“Please, please, water these seeds,” the EcoPAX Club urges the community. Seeds of resistance towards ecological injustice, seeds of social tolerance, seeds of knowledge, seeds of opposition towards a system that denies climate change, seeds of growth and healing.EcoPAX is a club that promotes ecological awareness, action and education to hopefully transform the way people live. EcoPAX forms connections between national and international ecological issues on the Goshen College campus and in the larger community, by providing education, event planning, community networking and campaigning for GC Divest.
“It is really tempting to think that college is only about academic study and personal advancement, but this stage of life is also about modeling how we plan to relate to our surroundings throughout life,” said Cecilia Lapp Stoltzfus, a senior. “Activism and community engagement are important to me, and EcoPAX is a group of students committed to both within the intersections of social and environmental justice”
EcoPAX is led this year by Lapp Stoltzfus and Noemi Salvador, a senior, as well as juniors Ben Wiebe and Hannah Yoder. Each have a special connection with environmental issues and have made EcoPAX an important and active club on campus.
“I got involved with EcoPAX because of my responsibilities as a human being. which are fueled by cultural and spiritual beliefs,” Salvador said. “Coming from the Kichwa-Kitu Shyri Nation, I learned what it means to walk the Earth our Mother as protectors and defenders. It is a way to stay connected to the global indigenous fight while on campus.”
Salvador’s deeply personal connection to her people and the Earth have allowed her to share her knowledge about the interconnectedness of ecological and social issues.
She said, “There cannot be social justice without ecological justice,” a sentiment that fuels EcoPAX’s work on all kinds of issues.
EcoPAX has been focusing on the GC Divest campaign for the past three years, focusing on diverting the college’s funding away from fossil fuel and mineral extraction companies in order to ground Goshen in “values grounded in ecojustice and Indigenous rights.” Another major area of focus this year is rallies and educational events surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“[There will be] more rallies in solidarity with the Lakotas against the Dakota Access Pipeline and hopefully more direct nonviolent actions,” Salvador said. “[This year] we are joining a local fight against a coal plant in Northern Indiana, raising awareness with events like Earth Week and documentary viewings, and we are planning to go stronger with GC Divest.”
EcoPAX held a rally in mid-September against the pipeline and are hoping to get a group together to protest in South Dakota over fall break.
“There will be a big concert to raise funds for the Lakota Nation and the battle to preserve the sacred water,” Salvador said. “Stay tuned!”
All students are invited to participate with EcoPAX as they take on different challenges that are in line with the interests and needs of students and communities. A big focus is on the community of Goshen and Elkhart and the impact that student activism can have in our own region.
“The economy of Elkhart county, which is based in RV manufacturing and agriculture, is extremely vulnerable to the economic impacts of climate change,” Lapp Stoltzfus explained. “The transition out of a fossil fuel-based economy in this community will be rough. We need local coalitions working to revolutionize health care, educational, labor, food, and land-use systems. These creative solutions are already sprouting, and EcoPAX students are finding ways to join these movements for environmental, racial, and economic justice.”
With the protests against the pipeline coming up as well as continued involvement in GC Divest, EcoPAX is a busy student organization that seeks to continue to grow in knowledge and understanding by incorporating as many different voices as they can. If interested in joining or finding out more about specific events, visit the Facebook page (GC EcoPAX) or contact any of the leaders.
“There is the urgent necessity we have to protect our Mother the Earth and the families and relations that she hosts with so much love,” Salvador said. “We have planted seeds of resistance towards a capitalist system fueled with injustices. So please, please water those seeds.”