Student Group Spotlight: emPOWER, the Brown Concert for Climate Action, and RYSE

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This Friday, emPower, Brown’s umbrella environmental organization, will be hosting the Brown Concert for Climate Action to raise awareness about climate change and its consequences. emPOWER has teamed up with Know Tomorrow, a national campaign partnering with over 50 colleges across the country and started by Brown alum Wendy Abrams ’87. The concert will feature activist Kerry Kennedy ’81 P’17, the beloved What Cheer? Brigade, Voces Verdes- Latino Leadership, Young Hummus, Sons of ProvidenceSebastián ()tero ’18, a video message from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and more!

On Saturday, emPOWER will be hosting the Rhode Island Youth Summit on the Environment (RYSE) which will bring high school and college students from across Rhode Island together to foster debate around the current state of the environmental movement and according to the RYSE Facebook event description “challenge our common perceptions of environmental issues.” The RYSE keynote speech will be delivered by Voces Verdes- Latino Leadership in Action. You can also check out a comprehensive list of Saturday’s RYSE events and register here.

Blog connected with emPOWER’s Executive Director Camila Bustos ’16 to learn more about these two events.

Bustos, who studies climate change policy and politics at Brown, helped organize emPOWER’s first RYSE forum last November and is greatly anticipating this year’s weekend of environmental action. The issues being raised through the combination of these two events strongly resonate with her:

“I study climate change policy and politics and its implications on sustainable development and human rights. I am also from Colombia, a country that is particularly vulnerable to climate change. And I am a POC environmentalist which has made me question and reflect on why the environmental movement is so overwhelmingly white and upper class.”

Following the highly publicized Know Tomorrow concert, RYSE will present the opportunity for students deeply examine the current state of the environmental movement. Bustos explains that “the environmental movement has been quite narrow” and that one of goals of RYSE is to “emphasize that environmentalism is not about white, upper class ‘hippies’ that love trees and recycling.” Bustos tells Blog that environmentalism is all about “social justice, intersections between race/class and environmental degradation” and that environmentalism is “relevant to all.”

Bustos is excited to have RYSE take place the day after the Brown Concert for Climate Action in order to build momentum around the energy of these two events. The coordination of these two events, she tells Blog, presents an incredible opportunity to make the dialogue surrounding climate change “mainstream” on campus.

“I think climate change often remains an abstract and scary issue a lot of people don’t want to think about. Climate has slowly become more of a mainstream issue, as companies and governments clean up their act and Pope Francis promotes climate action around the world. I see these two events as opportunities to discuss why climate change and why environmental problems matter, who do they affect and why, and brainstorm what we can do about this.”

So why should you attend these events? Bustos pitches that “they are going to be fun, engaging, and critical all at once. We want folks to have a great time while also reflecting upon how climate change is a defining issue of our generation.”

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