Luther Prepares for Climate Justice Week

Sandra Henry (Left) and Susan Crate (right) will deliver lectures virtually during Climate Justice Week.

Photo courtesy of Luther College

Sandra Henry (Left) and Susan Crate (right) will deliver lectures virtually during Climate Justice Week.

Luther College will celebrate Climate Justice Week April 18-24 with a campus-wide series of events and programs sponsored by a variety of student organizations, centers, and departments. Students Salomé Valdivieso (‘23) and Sydney Frank (‘23) are planning and organizing Climate Justice Week and they have put together a diverse lineup of events centered around the theme of “Social Equity in Our Changing Climate.” 

This year, there will be a focus on the intersection between social justice and environmental issues, which means that students from varied academic disciplines are involved in the planning of the event. Kim Chham (‘21) felt moved to get involved this year because of the emphasis on the intersection of environmental issues and social justice. Chham shared what the planning team hopes to accomplish through Climate Justice Week.

“This year, our goal is to bring the different aspects of how people are being affected by climate change to Luther College,” Chham said. “We want to bring something that’s affecting everyone in the world to Luther where we do not always feel the effects of environmental issues.”

The Center for Ethics and Public Engagement (CEPE) is partnering with students to make Climate Justice Week a success. Valdivieso has worked in the CEPE during both of her years at Luther, and shared that environmental justice is a central focus of CEPE. Valdivieso addressed the responsibilities an individual in any community has to the environment. 

“I believe that we are all connected to each other, to nature, and to the planet,” Valdivieso said. “Intersections affect how people perceive the environmental crisis in different parts of the world. We need to consciously think about how we are consuming, and how that affects people in other parts of the world.” 

The festivities will include opportunities for students to learn more about environmental issues, and how to take action. The organizers expressed that the most important thing people can do as Climate Justice Week approaches is attend as many events as possible and participate with an open mind. Many activities and programs intend to help educate attendees about, and foster a lasting connection to, environmental issues, all with the goal to empower people to make a difference. 

Environmental studies major Sydney Frank (‘23) began working at the Center for Sustainable Communities her first year at Luther and noted that this week has been in the works for a long time. Frank shared that she hopes this week will connect students to environmental issues.

“The main goal for Climate Justice Week is for students to feel more connected to issues and people that they cannot see firsthand,” Frank said. “I think it’s important for people to see the other side of things. For some people, it will be a change in attitude, and for others, it will be a change in action.”

Frank, Chham, and Valdivieso all expressed that big change starts with small actions taken by individuals. Climate Justice Week will help students understand how they can take small actions, such as eating more sustainably, as well as engaging in activism to influence larger organizations. Chham would like to see environmental sustainability represented more in the Luther curriculum to connect all Luther students to climate issues. 

“Just because something doesn’t seem super close to you right now does not mean that climate change is not affecting so many others,” Chham said. “We all live on the same earth, so everyone needs to be included in this effort. Luther students are here to learn, grow, and make the world a better place. This is your chance to do your part and learn while having fun, and also be part of something very important.”

Two events headlining the lineup will be virtual lectures given by guest speakers Sandra Henry, Senior Director of Energy and Sustainability for Elevate, and Susan Crate, Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University. Henry will deliver a lecture entitled, “Environmental Justice and Clean Energy” on April 20 at 7:00 p.m. Crate will deliver a lecture entitled, “Anthropology & Climate Change: Actions & Transformations” on April 21 at 7:00 p.m.

A link to the complete lineup of events can be found here: