Larissa Holland ’20 always had a passion for the environment. In her four years at Smith, she developed the confidence and critical skills to turn her natural enthusiasm into a career fighting for climate justice.
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One Student: Storm Lewis ’21
Storm Lewis ’21 had barely caught her breath after a busy sophomore year when her nonstop summer began. First, in early June, she boarded a plane bound for Morocco. There, as part of a research project with Camille Washington-Ottombre, associate professor of environmental science and policy, she evaluated local women’s cooperatives and their responses to climate change in the Atlas Mountains.
After a quick trip home to Brooklyn, New York, she reported to Bowdoin College in Maine for a 17-day intensive training program for Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows. Then she headed to the University of Vermont for a six-week immersion in agroecology research through the University of California, Santa Cruz. Lewis, an environmental science and policy major with a minor in studio art and a concentration in sustainable food, is committed to addressing issues related to food justice and climate change. For her Mellon Mays project, she’s researching farm-share programs and food initiatives. She’s also helping to plan programming for Smith’s designated Year on Climate Change.
I’M CONCERNED ABOUT FOOD RETAILERS AS AN INDICATOR OF GENTRIFICATION in Fort Greene, my own neighborhood [in Brooklyn], and how the availability of affordable food plays a role in food insecurity. There used to be only local food stores. Now there are [high-end] super-market chains—and even an Apple store. It signifies a big change in demographics. There is a definite relationship between food and gentrification, and I want to be one of the advocates to help shape the process of change.
FOR THE THEMED YEAR ON CLIMATE CHANGE, I’ve been working on an initiative that explores how we can incorporate sustainable food into campus meals. What is really cool is the work helps me put theory into practice; I get to come up with ideas, and then I get to try to implement them.
LAST SEMESTER, I WORKED IN COLLABORATION WITH THE BRIDGEUP SCHOLARS [a leadership skills program] on a workshop that explored the relationship between cultural representation and nutritious cuisine. We offered it on April 10 in conjunction with the campus Inclusion in Action day. Fifteen students were involved, and we worked with Andy Cox in Dining Services, nutritionist Cara D’Anello and Kris Mereigh of the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness Services. We talked and did a cooking class—we cooked collard greens and potato curry—just to see how recipes come to life.
ONE OF THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGES IN TACKLING FOOD ISSUES AND CLIMATE CHANGE is the magnitude and complexity of each issue. Both include a multitude of subtopics that each require targeted initiatives to address the root problem. For example, within the realm of food justice there are efforts to address food insecurity, food policies (such as the farm bill), urban agriculture and traditional ecological practices. This applies to climate change as well. It can be difficult to select which initiatives to take part in without overextending myself or losing focus.
I ENTERED SMITH WITH A COHORT OF NINE BRILLIANT WOMEN, as a STEM Posse Scholar, and my faculty mentor, Peter de Villiers, provided me with unparalleled support. Being a Posse Scholar is something I am particularly proud of, and it has helped me develop confidence and leadership skills. It’s also helped me see how I can fit in at Smith.
I WANTED TO BE A PART OF THE YEAR ON CLIMATE CHANGE conference because I wanted to connect with staff, faculty and students mutually interested in addressing issues related to energy solutions, sustainable food and coastal zones. Often, I don’t get the chance to talk with other people about climate change despite how relevant it is. Sitting on the committee allows me to take action by moving discourse forward with people across different disciplines and interests.
This story appears in the Fall 2019 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.