Mendoza is the Director of Advocacy and Engagement for The Nature Conservancy's WA chapter, overseeing state and federal lobbying and policy communications staff. While representing Front and Centered, a statewide coalition of communities of color, David led the development of the now enacted HEAL Act, Washington state's foundational environmental justice law. 

Earth Talk: Accidental Environmentalist, Purposeful Change

Call The Fashion Police: Using The Law To Fight The Impacts Of Fast Fashion

The fashion industry is on global watch. Particularly the move towards fast fashion, which relies on cheap manufacturing, frequent consumption, and short-lived garment use. This Earth Talk includes a brief overview of fast fashion and dives into the global environmental injustice implications. We come from a legal point of view, discussing policies and legislation that are in progress to combat the negative impacts of the fashion industry. This would also include a brief overview of fashion law. Finally, we will share solutions and stress the need to transition back to a fashion industry with minimum detrimental environmental impacts and increase the sustainability of fashion.

Donna Shahbazi is a student at Seattle University School of Law and currently serves on the Seattle U President’s Committee for Sustainability. She is also a CEJS Research Fellow and is studying student led climate justice movements across America. In the past she has led successful fossil fuel divestment and plastic free campaigns and has also advocated at Capitol Hill for climate justice policy and legislation. 

Rachel Woodard-Kelley is a student at the Seattle University School of Law and is currently serves on the executive board of the Seattle University Environmental Law Society. She is a former high school biology teacher, in which capacity she taught students about climate science and the impact humans have on the environment.

An Exploration Of Sustainable Death Care

As a summer employee of the only funeral home in Juneau, Alaska, Liz saw firsthand how harmful to the earth, financially destructive and secretively stuck in its unsustainable ways the modern funeral industry has become. While she understands that death is an uncomfortable topic for many people to approach, by the time families are considering death care options, most are unaware that more sustainable practices are emerging…right here in Washington. As a first year Anthropology major, she wants to discuss her deeply moving, firsthand experience with the impact of the funeral industrial complex on a small community, and how she hopes to advocate for the Green Death movement in the future. 

Liz Colavecchio is an anthropology student at Seattle University. Growing up in Anchorage, Alaska, the topic of sustainability and care for the earth has always been particularly important to her, as she has seen it directly impact her home. She has always had a passionate interest in writing, and public speaking, as well as poetry; and she wants to use these skills to advocate for issues she has seen directly impact her community and home states environment. 

Stewardship: Recovering the Human Vocation

There's a fatalistic sense among many in the environmental community that the best thing human beings could do for planet Earth is to allow ourselves to go extinct. Looking back on the centuries of unfathomable destruction wrought by human hands, it’s understandable that we would be short on hope that human beings could make a neutral impact on our ecosystems, let alone a positive one. Nevertheless, if, in the face of the climate and ecological crises, we are to pull off the widespread change that will be necessary to preserve a just and thriving planet, we must have something for which to hope. For years, the creation stories in the Book of Genesis have been misused to perpetuate what Pope Francis called in Laudato Si’ a “misguided anthropocentrism,” in which humans “dominate” and “master” the non-human environment. In a world so shaped by these paradigms, it can be hard to imagine that human beings could, in fact, benefit our ecosystems. Revisiting the Genesis stories in light examples from regenerative agriculture and the land practices of indigenous communities, this Earth Talk argues for the retrieval of a positive vision of humans’ place in the web of life as a necessary component of our work for climate justice in both secular and sacred realms.

Anna Robertson is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Mobilization at the Catholic Climate Covenant. She was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and, since graduating from high school, called many places home, including Cincinnati, Central America, West Virginia, Boston and Seattle. She has a Master's of Theological Studies from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and a Bachelor of Arts in Theology from Xavier University in Ohio. Prior to working at the Catholic Climate Covenant, Anna worked as Campus Minister for Retreats at Seattle University, supported families of women experiencing incarceration, conducted research on collective memory in El Salvador, and accompanied students on international immersions at the intersection of faith and justice in Latin America. She' passionate about supporting the emergence of the widespread ecological conversion of hearts called for by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’. In her free time, she enjoys playing music, getting outside and writing. 

Gender Diversity in Farm Leadership

This presentation explores gender disparity in farm leadership by using 2017 United States Department of Agriculture National Agriculture Statistics Service Report. This report identifies how many acres of land are considered farmland where women are the primary producers. To be a “primary producer,” one needs to be the main managerial force while making financial and operational decisions– a role that women often do not have access too. This prevents change from happening in agriculture landscapes that are predominately male and increasingly nonrepresentative of the racial diversity in the United States. By viewing disparity in farm leadership through a critical feminist lens, this presentation provides a space for further discussions on how food systems can grow to address the needs of vulnerable communities.

