By Zach Bachar | March 26, 2021
The University’s environmental sustainability clubs plan to engage more students on campus after a drop off in participation amid the pandemic and to incorporate more programs that are aimed at achieving a better understanding of ecological literacy.
Two prominent campus organizations engaged in these efforts are UAlbany Students for Sustainability and the United Nations Association of the United States of America.
USS President Carly Lindsay said that this year, “as all clubs are seeing, our numbers have decreased a little bit to about 10 to 20 attendees per meeting.” This compares to a Fall 2019 Block Party in which over 200 students approached the organization about joining and more than 80 students attended general interest meetings.
Jessica Nyarko, UNA-USA President, said the organization too saw a drop in attendance over the past semester. “I would definitely say member engagement is the hardest challenge we have faced during this time,” she said.
The decline comes as a stark contrast to last year’s UAlbany Climate Action and Sustainability Plan, which envisioned an annual 10% increase of students participating in sustainability instruction throughout their curricular and co-curricular experience starting in 2020.
However, this decrease seems to be more of a short-term drop rather than the start of a spiraling decline because of the number of students learning remotely during the pandemic.
“Our E-board understands that due to COVID, we’ve all had to adjust to a new virtual world and doing things like attending events just doesn’t feel the same anymore,” said Nyarko.
Both Lindsay and Nyarko said adjusting day-to-day operations due to the pandemic was a challenge, but they say they feel that they are still committed to their goal of engaging students regarding environmental care and sustainability.
“I feel our impact has not changed,” said Lindsay.
UAlbany Climate Change expert Mathias Vuille said he is positive attendance will shoot back up once some sort of normalcy returns to campus life. “I think many students join such organizations because they want to actively engage in work on campus and help improve the environment with hands-on activities. Much of this has not been possible this past year, so I am not surprised the numbers dropped off,” he said.
USS and UNA-USA still plan to continue their efforts this semester to offer students opportunities to help improve their ecological understanding and knowledge of actions that can help support environmental sustainability.
On April 22, UNA-USA is scheduled to host an Earth Day-themed community service event. On April 1, USS is collaborating with the Democracy Matters student club on a Zoom presentation on how students can lobby their representatives on behalf of actions that support sustainability.
On April 15, USS is scheduled to partner with Democracy Matters again on a presentation to highlight environmentalism in government ranging from the university community to the federal government.