Student activist speaks up about climate change

Sustainability Director Patrick Green (left), student guest speaker Sarra Tekola (middle) and Transportation Coordinator Craig Hauser (right).
Sustainability Director Patrick Green (left), student guest speaker Sarra Tekola (middle) and Transportation Coordinator Craig Hauser (right)

On April 21, as part of Bellevue College’s 16th annual Earth Week, student activist Sarra Tekola presented about the effects of climate change on food security. Tekola’s focus on the regulations necessary in the food industry to provide healthy food to communities without damaging the environment paralleled with this year’s Earth Week topic of environmental justice.

Tekola is a transfer student studying in the environmental science program at the University of Washington. She didn’t feel like her scientific research was making much of a difference so she decided to tackle climate change through projects like Divest University of Washington and educating the community.

During Tekola’s 50 minute presentation and workshop, the focus was on climate change and how it affects everyone’s food security around the world.

Tekola says that when people “hear about climate change they’re like ‘yeah, it’s this big impending doom and pretty much everything we do contributes to it,’” but she believes that although many climate change effects are irreversible, many solutions to counteract its growing impact are simple and people should be motivated to help preserve our Earth for future generations. America is privileged geographically because most people noticeably affected by climate change live near the equator. These countries are facing starvation and financial crisis, but everybody should take climate action in order to avoid current and future issues.

One way Tekola said global warming is affecting us right now is increased prices. In some states, shorter harvesting periods are being caused by higher temperatures leading to food shortages and elevated prices.  Summers in Arizona are now averaging 120 degrees, so droughts are increasingly common.  With these droughts comes rationed water, and in states like California farmers have chosen to grow the most profitable crops. California’s leading crop, almonds, is posing an issue.

On the East Coast, extended and unpredictable winters due to climate change have delayed crop seasons and lowered annual production. With limited resources, farms close and the price of food goes up.

Bellevue College student Allan Atienzo believes that many people desire instant gratification and are feeding a large contributor to climate change, the processed food industry, by buying unhealthy foods, “A lot of people go out to big chain grocery stores where a lot of the food comes from [other countries]. For the moment that’s fine but how is that going to help your body in the future?” These foods in turn lead to health issues, killing the human body and the environment.

Tekola also spoke about the effects of heat-driven food scarcity on war. She said, “when you decrease the supply of food, there starts to be conflict over scarce resources and people start to get more in tune with all the oppression they were going through.”

Audience member Chalos Henneman believes there is still hope. “I think all change comes from small groups,” said Henneman, “I know in Denmark they have communal gardens where one family will cook for the other families [in their neighborhood] so it helps the community, everyone eats better and they learn secrets from other people. If there were something like that in my community I would support that.”

The slowly developing problem of the bread basket in the U.S. moving up into Canada poses a threat to the U.S. food industry.

Tekola said, “We need to move from consumerism and profit-driven food systems to more local and community-driven food systems. If we are more in charge of the food we grow, we won’t be scared of the effects global warming is having on our food supply.”

Climate change is affecting global food security and proper action must be taken to combat the effects. Global warming is part of the cause of higher prices, decreasing crops and government instability around the world. “Get involved with your community,” said Tekola.