Unwrapped, the Recap: Intersections of Sustainability

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Vivien Pham
Communications Assistant
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 10:45

Contrary to popular belief, racism still exists. It’s systemically ingrained into the societal structures that Canada is built around, and this is a conversation that needs to be unwrapped in multiple facets. Racial Advocacy for Inclusion Solidarity and Equity (RAISE)’s Unwrapped Series is a speaker series that travels through the faculties to unravel the layers of racism and xenophobia in academia. So far, Unwrapped has touched upon the Faculty of Engineering, and most recently visited the Faculty of Environment to host Unwrapped: Intersections of Sustainability [external link] with the Environment Society [external link].

“Intersections of Sustainability was an engaging discussion that centered around the voices that often get overshadowed when talking about environmentalism,” said Mariko Shimoda, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and the external director for RAISE. “When we talk about limiting our use of plastic bottles, sometimes we forget that communities (i.e. Indigenous communities) don’t all have access to clean water. We forget that climate change is going to have a devastating impact on coastal and island nations, and it is already impacting the agriculture in developing nations. We forget that vocalizing our thoughts on boycotting products like palm oil and extreme veganism can be a privileged discussion, and can isolate groups who use and consume these products in cultural and traditional practices.”

Panelists included Professor Nancy Worth from the Faculty of Environment, Shefaza Esmail, a PhD candidate in the School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability, and Zack Ahmed, an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in international development. Each brought their unique perspectives based on personal and professional experiences when discussing topics that regarded the oppression of marginalized communities in the discussion of sustainability.

“My favourite thing about the event series is how innovative the topics are, and how diverse the panel is. It is very interesting to get a different perspective from individuals with varying levels of expertise, walks of life and practical knowledge,” said Ayesha Masud, a co-coordinator of RAISE.

RAISE is the newest student-run service at the University of Waterloo. It uses an anti-oppression approach to address the impacts of racism and to dismantle the systemic barriers that might affect students’ experiences on campus.

“I have had a lot of negative experiences with racism on campus and on co-op and I had no-one in my life that could really relate," said Shimoda. That changed when she joined RAISE. "I wanted to help create a space that could be there for other students when they needed it!”

“I decided to join the RAISE community because I felt like I did not have a space on campus which was safe for me to be me,” says Hanan Thibeh, the other RAISE coordinator. “I feel like I finally found a group of people who see all of my intersections, appreciate each layer and want to learn more about my experiences.”

If you’re interested in being a part of the conversation about racism in post-secondary institutions, consider dropping by their third Unwrapped panel with the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences [external link], attending a co-op discrimination feedback event [external link], or checking out RAISE X ISA [external link] - a discussion series on Indigenous culture.