Building Bridges to Sustainability: March 8th Symposium at PCC Cascade

By Joe Culhane|February 19, 2019News, Top Stories|

GPSEN Sustainability Symposium

News of the planet’s impending climate catastrophe is impossible to ignore, and many of us are seeking out ways to respond to this global crisis in our everyday lives. Whether you’re involved in a sustainable pursuit already or you’re simply curious about sustainability and environmental justice, I have some good news for you. In just a couple weeks time, the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network’s (GPSEN) Sustainability Symposium: Building Bridges to Sustainability will be co-hosted by PCC. The Sustainability Symposium is GPSEN’s signature event. It will be held on March 8th, 2019 from 10:00am to 6:00pm at Cascade Campus.

This year’s Symposium also happens to fall on International Women’s Day. Quite appropriately, the opening and closing keynote speakers are incredible women who do great work both locally and globally. The opening  speaker will be Judy Bluehorse Skelton, the assistant professor for the Indigenous Nations Studies Program at Portland State University. The closing keynote will be Suvira Chaturvedi, a UN Advisor/Consultant in international development, gender equality, and women’s empowerment. In the latest episode of the PCC, Sustain Me! Podcast,  Dr. Kim Smith, a sociology instructor here at PCC as well as one of the founders of the GPSEN symposium, described the event quite succinctly when she said, “these two keynote speakers will be bookending a beautiful day of cutting edge work and vibrant dynamic people.”

The events which take place between these two excellent speakers, include two very exciting plenary panels. The first will feature some of the Portland Clean Energy Fund organizers who created a cohort of organizations and nonprofits who worked together to pass this exciting legislation. Other individuals featured on the panel include: Jenny Lee from the Coalition of Communities of Color, Reverend E.D. Mondaine, the president of Portland NAACP and chief petitioner of Measure 26-201, Adriana Voss-Andreae, chief petitioner of 350PDX and Measure 26-201, and Oriana Magnera, climate and energy policy coordinator at Verde.

GPSEN Symposium Opening Plenary

The closing plenary panel is called: “Experiments in Power Sharing: Microsoft and Communities” and will feature Mary Fifield, from Kaleidoscope Consulting as well as  Sonali George, a representative from Microsoft. This panel will be a great opportunity to learn how to create social impacts by facilitating collaboration between communities and businesses.

It is also worth noting that there is going to be a Student Summit to kick off the day. The Student Summit  is an opportunity to network with other students engaged with climate related issues; and to become a part of the GPSEN College Network.

For a bit more context on this event and its background, GPSEN is known more broadly as Greater Portland RCE (Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.) There are currently 166 RCE’s worldwide that are acknowledged by the United Nations University. RCE’s are designed to help connect local, regional, and global sustainability networks to create pathways towards Education for Sustainable Development across the world.

7th RCE Meeting of the Americas Conference photo credit: Neeraja Havaligi GPSEN’s Executive Director

GPSEN participated at this year’s 7th RCE Meeting of the Americas, a regional conference held in Posadas, Argentina this past October. The meeting focused on a 2030 agenda for conservation and climate change. A full report of the event can be found on for those who are interested.

Kim Smith, Joe Culhane, and Serena Dressel in Cebu, Philippines for the 11th Global RCE Conference.

In December, three members of GPSEN, including myself, had the opportunity to present at the 11th Global RCE Conference: Education for the Sustainable Development Goals in Cebu, Philippines. There, the three of us were recognized with a global RCE Award for the regional work we are doing through GPSEN. The “Acknowledged Flagship Project” was another reward that was given out at the RCE conference. Serena Dressel, recent graduate from PSU and GPSEN College Network member, accepted this award for PSU’s Intensive English Language Program, which helps tremendously to increase awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals. The PCC Sustain Me! podcast won an “Acknowledged Flagship Project” award as well. Finally, the Honorable Mention Project for our GPSEN Fellows Program was awarded to Kim Smith. It truly was an honor to be a part of this Global RCE Conference and it is exciting to help bring more awareness to the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Now, with the March 8th symposium, we have an opportunity to see how these 17 goals can be addressed here in the Portland area.

There’s no reason to sugar coat the climate crisis that we are now facing; It is baked into the planet’s proverbial cake, and now we must eat it, by actively pursing ways to combat this climate crisis moving forward.  The 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” listed below, are individual tools and resources that are collectively designed to help mitigate the worst potential consequences of climate disruption that humans have participated in creating. I’ve also included the mission of the RCE’s, as it is a great way to get a better understanding of the role they play globally, regionally, and locally:

RCE Mission

The upcoming GPSEN Sustainability Symposium: Building Bridges to Sustainability, provides opportunities to showcase and highlight the work being done right here in the greater Portland area. All the work is connected to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals which are to be achieved by 2030.  The Symposium is also an opportunity for us to help make the sustainability movement as inclusive and accessible as possible. We want to help dismantle the systems of oppression in place that have not allowed all people to have an equitable seat at the decision making and leadership table. We hope to help address the misconception that social justice and sustainability are two separate issues when indeed they are one. Diversity, equity and inclusion are paramount if we are to find success moving forward. Ultimately, the GPSEN Sustainability Symposium is a great event that will be filled with valuable information and tons of ways to become a more active member of the local sustainability and environmental justice community here in Portland. I hope to see you there.


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