ERG & Election: Can we talk about this?

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[Christopher Hyun and Emma Tome] 

This is the email that all current ERGies received on election night.

Equity and Inclusion Rally on Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley (C. Hyun)

The students initiated an unanticipated ERG Town Hall the day after the presidential election in the department Reading Room. First-year graduate student, Emma Tome, wrote to all of us, eloquently expressing what many of us were thinking as that night progressed:
RE: Can we talk about this?
     Are we studying solutions to climate change and pressing environmental problems under an illusion of political inevitability?
     I'm writing before the returns come in because part of me hopes that the existence of political rationality is not yet completely foreclosed. But is it the assumption of rationality itself that has led us astray?
     Even if the non-climate change denying candidate manages to win, this remains a wake up call.
     I'm sure there are many think pieces underway that will far better explicate the phenomenon we are witnessing now.
     I'm here with many fellow students at Professor Harte's house. And in between checking competing returns on our phones we are puzzling over what our work in the department means.
     I will be the first to admit that I am new and naive to this work, it being my first term back in school. But this is also why I am asking for your collective guidance.
     Could we hold a town hall about the election in the coming weeks? It's not exactly about the election, but also the politics that underlie and motivate, implicitly or explicitly, the questions we might ask and the arguments we make, and dare I say, change we might achieve.
     Can we talk about this?
Immediately, the ERG community responded and organized a meeting with faculty, staff, students, post-docs, and visiting scholars the following day. We realized that we first needed to acknowledge what was going on in our community. We shared our histories, passions, realities, and concerns. We came out of this understanding that there is much to do within and outside of the scope of our individual academic work, within and outside of ERG, on and for both sides of this divided country. Our conversation still continues on day two and beyond via email, during ERG tea breaks, and butcher paper in the kitchen.

On butcher paper (C. Hyun)

The ERG executive committee of faculty, staff, and students has recognized the urgent need to reinforce and clarify ERG’s stance on inclusion and has put this preliminary affirmation on our homepage:
The mission of the Energy and Resources Group is education and research for a sustainable environment and a just society. ERG actively promotes intellectual, racial, ethnic, and gender inclusion; researches the impacts of equality and inequality; and celebrates diversity in our community.
The use of the word “inclusion” in this affirmation is purposive, so as to maintain space for those who are concerned about a sustainable environment and a just society but who may not often be perceived as a part of “diversity.”

This is in addition to the University of California’s official statement on the results of the presidential election by the UC president and chancellors:
In light of yesterday's election results, we know there is understandable consternation and uncertainty among members of the University of California community. The University of California is proud of being a diverse and welcoming place for students, faculty, and staff with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.  Diversity is central to our mission. We remain absolutely committed to supporting all members of our community and adhering to UC’s Principles Against Intolerance. As the Principles make clear, the University “strives to foster an environment in which all are included” and “all are given an equal opportunity to learn and explore.” The University of California will continue to pursue and protect these principles now and in the future, and urges our students, faculty, staff, and all others associated with the University to do so as well.
We are proud of what the University of California stands for and hope to convey that positive message to others in our state and nation.
Students, staff, professors, post-docs, visiting scholars taking the opportunity to meet during ERG tea (C. Hyun)

At ERG, we continue to meet and strategize during breaks and via email and Facebook. We encourage alumni, faculty affiliates, related programs across campus, California, and the US to reach out to us as well. We hope to have a stronger and more detailed statement ready in the near future and to keep the dialogue going.

In the meantime for more information, please contact an ERGie near you.

Note: The views expressed here belong solely to the author of each entry and are not representative of the position of the Energy and Resources Group, UC Berkeley. 

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