Environmental experts imagine a ‘Fossil-Free L.A.’ at an Earth Month festival

The Arts and Climate Collective hosted its climate celebration in Founder’s Park

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What does a fossil-free Los Angeles look like?

The Arts and Climate Collective (ACC) aimed to answer this question at its “Imagining a Fossil-Free L.A.” festival in Founder’s Park on Tuesday. The typically serene space on campus was filled with students stopping by to hear from organizations unified by a common goal: to raise awareness about climate justice and inspire action toward a fossil-free city.

The free Earth Month event featured conversations with activists, food tastings with many vegan options, live music and a resource fair connecting students to local organizations. Student artwork, films and projects surrounding environmental justice facilitated a dynamic spirit.

“It’s especially important for our generation to have events like this,” said Gwenan Walker, a sophomore animation student from Virginia. Walker is a member of the ACC, which provides funding and guidance to students working on creative projects focused on sustainability and environmental justice. Her creative project is a 2-D animated short titled “The Voyager.”

“[The film] essentially envisions what the world could look like 250 years into the future,” Walker said. “It’s meant to be an ode to the responsibilities that we all have to take on at such a young age, but also that can be a very empowering thing for us too.”

In addition to local South and East L.A. groups, USC organizations tabled at the resource fair, featuring campus organizations including the SC Garden Club, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) and the Environmental Student Assembly (ESA).

“We’re just showing what students can do to get involved in sustainability and environmental efforts here at USC,” said junior environmental studies student Connor Castillo, who serves as the executive director of ESA. “We’re just promoting what we have done in the past, what we’re doing for the rest of Earth Month, as well as giving out composting bins.”

ESA partnered with the L.A. Bureau of Sanitation to give out free composting bins on campus now that state law requires every jurisdiction, like L.A., to provide organic waste collection services to all residents and businesses. Castillo said he hopes the composting bins ESA provided at the Arts and Climate Collective Festival will make the composting process “a lot easier” for people.

“I’ve always just been very passionate about the environment, even before I learned about climate change,” Castillo said. “I think it’s always great to be in tune with nature, in tune with the environment … I think everybody can play a part in it, regardless of your background, regardless of your academic interests and whatnot.”

The festival’s main stage spotlighted a panel featuring medical experts, professors and grassroots leaders moderated by Colin Maclay, the executive director of the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. The panelists were each asked to answer the question: “What is one thing you look forward to in a more climate-friendly and sustainable L.A.?”

Their answers varied from “access to healthy shelter” to “living in a future of abundance” with cheap energy. One panelist, Rob McConnell, turned to public transit, a potential solution to air pollution from vehicles. People living in L.A. County are exposed to 60 percent more vehicle pollution than the state average, according to an analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“I love mass transit,” said McConnell, who works as a professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “My vision is to be able to get on a bus and get on a train in Los Angeles that is efficient — they come at the time they say they will.”

Elsie Bencke, a freshman studying philosophy, politics and economics, tabled for USG’s Sustainability and Campus Infrastructure Committee. Bencke worked to help provide free shuttles from campus to LAX during academic breaks to reduce the number of cars on the road.

“By sharing the valuable community and student efforts, we can inspire more people to get involved,” Bencke said. “Highlighting the work that is already being done to fight for sustainability is a great way to proliferate the effort.”