Civil Activism: How you can take charge

So last Thursday, Green Grounds put on a spectacular event titled: Sustained Mobility: How can mobility be improved at UVa? , my last major event as an outgoing exec member of Green Grounds; mixed feelings for sure. While I get to what happened in a minute, much like a Tarantino film, let me start with the end and bring you to the beginning.

Sustained Mobility Shot

Something at our Green Grounds meeting this Tuesday stuck out to me. Megan said that the atmosphere the event created felt like “civil activism,” that she was having a direct impact in deciding change at the University. It hit me that during my journey as a Green Grounds member since first year, exec since second year, that in fact the “projects” we had been working on and advocating for have been bred from an activist view, however in a different way.

Powershift 2013

While I can say from attending Powershift last October and reading about a great Keystone XL dissent this past weekend in the District, that I am no activist, I can more clearly now, more than ever, understand the connections I, through Green Grounds, share with them that I implictly felt at Powershift. We both have a vision of what we want to see, and as with our friends at the Climate Action Society , we have different ways to accomplish them and different geographic scopes, exactly as it should be. With their focus on building up a great network of activism throughout the Commonwealth, seen soon by Virginia Powershift! April 4-5, many of their conversations will also help build a wealth of knowledge between institutions, much like conversations I started at an ACC Leadership Conference 2 years ago, to then attend a conference in sustainable agriculture in Blacksburg and still keep in touch with many of them :).

So no matter where your level of motivation may lie on the activist spectrum, just like in entrepreneurship where there’s opportunities for “intrepreneurship,” or develop from within an existing company, something I learned from Powershift, there are opportunities for you to help shape your area and if done in a fun and collaborative environment can be really effective.

Sustained Mobility Break-out session

So how did we get here to where Green Grounds was leading a conversation about the future of mobility at UVa?

As with most things I seem to be involved with, several fortunate steps years in the making culminated in this final event. Since second year, because of Green Grounds’s involvement with the bike fix-it station at Clark, I have been the Student Chair for Transportation of the Environmental Impact Subcommittee a working committee for the University Committee on Sustainability…

The same Subcommittee responsible for organizing what you may have heard of the Carbon Reduction Plan of 2011 or the Nitrogen Reduction Plan of 2013, looking to reduce 25% of greenhouse gas emissions and reactive nitrogen lost to the environment by 2025 (more information at UVa Sustainability). Well, the same has been asked of each Taskforce: develop the steps to setting a long term vision in your area to add to the Sustainable vision at the University.

Transportation, I figured, really didn’t fit a number, a lot of students don’t drive to navigate the University, carbon reduction is already being done, and difficult to calculate driven miles let alone reduce them.

When you start thinking about it, how people move around the University isn’t necessarily driven transportation, but more accurately what it is: mobility. Freeing yourself from a mental model of transportation is more than just semantics, it brings you back to the fundamentals of planning.

With the help of a GIFT grant and matching funds from UVa Parking and Transportation, whose director Becca White, is the Staff Co-Chair for the Transportation Taskforce, we enlisted the help of Kimberly-Horn to assist in the maps we would need for our event (we split the UVa map into four regions for the consideration of mobility related issues: buses, bikes, walking, and safety) as seen here.

Sustained Mobility Overview Map

We had a form where people would select what area they were most interested in and would consider geospatially in the 4 areas. After 12 minutes of brainstorming each topic, each area would report out big ideas or considerations that they discussed bringing the small groups back to the larger event. With the great location of Open Grounds and compostable and recyclable catering by Rev Soup, I think we were able to pull off a really special event in just a span of 2 hours.

By sticking to the fundamentals I talked about in my Call to Action, you too can put on fun, highly engaging, and highly impactful events. Below are the slides we used, and a future post will be unveiling the results and next steps for finishing our goal to be approved by the Board of Visitors in the Fall with the proposal done before I graduate… A lot to do, but for me, it’s the culmination of 4 years of work with Green Grounds in transportation, really my UVa experience in interdisciplinary collaboration, and I am excited to see where Green Grounds goes with it next!

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