Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition

Unifying the voice of a generation in environmental solidarity

CMU SEA New Post-PowerShift Structure

By Stephen Lokos, Central Michigan University SEA Member

The main environmental group at Central Michigan University, Student Environmental Alliance or SEA, has undergone a substantial amount of changes this past semester. The group has become much more focused on community/university involvements and projects. One might say that the group has started undergoing the active part of activism as of late. SEA used to be based more around educational efforts within the club and also attempts at gaining new members through tabling, movie showings, and Earth Week events. The club had its annual river cleanup and would partake in hosting, or helping to host, events on campus that pertained to environmentalism. However, the main focus of the club seemed to pertain more to education of its members through presentations about environmental issues.

            That practice continued at the beginning of the new semester and SEA tried to liven things up by creating groups that could all work on a presentation related to a similar environmental idea. The idea was to promote social growth within the group and to also help provide information to the other members of the group with the presentations created. The major changes that are now present within SEA today occurred after Powershift 2013. The group restructured its main goals of education and turned them into activism, which, in turn, also educates members of the group and others who see the types of things SEA is trying to do. The idea of having groups that were self-created based on central interest was kept. However, instead of having these groups work on creating an educational presentation they are based on efforts to implement changes within the University and Mt. Pleasant community. There are a variety of groups that SEA currently contains.

            There is a solar energy based group, which is working on pressuring CMU to implement more solar panels on campus to help provide electricity and heating for CMU buildings. The group just recently had legislation passed in the student government showing support for an increase in solar energy on campus. There is a group that is beginning to work with the indigenous Chippewa members to help build local connections with the Native American members of the community. This group also plans on working with the Chippewa to try and obtain a moratorium or ban on fracking, because attempts through the local community have been unsuccessful (Mt. Pleasant’s high school students are known as the oilers). There is a group that is working on a divestment campaign on campus. They just recently had legislation pass in the student government showing support for divestment. The group has also meet with some of the main financial advisors at CMU and is scheduled to present at a board of trustees meeting in February. There is also a group working on the recently developed palm oil campaign, which urges major snack food companies to remove palm oil from their goods due to the destructive methods by which palm oil is obtained. There was also a recent political prisoner writing event that a few SEA and also a few nonmembers attended. It is unknown at this time if this will be a reoccurring event.

These groups each have their own goals and strategies, which are not affected or approved of by any SEA e-board members. SEA has become more of a space where these groups can meet an hour every week to pursue their own passions instead of being dictated as a large group by a few voices whose ideas are most heard. This helps to create greater member involvement because there is a greater chance that someone gets to work on a project they enjoy instead of merely going with the flow of the bigger group. We also hope that this will help to retain new members because they feel more involved in the club, but because this is just a recently implemented strategy the outcome is not known in those regards. 

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600+ Michigan Youth to Powershift!

The date has been set, the recruitment teams are forming, and the excitement is building for the country’s largest youth climate conference, happening October 18-21 in Pittsburgh, PA. Will you be coming to Powershift 2013?

If you decide that the answer is “YES!” to that question, you should know that you won’t be alone. In fact, you should probably start getting ready to spend the most inspiring, intense, cozy, crazy, and exciting 4 days of your life this fall with hundreds of other Michigan students (and THOUSANDS of youth from across the country). For these 4 days our movement will come together to express our power and actively work to stop the climate crisis and protect the rights of people, land, air, water, and wildlife against the destructive forces of fossil fuel profiteers.

Unfortunately we can’t all get there on excitement alone, and its going to take a lot of hard work, collaboration, and dedication to make it all happen. The good news is that the MSSC has already got an amazing team of students taking the lead in recruitment around the state! We’re currently organizing at MSU, LCC, CMU, NMU, UM, EMU, WCC, GVSU, WMU, and more to come. Our overall goal is to get 600+ youth from MI to attend this conference, but also to come back and take effective and unified action to step up the climate movement in our state. If you want to join the recruitment team at any of these campuses or any others, please let me know! We can use help with recruiting 5 of your friends, organizing student groups to come, fundraising, and more! Send me an email at starkeel@gmail.com to learn more and get plugged in.