Taylor Kaili McKenzie is a senior at Seattle University double majoring in Environmental Studies and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies who will be graduating with honors this June! She is one of three students in Departmental Honors for Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and will be publishing her thesis on Critical Feminist Systematic Review of Indigenous Agroecology next quarter. Her Earth Talks presentation utilizes some of the data in her thesis and offers a sneak peak into what readers can expect to learn when her work is published.

Our HOME? Climate Story Video Series directed by Gabriella Robinson

The two large issues of climate change and environmental injustice go hand in hand with many of the world’s problems. To raise awareness for the underrepresentation of such topics, graduate and undergraduate students at Seattle University share how they were personally impacted by climate change and environmental injustice. The four-part film series highlights various environmental issues, such as protesting to protect native lands, evacuating from natural disasters, or dealing with government oppression. Student’s personal connections to their stories will be made explicit, providing viewers action plans to change the world around them. The intent of the film series is to educate its viewers on the depredating effects of inequality and climate change throughout the United States with the hope that, with attention and care actions can occur to reverse the damages humanity has caused to Mother Earth.

Gabriella Robinson is a junior at Seattle University double majoring in Film and Environmental Studies. Robinson aspires to use her two contrasting majors to address the intersected problems of climate change, racism, and environmental injustices by using film as a medium to educate society. Her Earth Talks presentation expands on the personal impacts of climate change by talking about her recently completed SU mini-series:  Our Home?  Featuring the voices of SeattleU students and their battles with the ever-changing environment. As the director, Robinson wants to encourage conversations about climate injustices in film and will be premiering the series during Earth Talks 2022.

Evaluating the Sustainability of Carbon Offsets and similar Payment for Environmental Services Initiatives

The purpose of the talk is to understand 1) what Payment for Environmental Services (PES) programs are (of which carbon offsets are one service) and the rationale behind these programs; 2) key concerns regarding the sustainability of said programs, and; 3) what empirical studies show with respect to the above-mentioned sustainability concerns as well as evidence-based recommendations for how PES programs can be more sustainable. The evidence regarding the sustainability of PES and recommendations will draw from my own published review of PES programs, recent work evaluating PES in Ecuador, as well as other evidence from other published reviews of PES.  

Dr. Tanya Hayes is a professor and the director of the Environmental Studies program and the Institute of Public Service. She teaches research methods, environmental policy, and directs the senior capstone projects. Dr. Hayes’s expertise is in policy and program evaluation, specifically in how international environmental policies impact community resource management and livelihoods in low-income countries. Her research examines programs to support environmental conservation and sustainable development in countries throughout Latin America: Honduras, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.  Her previous work examined the impacts of different protected area policies on forest management and livelihoods in indigenous communities. Her more recent work examines the social and behavioral impacts of Payment for Environmental Services (PES), and related incentive-based conservation policies. Dr. Hayes has authored over fifteen publications. Here recent work can be found in World Development, Land Use Policy, Environmental Science and Policy, and Nature: Sustainability.

Off-Grid Temporary Shelter Communities

There are two major obstacles cities face when attempting to mitigate homelessness: funding and the inability to meet the immediate needs of those experiencing homeless because permanent housing takes too long to build. Pallet, a Social Purpose Company (SPC), aims to solve this problem by supplying prefabricated, modular, transportable shelter units that can be deployed in under an hour. To further reduce the budgetary and environmental strain of current disaster-relief and homeless housing projects, Pallet has tasked a team of Seattle University Civil and Environmental Engineering students to integrate off-grid technologies, such as solar panels for electricity, a cistern for water supply, a firelight toilet for black water, and greywater collection system for all other wastewaters, to a 7–12-unit Pallet community extension in Burlington, Washington. Other members of this team include Darwin Phu, Kyra Lemmelin and Khang Nguyen.

Molly Elrick is a fourth-year student from New Hampshire studying Civil Engineering with an environmental engineering specialty. She is passionate about sustainability and has previously presented research about urban vertical farming at the Seattle University Undergraduate Research Conference.

Jenelle Ho is a fourth-year student studying Civil Engineering from Oahu, Hawaii. In addition to working for Seattle Public Utilities as a drainage and wastewater modeling intern, Jenelle enjoys researching and keeping up to date on pressing climate change issues.

City Climate Mitigation Strategies and Policy Transitions

With a growing portion of people living in urban areas, cities are central sources for greenhouse gas emissions. City policies on energy, transportation, efficiency, and similar issues have major implications for climate change mitigation efforts and sustainability. Although many cities have enacted climate actions, relatively few cities have adopted policies that will lead to significant emissions reductions. Environmental Studies Junior Gabby Batinich and Professor John Armstrong will present about effective urban climate mitigation strategies and their ongoing research into how cities can transition from modest to ambitious policies.

