SEI Reports

A publication of the Sustainable Environment Institute, Vol. 5, No. 2
Introducing the Sustainable Environment Institute

For many of you, this newsletter will be your first contact with the SEI. You’re likely to wonder who we are and what we’re all about.

We are LACCD educators deeply concerned with the state of the environment and passionate about the need to raise the level of environmental awareness among our students. We began meeting informally a long time ago, in 2007, under the auspices of the District Academic Senate, and in 2011 became an official DAS committee. In recent years we have put out a newsletter, maintained a website, occasionally sponsored speakers, and developed ties to outside environmental organizations. 

That there should be more discussion in the district about the environment is for us a given, as the magnitude of the problems the world faces could not be clearer. The climate emergency stares us baldly in the face, witnessed by this summer's heat waves in the Arctic and fires in the Amazon. Air pollution, water scarcity, endangered ecosystems, and the prospect of widespread species extinction are additional enormous challenges. A broad understanding of the environment and the human impact upon it has never been more vital, and the district should be more deeply involved in that pursuit.

​​ West LA College Offers Nation's First AA Degree in Climate and Environmental Studies
West LA College has just launched  an AA degree program  in Climate and Environmental Studies. While other community colleges, such as SMCC and De Anza, offer degrees in sustainability, this is the first in the nation to focus on climate change.  The interdisciplinary major   will include core courses in global climate change, environmental ethics and statistics, and students will be able to select from a variety of electives, ranging from chemistry and geology to the economics of globalization and American social problems.

Students in the San Fernando Valley including LAVC's EcoAdvocates protest the LADWP gas fired power plant in Sun Valley.  The Valley Sierra Club helped organize the protest.
Valley Student Activists Expand Efforts

Eco Advocates , the ten-year-old Valley College environmental group, has been very busy this past year and through the summer. Revitalized under the leadership of Eddie Kaufman-Morrow and Anahí Rizo, it organized events ranging from Arbor Day (where they planted trees in honor of Armenians killed in the genocide) to a recent campus cleanup. EcoAdvocates also worked with the Valley Facilities Department to get refillable drinking water bottle stations installed in some buildings as a way to reduce the large quantity of plastic thrown into the waste on campus.

The Revitalization of the Los Angeles River
You have all probably heard something about the ambitious plan to revitalize the Los Angeles River. From the large-scale rebuilding of the downtown section being designed by Frank Gehry and associates, to the more modest park designs and greening projects in the San Fernando Valley and southern Los Angeles neighborhoods, the revitalization process promises to change our perception of the river and its role in the urban milieu. The easiest way to learn more is to go to Mayor Garcetti's online clearing house for all things LA River , which includes links to all major stakeholders and agencies. 

LA Harbor Offers Opportunity for District Students
Students prepare to bring up the trawl.
Owing to the discount that comes with District membership in the Southern California Marine Institute, East LA’s Randy Adsit is able to take his Environmental Science students on regular four-hour field trips aboard the research vessel Yellowfin in and around LA Harbor. Other science faculty are encouraged to take advantage of the same opportunity. 

News Briefs:
  • On Sept. 20th youth strikers around the world  will walk out of school and work to join marches and rallies on behalf of climate action. Activities will continue through Sept. 27, coinciding with the UN Climate Summit on Sept. 23 in New York. Organizers, including the Sunrise Movement and Friday’s For Future USA, say the week will mark the largest-ever global mobilization for climate action, with over 6,000 events in 150 countries planned. Large numbers of adults are expected to participate, which will be a first since the strikes began last November.

  • The campaign for the University of California to divest from fossil fuels received a big boost in July when 77% of the faculty statewide voted to ask the Board of Regents to end all investments in “the 200 publicly traded companies with the largest fossil fuel reserves.” Students have been petitioning the regents for such a divestment since 2013. Bill McKibben, the co-founder of, which started the international campaign, said such a step would be “one of the biggest moments in the seven-year history of the fossil fuel divestment movement." 

  • A group of STEM researchers based at Carleton College and Illinois State University, et al, have created a collection of environmental education projects using “large, publicly available datasets to engage students in STEM and improve their quantitative reasoning." The suite is called Project EDDIE (for Environmental Data-Driven Inquiry and Exploration), and the teaching modules cover such topics as ecology, limnology, geology, and hydrology. The researchers also provide guidance on the best utilization of the modules. Project EDDIE is a branch of SERC, the Science Education Research Center at Carleton.

  • Two new climate change studies have debunked the history argument of climate deniers. Although 97% of scientists believe that human agency is causing the planet to warm, skeptics have continued to argue that the temperature change of recent decades is a naturally occurring phenomenon, similar to the warming that took place in the North Atlantic region during the Middle Ages. The studies show that there is no evidence, going all the way back to the Roman Empire, for any event that compares in degree and extent to the warming that is now occurring.