Op-Ed: Act on this Earth Day and throughout the year for ecological justiceApril 20, 20233 min read
Growing up on a small farm in New England, my family was tied to the rhythms of the seasons and the land. We guided our calendar and lives by when to plant tomatoes, harvest corn and seed the winter rye. The connection to the natural world felt timeless, and the land, ever enduring.
Each summer, Red would show up on our doorstep and stay a few weeks. Red was a giant in my child’s eyes, certainly more than 6 feet tall -- and he had a wagon like Professor Marvel in the opening scene of “The Wizard of Oz.” Red may have been one of the last of the itinerant “rag men” that would go from farm to farm, offering services like repairing pots and pans, fixing farm implements, and telling stories for food and shelter. He always showed up — like the seasons — and we treated him like the friend he was.
Most of all, I remember Red’s stories. He would say to me, “The world is a precious place, and we need to take care of it. It needs us to reuse everything, reduce what we use and cycle as much as we can back to Mother Earth.”
I didn’t have the language then for what he was talking about, but now, I see him as an important figure in my life because he instilled in me a lifelong commitment to change our human relationship to the planet. We simply must do better. I became a teacher, and eventually, a leader in nonprofit and educational organizations dedicated to ecological and social justice values.
Everyone, including the earth, deserves the fair division of resources, opportunities, privileges and more. Imagine if we could set aside half of the earth for biodiversity and use the other half to power human society. In 2017, renowned biologist E.O. Wilson proposed this idea in his book, Half-Earth. Furthermore, what if the for-profit sector paid for it? The current planetary generation could ensure the viability of the planet for future generations.
We know from scholarly research that it only takes a small number of people to create the conditions for positive social change. When people take collective action, their communities benefit. We are collecting stories this year, but more importantly, we are showing the impact that our students, alums, faculty, staff, Trustees, and other stakeholders have on their own communities. Like the butterfly effect, even small actions can have a large impact.
Fielding Graduate University acts to secure the sustainability of our biodiverse ecosystem, health equity, society, and culture. Fielding was founded in Santa Barbara 49 years ago upon the idea that graduate education can be a vehicle for positive social change that leads to social and ecological justice. In 2023, the President’s Sustainability Advisory Council designated this year as our Fielding Ecological and Social Justice Service Year.
Fielding is also committed to justice, diversity, equity and inclusion through access and success for our students and, more expansively, to our community partners and colleagues. We believe that we walk together with others and strive for harmony, which means seeking mutual understanding across differences. We specifically affirm and honor our Indigenous communities, both in Fielding’s headquarters in Santa Barbara and across the world. We recognize the deep history, ecological knowledge, expansive scholarship and critical sovereignty of our Indigenous peoples.
Our human society is at a moment where we can choose the path that honors both our ancestors and descendants. Each of us is responsible for enacting change, no matter how large or small the effort. We know that simple changes can significantly reduce our impact, and cumulatively, give the natural cycles around us time to recover. Reduce the amount of meat you eat, reduce your own food waste, fly less, buy less, re-use more. It’s not complicated.
On this Earth Day, I encourage you to act. Participate in a cleanup in your community, create a natural lawn, participate in a neighborhood bird count, plant a tree. You could also volunteer for any nonprofit organization.
As for Fielding, we remain steadfast in our resolve for ecological and social justice so we can leave the world in a better place than we found it. Like Red and so many others before us, I invite you to do the same.
Katrina S. Rogers, Ph.D., is president of Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, CA, a distinguished graduate school known for adult learners in the fields of clinical psychology, organizational leadership and change, and education. Learn more at www.fielding.edu.
Katrina S. Rogers, Ph.D. President and Doctoral Faculty, School of Leadership Studies
Executive, consultant, board member, and teacher in the educational and nonprofit sectors