USC Earth Week events aim to address climate anxiety and raise awareness on climate change

The Office of Sustainability and student organizations are teaming up to host workshops and activities.

In preparation for Earth Day on April 22, the USC Office of Sustainability is organizing Earth Week, a celebration of community sustainability. Earth Week begins Monday, April 18 and ends on Earth Day, with the office hosting events and activities each day.

The United Nations released their annual climate report on April 4, stressing the importance of combating climate change now to limit its detrimental effects. The report stated that it is “now or never” to keep global warming under or at 1.5 degrees Celsius, ushering an international call to action.

The rising concerns about global warming are affecting mainly 16 to 25 year olds, with about 60% feeling “very worried” or “extremely worried” about climate change.

A virtual event aimed at reducing some of that stress and anxiety will take place on April 19. The workshop, Finding Calm in the Storm: A Workshop on Climate Anxiety and Love for Our Planet, will be headed by USC clinical psychologist and professor Dr. Pamela “Tobi” Fishel and occupational therapist Dr. Camille Dieterle.

Dr. Fishel hopes that the workshop will ease apprehensions occurring in the USC community by acknowledging their sources and addressing steps to take action.

“There’s this underlying anxiety that a lot of people are having, and they’re not even recognizing what it is,” Dr. Fishel said. “It’s amazing how when you allow yourself to feel the anxiety and the grief about it, not deny it... with other people who have the same language and want to talk about it, then they feel validated and energized to then do something and make a difference.”

USC President Carol Folt has made sustainability a priority since taking office in 2019. Most recently, USC announced it would liquidate all fossil fuel investments in 2021. The first Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment & Rating System report was also released to help plan for the university’s 2028 Sustainability Plan. The Earth Week programming reflects Folt’s goal of becoming a more environmentally conscious campus.

One of the week’s main events is the Student Sustainability Town Hall, which will be held on April 22 from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The town hall is an open forum for students, faculty and neighbors to voice concerns or ask questions about sustainability at USC.

Hosting the event are members of the Student Sustainability Committee of the Presidential Working Group for Sustainability (PWG) along with the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA).

Olivia Heffernan, a junior studying environmental studies and the president of the SC Garden Club, said she hopes that the event brings more awareness and education to USC’s student body.

“USC is a very decentralized university… For someone who’s not an [environmental studies] major, they might not know at all what USC is doing,” Heffernan said. “It will be a great way for students to directly hear about what is going on in terms of sustainability on campus from administrators and have an open dialogue with them.”

Other events aimed at educating USC students on the environment include but are not limited to a USC Earth Week celebration on April 20, a “Building a Brighter Future with Solar” workshop on April 21 and a “Confronting Climate Change: Solutions for a Sustainable World” panel on April 22.