by Ghjulia Sialelli
Toni Morrison’s quote, “It’s not possible to constantly hold onto crisis. You have to have the love, you have to have the magic”, speaks volumes to my climate-crisis-concerned soul.
My relationship with environmental activism didn’t start with a sudden realisation, or what other activists might call a “catalyst moment”. Rather, I remember the moment I realised climate activism was going to be an important part of my life like this: I was sitting in class, scrolling on Instagram – as one does – seeing posts and stories about the climate strikes happening nearby. And I just thought “Why am I here and not in the streets?”
My journey at the Student Sustainability Committee
So when I got to ETH three years ago, I didn’t hesitate for a second to join the Student Sustainability Committee (SSC). And since then, I haven’t left that community.
I started as a helping member: distributing flyers, putting up posters, supporting others at events. I gradually took on more and more responsibilities, organising events of my own, then becoming coordinator of the Events team. I was even president for a year. Now, I take care of our interactions with other entities and organisations. My duties in the committee evolved alongside my beliefs. When I started, I was all about raising awareness and educating others about the climate crisis. Now, I prefer to focus my energy on creating synergies and partnerships with other organisations that do work that’s similar and complementary to ours. There’s a place for everyone.
A sense of community
But that’s just the surface of SSC. Throughout the years, people have come and gone, but the feeling of community has stayed and strengthened. Via the committee I’ve met some of my closest friends – stressing about budget deadlines and events organisation will do that to you. Most importantly, it’s given me the space to process, experience, and share my feelings about the climate crisis. Your fellow SSC members know about the mess we’re in. Although we don’t all agree on anything – as a rather heterogeneous organisation, we’ve got your typical tree-hugger, radical protester, tech lover, etc. – we do share a common belief: that we have to do something.
So forget about dinners where you feel like the outsider, pestering your friend for flying to Croatia for four days, or for eating that piece of meat. No more conversations where you have to justify yourself for not wanting to fly and for shopping second-hand, or having to explain to your uncle that no, overpopulation is not the cause of climate change. Rather, you can discuss how the latest IPCC report made you feel (angry? defeated? super motivated? – all valid emotions), about the expected impact of the upcoming referendum, or that biodiversity loss is depressing AF. Feeling like you belong and being surrounded by like-minded people is not a negligible thing, on the contrary. Eco-feelings (an individual’s emotional responses to environmental issues or concerns) are real, and especially affect young people. Eco-anxiety, eco-grief, eco-anger are all valid feelings that do not need to be fixed (they’re a healthy response to the absurd mess we’re in) but they can be alleviated through the benefits of peer interactions.
Join the crew!
Additionally, being part of such an organisation allows you to channel whatever you might be feeling towards the climate crisis into action. Feeling like no one cares, even though they should? Organise a panel discussion on *insert your current climate-related obsession*! Do you want to discuss ETH’s net zero strategy with its administration? Join our team reviewing it! Interested in including more sustainability-oriented content in your curriculum? Our education team is always looking for help!
You probably got the idea by now. Being a strong and driven community has allowed us to build a strong network of contacts, and to establish meaningful relationships with decision-making ETH bodies. Leveraging that, our members establish and participate in impactful projects, with the ultimate goal of making ETH more sustainable as an institution.
I can’t help but live the crisis, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to do it while surrounded by such a magical community.
Interested in learning more about our work and organisation? Visit ssc.ethz.ch.
proud SSC member.