Gabby Batinich is a junior in Environmental Studies major who has been working on research examining climate policy transitions.

John Armstrong is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies whose research focuses on climate change policymaking, politics and governance.

Hygiene Justice at SU

All students deserve access to hygiene products. As an issue of social, environmental, and economic justice, Sustainable Student Action is passionate about pursuing equitable, sustainable, and affordable solutions so that all students can have access to the products they need. For our presentation, we will educate about the complicated issue of hygiene accessibility and present possible solutions that could be implemented in our Seattle University community.

Keira Cruickshank is a Student Representative of Sustainable Student Action and a fourth year student studying sociology and creative writing. She has been a member of Sustainable Student Action since her freshman year and is also involved with the Gender Justice Center, Inigo Productions, and Students for Justice in Palestine. On the weekends, Keira enjoys going to Yes Farm with Emily!

Emily Nielsen, is a Student Representative of Sustainable Student Action and a fourth year Environmental Studies and Public Affairs double major. Emily is currently working as a student gardener with SU’s Grounds department and has previously worked in environmental communications as a Program Assistant with SU’s Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability and as a Communications Intern with Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda. Emily has been an active Sustainable Student Action member since her first year at SU.

Sustainable Development Goals at SU

Audrey will discuss the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Beyond this overview, she will highlight the advocacy work the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), is trying to implement at SeattleU. So far, the club has organized 2 SDG "Focus Events" to educate the community on Gender Equality and Addressing Homelessness. They are planning to put on another event during Earth Month for food security and sustainable agriculture with Tilth Alliance to help highlight their culturally relevant produce start-up program. Overall, she has 3 goals for her Earth Talk. First, to educate on the structure and target objectives of the 2030 SDGs. Second, to explain what exactly NSLS is trying to accomplish with their SDG work at SU. Third, by giving this speech, she wants to express the importance of bridging undergraduates, graduates, and scholars across disciplines to yield positive social and environmental change (aka why change blossoms from collaboration!).

Audrey Graves (Psychology and Environmental Studies, '22) is the founding President of the Seattle University Chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS), an honor society centered around collegiate leadership development. The chapter's unique mission is to provide a network for undergraduate and graduate student leaders who are working toward positive social transformation. The NSLS aims to integrate the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030 into our campus culture by developing a series of collaborative, educational events such as January’s SDG Launch workshop and SDG Focus Events on Gender Equality and Addressing Homelessness. To help plan future SDG programs, connect with NSLS. 

Dr. Colette Taylor was appointed as Associate Professor at Seattle University in 2015 and now serves as the Chair of the Leadership & Professional Studies Department as well as the Program Director for the Educational & Organizational Leadership & Learning (EOLL) doctoral program. In 2018, she established the Center of Social Transformation & Leadership within SU's College of Education & operates as Founding Director. Dr. Taylor is the faculty advisor for the Seattle University Chapter of the National Society of Leadership & Success (NSLS) working to raise awareness for the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Goals on-campus.

Environmental Justice in the WA State Legislature

More and more advocates are working to ensure that climate solutions are working to positively impact frontline communities who are affected first and worst by pollution and the changing climate. In this talk Front and Centered will cover what the legislature has achieved in environmental justice and where they have yet to go to fully build equity into our climate plans in Washington.

Guillermo Rogel is a professional lobbyist in Olympia, WA working on environmental justice and racial justice issues in the state legislature. Before moving to Washington in 2016, Guillermo was organizing undergraduate and graduate students in the University of California system on accessible higher education campaigns. Guillermo attended UC Santa Cruz where he received his degree in International Relations. Today, Guillermo works at Legislative and Governmental Relations Advocate with Front and Centered and works to make sure frontline communities have a voice in the state legislative process.

Community Gardens and the Equity of the Distribution of Green Spaces in Seattle

Emily will present findings from her work on Dr. Liere’s urban garden research project. This research project investigates how the abundance of urban green space affects pollinators and the ecosystem services they provide in local community gardens, or P-Patches. This study is important because community gardens have the potential to strengthen communities, close gaps in food security, and provide access to fresh nutritional produce. Her part in Dr. Liere’s project is to use geographic information systems (GIS) to determine the quantity and quality of the green space surrounding the P-Patches of study. She will present the results from our analysis while also talking about the importance of community gardening.

