December 2018: Mark Arenas

December 13, 2018

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Each month, our newsletter features a person or group on campus that is working toward a more sustainable world. This month we had the privilege to interview Mark Arenas, a member of the Everett Program. The Everett Program empowers students to work in solidarity with community-based organizations. These UCSC students at the Everett Program promote social justice and sustainability across the globe. The Everett Program empowers students to use the technical, educational, and research resources of the university to work directly with communities, empowering people to design practical solutions to persistent problems


What does sustainability mean to you?


"A Diné or Navajo man once told me that 'The land is a mirror. If we are not taking care of it, we are not taking care of ourselves.' I say this in the context of sustainability because it encourages us not only to focus on sustainable practices in nature, but to observe and interpret our own behavior. By thinking of sustainability beyond external practices, I have developed an awareness of myself through quiet reflection, and this has allowed me to notice my unsustainable behavior, which I can then improve. This internal sustainability has encouraged me to learn and understand more about how I can make a difference in my everyday life and the lives of others." 

What sustainable practices do you live by in your daily life and did working with the Everett inspire you in anyway?  

"I support businesses whose practices reflect my values, like buying locally. This is a big one for me because I like to know how my produce was grown. And when it is grown by huge corporations, I am not able to get that satisfaction. To be honest, from living in rural areas, I have become humbled in the way I live and dress. I am no longer inconvenienced when I wake up in the morning and have to choose my clothing for the day because I have realized that there people that do not have the privilege of wearing something different everyday. I’ll reuse clothing and feel confident because it no longer feels like an inconvenience to me to have a stain on my shirt; it is practical and will save you some laundry money. The Everett program has inspired me to look for sustainable solutions in my life and being around people who are doing the same, which only inspires me to find where I can be better."

Favorite Green Tips? "Get a reusable water bottle for sure. It makes your life easier because you do not have to haul packs of water bottles every week or consume BPA! Get a water filter like a BRITA or PUR if you are drinking tap water! It is a great investment and you’ll enjoy drinking water even more because the campus water is a bit metallic. My biggest pet peeve is when people leave the water running while washing dishes. Turn it off, because you’ll save so much water. Do you really need to have it running the whole time? It’s kind of inefficient."

What is your role/position at the Everett Program? 

"My role at the Everett Program involves teaching and developing curriculum. As a fellow of the program, I have the opportunity to teach sections on leadership to help students of Sociology 30A become effective social activists. We teach tools like active listening to improve communication skills because if we want to create change, we must be able to connect and relate to other people. At the same time, I am developing a curriculum to teach a video editing lab in the winter for Sociology 107A to prepare students to use technology as a means to address social and environmental issues."

Tell me about your background and how you became part of UCSC? 

"I am from North Country San Diego and I officially became a part of UCSC when I joined the Everett Program in the fall of 2017. Before, I was a wandering student with little sense of direction and community. Being with this program, I was able to explore many fields like leadership, non-profit work, technology, and social/environmental issues. As a student helping run this non-profit organization on campus, I started to walk a path where I felt empowered to be at UCSC and that I could help create change alongside communities. With the teaching and practical skills I have learned here, I am preparing myself to be a leader that can empower others to be leaders in underrepresented groups." 


What is your long-term vision for sustainability at UCSC? 


"Wow, well my long-term vision for sustainability at UCSC will involve more people walking on campus. I see so many self-made problems created by people waiting to take the bus from one stop to the other. On the one hand, you may be preventing someone that really needs to be on that bus from doing so, and you are missing out on some beautiful walks. Small things like this are where change starts. A change in perception is what you can do to lead into bigger picture ideas. Another issue would be food waste. Now, I do not know exactly how much food waste we produce or how much gets composted, but I think there is some system that could be implemented in regards to help students facing food insecurity. And if I were to come together with a bunch of students, I’m sure we could come up with more, but at the moment that is all I have, so hit me up and let’s talk." 

 What are your thoughts on environmental justice?  


"My thoughts on environmental justice are that we need people on the frontlines of communities facing injustices, trying to bring awareness, and the means to a solution. From my experience, I know that there are communities in the Navajo Nation with contaminated water supplies because the U.S. government exploited the uranium on their land to create weapons during the Cold War and for nuclear energy. What is being done about it now? Little on the part of the government responsible. There’s no aid. Laughable remediation and reclamation work. Looking at it from a bigger picture, we have to start thinking about it as a system, that is, the institutions that exist that allow all of this to happen. Have indigenous people had been continually subjugated for centuries? Does the U.S. have governmental bodies and infrastructure rooted in colonialism? What we need are more visionaries and people who are not afraid to tell it how it is. What we need is transparency. "

Is there a message you would like UCSC students to know?  

"What we have to do if we are going to make a difference is clear heads. Sometimes people make assumptions and think they know what you need when in fact, you do don’t. The best thing we can do for communities that need help is to ask what they need help with, and not to come in with our preconceived notions and savior complexes; we have enough of that. If you are interested in learning the tools essential to going out and creating change, stop by the Everett office in Social Sciences II.  It’s on the first floor with the sign saying 'this way to change the world.' You can’t miss it."


What are some projects that you and the Everett program are proud of, or that you believe are the most inspiring to others and yourself?  

"Wow, let’s see. What I can say is that we have so many projects that we are proud of. As an organization that guides students through the process of designing, funding, and implementing a project with a partner organization, the number of projects we are proud of is high, even when the success rate isn’t because students learn so much in the process. From empowering high school girls, to empowering people abroad in places like Haiti, we have much to be proud of, and at the same time, we have much more work to do. Along with our peer-to-peer learning environment, where we get to teach other students, and with the power to have a say in the hiring of faculty, we are a space for students to reach goals."

 What are the Everett Program Goals?

"The Everett program aims at creating resourceful leaders ready to make a difference in the world. Resourceful in the sense that we have the inner capacity to be ready for the kind of work this requires us. We must be able to connect, relate, and have empathy with others if we want to collaborate. We must be able to actually listen, stand by our values, and create inclusive spaces. Resourceful in the sense that we must be strategic, and practical, and bring a positive impact. More importantly, it is to teach students that all of this is possible for them to do."What are Future Events the Everett Program will be hosting?
"We currently do not have any events coming up but be on the lookout for our workshops. Recently, we had a diversity workshop where my friend Raine helped students learn a graphic design software to create inclusive posters in response to the white supremacy going around campus."