Wondering about all the rest of the details about Powershift? Like how to register? Or how you’ll get there? Or where you’ll sleep?? Along with getting over 600 MI youth to attend the conference, our team of recruiters will also be making sure that everyone who registers has a way to get there and somewhere to stay. There’s even opportunities to apply for financial assistance in registering for the conference, apply soon to get your reg fee covered! While we don’t know all the details about transportation and housing right now, we can say that we’ll be working to coordinate these logistics as a state and will be doing our best to make them as free and/or low cost as possible. If you have questions about your specific campus, feel free to contact me, or contact the State Lead in your area:

CMU, NMU- Mariah Urueta (mariahamberurueta@gmail.com)

MSU, LCC- Steve Riccardi (stevericcardi312@gmail.com)

UM, EMU- Marissa Solomon (solommar@umich.edu)

Grand Rapids Area- Gwen Gell (gellg@mail.gvsu.edu)

If you register before August 10th, you’ll pay the lowest possible price for the conference! Register today so that we can start planning all of our logistics and keep you updated!

If you want to get started with recruitment ASAP, we’re having a national recruitment phone bank this Thursday from 4-9! Learn more here and sign up. 

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RESOURCE: Social Media that Builds a Movement

Today I took part in a national conference call held by Climate Reality Check entitled “Social Media that Builds a Movement”. They covered some really great tips and tools we can all use to better use social media as an organizing and movement building tool.

Check out the notes I took to start integrating some of these lessons with your campaign or project! We covered how to create engaging content, how to make effective memes, and talked about the climate silence campaign as an excellent case study

For the skimmers out there- here’s the most useful resource included: a toolkit on meme making

Social Media that Builds a Movement

4/25/2013 Climate Reality Check

How to create engaging content (graphics and memes)

–          Do one thing at a time! The climate problem is extremely daunting, so just try to focus on one number at a time.

  • While it’s important to build the bigger picture and tell the whole story, focusing on one or two concrete details at a time helps you build this story over time, but in a way that allows people to understand easily and is much more engaging

–          How to understand the problem- important to capture the scale of the problem and the solution with dramatic imagery (climate change does give us epic visuals)

  • Helps convey the size of the problem that condenses the larger science into a single emotion or feeling
  • People don’t relate very well to global or apocalyptic thinking, so talking about specific impacts is a better way to get people fired up without making them feel like the world is over.

Effective ways to use social media to amplify on the ground actions

–          The big picture- its best to break up social media strategy into three parts and have a plan for each: before the action, during the action, and after the action

  • make a plan for all of these phases based on what your goals are (recruitment, engagement, next steps) and then craft tools/strategy to meet these goals
  • before an action- goal is to make it feel real so that more people relate/are excited to join in
    • use stories from people who are signed up, ask them to tell why they’re doing it
    • if you’re about to reach your recruitment goal, tell people about it!
    • Adds momentum and excitement = more people
    • Use diverse messengers so that your message resonates with as many different communities as possible
  • During an action- show, don’t tell.
    • You should have exciting things to show if you have a successful action!
    • Use quotes from speakers and lots of photos, but mix up your scale (use pics from crowd and speakers)
  • After the action- you want people to feel really good about the next steps
    • Post reflections on numbers, goals that were met
    • Gives you a chance to show more photos, let the movement have a chance to see itself and feel powerful

Best practices for groups with limited capacity

–          Make a plan for the goals you have

  • Goal for how often you want to post, and be concrete

–          Make it part of your routine, this should just be a part of organizing

–          There are some apps schedule social media work for you- tweet deck

–          Focus- get it all done at once, don’t let it be something that is always distracting you! Use your post schedules

–          Follow this advice on meme making!

Meme making

–          Be a movement builder, not a marketer

  • Listen to hash tags (etc) if you’re going to use them
  • Be a trainer and teach others about social media
  • Don’t just list your stories, but list movement stories (because that is what people want to be a part of)

–          What is a meme?

  • the word comes from a book by Richard Dawkins about evolutionary biology- based on the word genes (we spread our genes virally because we’re compelled to)
    • meme is the spread of ideas

–          Why are memes useful?

  • Photos catch people’s attention
    • FB algorithm is programmed to prioritize images
  • Captions travel with photos and memes when other people share them (but not with articles)

–          How to make a good meme?

  • Use Picmonkey.com, especially if you don’t have graphic design skills
  • Be snarky
  • Minimize text, but entice the viewers to read more (in captions, links)
  • Show agency- lift up the people who have made the changes you’re posting about.
  • Include a next step (bare minimum is “click like and share”) petition, letter, event to attend, etc.