Emily Tacke is an Environmental Studies major ('23) specializing in Urban Sustainability. She has been working through this year with Dr. Heidi Liere researching urban gardens. Running Water: A Tribally Driven Partnership for Designing Sustainable Rainwater Harvesting Systems Access to clean water is essential for all people yet modern governance systems, land-use practices, and climate change seriously threaten the availability of this resource. In recent years, it has also become increasingly acknowledged that disparities in access to clean water are contributing to negative health outcomes and environmental injustice challenges, particularly in tribal communities. He will present a project that evolved over the past two years involving a community driven co-planning partnership. The partnership has resulted in a rainwater harvesting system for the Akiak Native Community in Alaska, despite challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Emphasis will be placed on how the tribal and non-tribal partners engaged to promote positive outcomes for the Akiak Native Community.

Thomas Pool is an aquatic community ecologist with a research focus on the interaction between native and non-native species within freshwater and marine ecosystems. His interests include community ecology, freshwater ecology and conservation biology.

Seattle University's Newest Raingarden

Zak will share the details of the new raingarden being built at the Bellarmine turnaround flagpole by SU’s Engineer’s for a Sustainable World chapter. The project aims at helping against stormwater runoff pollution by enhancing biodiversity with native and pollinator/wildlife friendly plantings while giving students the opportunity to apply their studies. The club created designs in collaboration with professionals from the Berger Partnership, a landscape architecture firm local to Seattle. He will outline our next steps which include purchasing plants, applying for funding, and what students will do during the actual build of the raingarden. Lessons from students about this hands-on application will be gathered and shared to show the impact it has made on their learning.

Zak Smith is a third year environmental studies and public affairs major at SU. He is the raingarden project manager for Seattle University’s Engineer’s for a Sustainable World chapter and a student gardener with SU Grounds. As a junior majoring in environmental studies and public affairs, he finds it rewarding to be involved in a club of mostly engineering students since it helps him build a broad knowledge base. He hopes to combine his education, experience with the club and time as a student gardener to enter the field of landscape architecture after graduation.

Does renewable and energy storage integration green the electric grid?

Peak-based pricing plans have pushed industries to employ battery storage solutions to save on their electricity bill by greedy charging-discharging to provide a maximum cost-benefit. Altanai's Masters research project explores the true potential for cost reduction vs carbonization of the environment by using these popular large scale batteries. The experiment’s results show that batteries can reduce a typical industrial house’s electric bill by up to 25%. However, at the cost of increasing customer’s lifetime CO2 footprint by up to 9% with current mass storage battery technologies. This talk will deal with the various ways in which the electricity grid affects the carbon footprint of our environment and how government policies are trying to minimize the loss and fluctuations in demand by introducing peak prices. It will then show the solutions with which industries have found a way around the peak prices by using battery storage and greedy charging-discharging. Further, the talk will show how this may affect the environment in the due time and alternative approaches using optimized carbon aware algorithms such as one their research formulates, “Minbills”.

Altanai Bisht is an ardent contributor to Open Source, an avid freelancer and innovator. They invented RamuDroid, an autonomous IOT Road-Cleaning robot. In their Masters research, they experimented on Electricity storage using batteries via peak shaving to analyze their economic and environmental impact. Additionally, they co-authored the paper titled "Greed isn't green! A dichotomy between minimizing bills and greening the grid." with professor A Mishra and IEEE Export and Import of Renewable energy by Hybrid MicroGrid via IoT (2018), wrote the WebRTC Integrator's Guide, and recieved a patent for Multimedia Conferencing.

Health, Equity & the Environmental Impacts of Community Design

The built, natural and social environment where we live, work and play impacts human behavior, travel and activity patterns—and exposures to air pollution, noise, crime and risk of injury.  Through time and space these behaviors and exposures translate into health benefits or alternatively increased risk of physical and mental forms of chronic disease.  Travel patterns, vehicle dependence and miles driven per capita is also a function of community design which translates into per capital travel related GHG emissions.  Taken collectively, both human and planetary health are a function of how we design and develop our physical environment.  This brief talk will summarize these key linkages and concepts and suggest some ways forward for future research. 

Dr. Lawrence Frank specializes in the interaction between land use, travel behavior, air quality and health; and in the energy use and climate change impacts of urban form policies. He is a “walkability pioneer” and was among the very first to quantify connections between built environment, active transportation, and health. He began using the term “walkability” in the early 90’s and his Seattle based work led to WalkScore and has been cited over 43,000 times. He has been listed in Thompson and Reuter’s top 1% in the social sciences since 2014 and is the #1 top ranked planning academic in North America according to a recent Google Scholar ranking. Dr. Frank has published over 200 peer reviewed articles and reports and co-authored Heath and Community Design and Urban Sprawl and Public Health nearly two decades ago that mapped out the field emerging at the nexus between built and natural environments and health.