In the realm of sustainability, action emerges from the rich tapestry of discourse, weaving together diverse perspectives and experiences. The 2023 RCE Americas Meeting stood as a vibrant forum, where individuals gathered from all around the Americas to exchange views, share ideas, and delve into the discourse of sustainability. The participation of working professionals, academics, and students created a productive dialogue amongthe many panels, presentations, and workshops held over the three-day meeting. Each cohort was able to contribute a unique perspective on how sustainability plays a role in their own work, creating an environment where mutual learning fostered collective growth amongst attendees.
Education occurs at all stages of life, whether it be as a student or working professional–there is always something more to be learned. Lakshya Sharma, the Student Coordination Manager for RCE Greater Atlanta, shares his perspective on how sustainability-oriented conversations offered him a new set of professional skills to use.
“Solutions are a product of discourse, and the RCE Americas conference provided people coming from a wide variety of backgrounds an opportunity to present views, opinions and talk about differences. The Youth-led workshop was one such opportunity, where people of all ages, genders, and nationalities, present at the conference, could discuss issues that touched upon the domain of sustainability. I was given the responsibility to lead one of these sessions, where we discussed how important local community action is and how these actions can be made more efficient, inclusive and effective. We touched upon several important factors that are crucial to community action. There was emphasis on the importance of streamlining financial pathways for supporting local initiatives. Moreover, we discussed how programs aimed at enabling communities are often designed by people outside of these communities and often the language is not adjusted to the needs and contexts of the community in question, and how this can be changed by incorporating community members is the design process for such programs. Participating in these discussions gave me a fresh perspective on things and made me explore new ways to solve problems which I can now implement as a professional.”
Looking from a student perspective, Perrin Brady, who is studying History, Technology, and Society at Georgia Tech and serving as a Student Engagement Coordinator for RCE Greater Atlanta, shares how interpersonal connections play the most important role in creating a responsive and adaptive atmosphere.
“On Friday, there was a symposium on energy equity and advancing affordable and clean energy through university-community partnerships. Small discussion groups during the symposium, led by experts like Dr. Erica Holloman-Hill, allowed for attendees to dive deep into a topic and brainstorm how to come up with equitable energy solutions. Small groups like this throughout the conference also allowed for personal connection between attendees. In my small group on Friday, I got to hear from people with all sorts of backgrounds in sustainability and academia, representing the sort of partnerships I'd want to see in the RCE network. Another valuable part of the conference, for me as a student, was being able to meet incredible people working to advance sustainability. I was able to raise questions to the room that I struggle with as a young person, like how to navigate possible conflict between requiring fast climate solutions and needing equitable/sustainable solutions that take time and consideration. People's answers gave me hope for future impacts I could make, so I hope all the young people able to attend the conference in turn gave them hope for a new generation of people who care.”
Julie Chen, another Student Engagement Coordinator who is studying architecture at Georgia Tech, shares how the individuality of each RCE allows for creative collaboration across the network. The specificity and uniqueness of each project an RCE takes on creates a diverse portfolio of work regarding the SDG goals.
“Attending RCE Americas has been particularly captivating. The range of presentations remains an inspiration as I was able to witness different RCEs actively involved in unique projects to further the UN SDG Goals. It was especially heartening to see young students taking the initiative, such as Anna Lin's enlightening presentation on E. coli in the Chattahoochee River and the insights RCE Grand Rapids students shared regarding their partnership projects. Additionally, I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to connect with remarkable individuals who share a common goal to create a positive impact. These presentations and discussions have genuinely rekindled my hope for the future, reaffirming our collective commitment to effecting positive change. It's imperative that we share these discussions, activities, and insights, as pursuing UN SDG goals demands collaborative actions.The RCE Americas Network is a great platform to share these efforts.”
The 2023 Americas Meeting not only allowed for interpersonal connections, but promoted conversations around intergenerational education and its importance as new generations fill the roles of those before them. Amani Allen-Beale, a Student Coordinator for RCE Greater Atlanta who is studying Environmental Science and PreLaw at Georgia Gwinnett College, touches on how her panel experience encouraged such conversations.
“This is my second RCE event as an intern and it always leaves me inspired to show up more for my community. I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel with Dr. Stephanie Miles-Richardson and Rick Stone to discuss how to empower today’s youth in sustainable spaces. I loved hearing the perspectives and insights from people who have been doing this work for years and providing the perspective for the current generation. I’m always grateful for those moments where generations get to sit in the room with each other and learn from one another. In order to do this work, the conversations between the generations need to be constantly happening. I am so glad I was able to be a part of this progressive moment with the RCE.”
Thank you to everyone who was able to come out and support RCE Greater Atlanta in our efforts to continue these conversations about sustainability and equity. It was truly amazing to see so many people come together with a set of shared goals, and we’re already looking forward to meeting our new connections again at the 2024 RCE Americas Meeting
We wish to acknowledge and thank our sponsors: Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Georgia Tech’s Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, Renewable Bioproducts Institute, Strategic Energy Institute, and The Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business with the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact, and Kennesaw State University’s Global Education Community Engagement and Outreach.