–          Using pictures that won’t get you in trouble

  • If you give credit to where you found it/person who took it, you probably won’t get in trouble
  • Worst case scenario is that you have to take it down
  • If you’re really worried, there are creative commons photos that anyone can use

–          What to do with it

  • Post it! But not in a vacuum- call on your network to help you share the image
  • Have a good caption
  • Tag groups or people who helped/are involved- just a subtle hint that they should share it too

Climate Silence: Case Study of using social media to amplify a campaign (breaking the silence on climate during 2012 presidential debates)

–          (check out a really successful climate silence meme here)

–          Most of the effort/challenge is being a good organizer and coming up with a good campaign idea and strategies, the social side of “social media” is the most important one

–          Used moral imagery in this case (duct tape)- this was a very compelling visual message and something national media paid attention to (as they’re always looking for a good political scandal), but coming up with this idea actually took a long time

  • It helps to work with good designers, but the most important part is creating the campaign/content/messaging

–          Built a network of allies and groups to contribute

  • After they generated the original image with tape over candidate’s mouths, EAC then made a meme/poster making tools that people could use to tailor this message and make their own. That way people felt ownership and wanted to share more

–          They were prepared to respond in real time (while watching the debates) that made them super time relevant- rapid response is one of the most key things you can do to generate a wide response

  • You’re not just trying to reach them with something new, you’re connecting to something they already care about


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Divestment Working Group Notes!

Hi MSSC!  Here is what the Divestment Working Group talked about during our call on April 24th!

Stephen from CMU spoke about how they launched their campaign with videos and posting fliers around campus.  They’ve begun asking faculty members for support in their campaign, and at the beginning of next school year they plan to publish a disorientation guide about divestment and chalk #divestcmu all over campus!

Marissa from U of M talked what the Divest and Invest Campaign has accomplished this year.  They launched the campaign in early March with a panel event, and went right into passing a resolution with the College of LSA Student Government.  They have also begun garnering support from faculty, and plan to pass a resolution in Central Student Government and meet with individual members of the Board of Regents to ask for support.

We also spoke about plans for the national Divestment Day of Action on May 2, where students will show support from divestment all over the country by taking pictures of events with orange squares, the national symbol of divestment!

Finally, we spoke about planning a Michigan Divestment Day of Action at the beginning of next year, where students all over Michigan can show support for divestment!  Maybe by wearing orange mittens?

Stay tuned for information about the next working group call!

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Daryl Hannah at CMU!

 “Total systems collapse!  I’m going to say that again, total systems collapse.  I don’t know why everyone isn’t running around screaming ‘help! help!’ on the streets!”  -Daryl Hannah at CMU, 4/17/2013

While this statement may seem out of character for Hollywood stars, it certainly is right in line with Daryl Hannah’s lifestyle and beliefs.

I know because I had the pleasure of dining with Daryl Hannah this past Wednesday and listening to her engage in a conversation with my university community.  Her understanding of the interconnectedness of global struggles was refreshing and her fun demeanor was relaxing.  She spoke of everything from the failures of capitalism and the corporatized political system to the necessity of sustainability and environmental awareness and concern.

But Ms. Hannah doesn’t just talk the talk, she walks the walk.  She spoke about her own lifestyle changes – including her (mostly) vegan diet, chemical-free lifestyle, and carbon-neutral home – to her experiences living in the trees to save a farm or standing in front of a bulldozer to block the construction of the Keystone XL.

A question was asked of Daryl: How can you get people who don’t seem so interested in these things to want to get involved?

Her answer?  Throw a better party.

If there’s one thing I learned from Daryl, it’s that our movement throws a better party.  Whether we’re dismantling oppressive infrastructure, creating media, building solutions, or educating others, we’re doing it with the best and most compassionate people around and that’s because our movement isn’t just about the “environment.”  It’s a movement about reigniting the instinct we have as beings to protect and love life.  It’s a movement so primal and so true, it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.

Daryl said that if given the choice between an apple that’s poisoned and an apple that’s pure, there isn’t one single person who would choose the former.  Our movement is simply drawing attention to this basic fact: we all want to live and we all want to thrive and the mode of operation of the current global systems is poisonous.  We cannot let it continue.

So folks, let’s get out there and throw a better party.



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