Juhi Pawar

STUDENT – Representative on TREES Subcommittee

“I’m from, like, 30ish minutes away from Ann Arbor. When I was deciding where I wanted to come, I knew that I wanted a place that wouldn’t be too far away from, you know, my family and stuff like that. And then one thing that I also really liked about Michigan [was that they] did a great political science and public policy program. I was involved in student government at the state level at my high school. I also did a couple political internships and just talking to my local reps– It definitely made me realize that although people don’t talk to their reps often, they have true passion. [Working in local government] was really interesting, because all of us come from the same place, but we all have very different things that [we] want to see represented. 

[For example,] climate and sustainability has always been an interest of mine. It’s never been something that I necessarily was interested in studying, but it’s something that I feel like every person should be displaying commitment to over the course of their lives. Like, when I came here, I knew, it doesn’t have to be my major or anything, but I definitely want to involve myself in an activity where I promote sustainability. 

[Being a member of TREES] strengthened [my feelings around climate change] for sure. I think one thing about TREES I really like is that we don’t really waste time arguing about it, you know? ‘It’s like, is it happening? Is it not happening? How bad is it?’ doesn’t matter, as long as we take the steps to make change right now. And I like that every single meeting, we’re expected to come up with at least a couple of new ideas, and then work on ideas from the past meeting. So there’s always a sense of continuity, and I just really appreciate that.

“I think this is definitely basic [to say], but climate change is here. It’s happening. I just want everyone to acknowledge that, yes, this is happening. And just because it’s not a huge problem, yet, it will quickly become one. Everybody is facing this problem. Everybody’s going to face this inequity soon enough. And if you think that it’s not going to get to you, you’re in for a surprise, so I think it’s better to just–even if you’re not full-heartedly into it–don’t be that person who actively creates waste, or sets things back. 

Back in high school, I watched the Leonardo DiCaprio documentary [Before the Flood]. His documentary, I think, focused specifically on the challenges that indigenous people are facing. You know, rising sea levels and stuff like that. For us, we might think, ‘oh, I can just pick up and move somewhere else,’ or, you know, ‘I won’t live long enough that that’s gonna be a problem.’ But this is threatening their everyday existence. And so I’m just thinking that it’s very ignorant, selfish to think, you know, ‘well, just because this isn’t a me problem–’ This is affecting people all around the world who have way less resources than we do and who deserve the right to be able to live on their native land and to be able to continue their lifestyles.

[Watching that documentary led to] a mental shift. It was like, I’ve been aware of what I’m doing, but I think it’s time to stop being just aware of my own actions and start joining organizations that are working to affect other people. It’s very great to keep doing things in your own individual life, but it means more when you touch other people’s lives, and you [start] a movement of people, because that’s what ends up helping the people who are facing inequity.

On a global scale, I would just want basic education for everyone. On a campus scale, I would want people to move past just basic education and start using their education to make practical impact. I think the other thing that I would share would be that, I know it’s cliche, but change starts with one person. Every single time one person changes their mind or learns something new and just joins a new club. It means a lot towards the people whose lives you end up impacting, because one person changing probably means that they’ll bring a friend with them, and then that friend will bring a friend. So it’s just this ripple effect. It’s very powerful. And I think a lot of people underestimate how much it does to just be the person to change the behavior first. You don’t have to wait for everyone else to do it.

As part of the LSA Year of Sustainability, LSA Dean’s Fellow Cherish Dean sat down with a range of students, staff, and faculty across the University to illustrate the various relationships people across campus already have to this work, to showcase ways people can get involved, and to highlight the reasons that this work should matter.

To view an abbreviated transcript of Cherish’s full conversation with Juhi, click here.

Cherish can be reached at cherishd@umich.edu. To contact the LSA Year of Sustainability Team as a whole, please contact sustainable-lsa@umich.edu

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