Making a Change

Berkeley Connect ESPM students discuss solutions to California’s drought


The theme of Berkeley Connect EPSM this semester is “How to Make Change,” and Berkeley Connect ESPM students talked about just that in their small groups last week. In the group led by graduate mentor Manisha Anantharaman, the conversation focused on an environmental issue that hits close to home: California’s current drought. Manisha began the conversation with videos about the drought, including its impact on agricultural communities. “Is this water issue new?” Manisha asked. The students agreed that it is not. “But it’s on a whole new level now,” a student said.

The students discussed their own experiences. When asked whether they had seen something like this in other areas, students had much to say. ““I’ve lived in both. When I lived in Texas, there was a pretty bad drought, and there were water restrictions,” one student shared. “But when I moved to Ohio, it was just the opposite. People there can’t even understand the idea of not having enough water.” One student from China contrasted the issue to another one in her home country: many parts of China still lack the infrastructure to transport water to areas that need it. Manisha herself grew up in an area with a huge water problem. She described having to wake up at 6 AM each day because water flowed from the tap for only a few hours in the morning. “It was always hectic in the mornings,” she recalled. “We had to make sure we got enough water for the day.”

Students then split up into groups to brainstorm how to combat the drought through different means. One group focused on individual action and suggested that lifestyle changes, such as taking shorter showers and changing one’s diet to consume less meat (since it has a higher water cost), could have a significant impact. Awareness was also important, they emphasized. “Bring it up in conversation!,” one student said. Another group focused on policy changes, including subsidizing less water-intensive crops and cutting subsidies to other crops. A group that focused on education stressed the importance of university classes and discussions like this one as another way to raise awareness. Other groups focused on improved technology and better ecosystems as ways to reduce water use.

After examining an article discussing recent findings by Stanford professors that the drought is directly connected to global warming, students agreed that it was also important to include climate change as part of the conversation about the drought.”We only talk about things that have become issues, but we should be talking about all of the interrelated factors,” one student said.

By the end of the discussion, the students had come up with many ways to begin making change in their communities and in their own lives.



posted by Katherine Wang
Berkeley Connect Communications Assistant