Do you want to learn to combat consumerism and promote a more sustainable society?
“Learn how to frickin’ sew your goddamn socks,” Eriel Deranger said.
Deranger is one of five environmental activists hosted by the Environmental and Sustainability Programs to discuss the impacts of social issues and consumerism on efforts to reduce the environmental impacts of humankind.
Deranger and her cousin and fellow panelist, Gitz Crazyboy, said they grew up in the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta, Canada. Deranger said their reservation sits in the middle of the tar sands.
The tar sands are home to large deposits of crude oil, creating a strong oil industry in the region, Crazyboy said.
Deranger said she watched their reservation, which is publicly opposed to unsustainable energy, become overly dependent on the oil and gas industries.
“The reality is every single person in the probably the entire province of Alberta is connected to the oil and gas industry,” Deranger said.
Despite their reservation’s strong ties to the crude oil industry, Deranger and Crazyboy grew up in poverty. They said were forced to reuse everything, wore hand-me-down clothes and even sewed the holes in their socks closed.
Now, they’re horrified by the amount of consumerism and waste in the capitalist societies in the U.S. and Canada.
Other panelists included Ragfinery Manager Shan Sparling, social activist photographer Javaughn Fernanders and one of Western’s environmental graduate students, Jill MacIntyre Witt.
While managing the Ragfinery, Sparling said she repurposes clothes and other textiles to reduce the waste that results from the fast fashion of larger clothing brands.
Sparling said the company also hires those who have been out of the job market for a long time to give people a chance to build their resume and eventually pursue different jobs.
“We’re really trying to bring awareness to how big the problem is, as far as toxicity to the environment,” Sparling said. “It’s second only to oil.”
Fernanders displayed her photos from the collection “Black and Green” is beautiful in the back of the room, which stemmed from her work regarding the place of African Americans in environmentalism.
MacIntyre Witt works with 350.org, a Seattle-based grassroots climate movement and is most known for her studies of algae in the Great Barrier Reef in the 1980s.
The panel was organized by the Sustainability Action Plan Coordinator Susanna Hamilton, the Environmental and Sustainability Programs Director Anna Kemper, the Environmental Center Coordinator Julia Henson, and the Social Issues Resource Center Outreach Coordinator Angelica Sanchez to expose students to different aspects of sustainability.
“They’ll think about it from the social impact. Let’s think about Flint. Let’s think about the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Hamilton said. “Let’s look at the economic impacts and the social impacts because it’s all tied together.”
Susanna Hamilton is currently working the Office of Sustainability to create a 20 year plan for the university to become more a more sustainable institution.
Nearly 50 students and community members attended the panel in the Viking Union Multipurpose Room on Thursday, April 6.