On a recent bird walk along Georgia’s Chattahoochee River, members of Morehouse MoreGreen scanned the canopy for Carolina Chickadee, Red-Bellied Woodpeckers and the Tufted Titmouse.
“Any time you can get students out in nature it’s a positive experience,” says Morehouse College biology major and club president Caleb Sprowl. “It regulates stress, continues our learning outside the classroom and really adds to our college experience.”
For Caleb and his peers, being a MoreGreen member is more than just a walk in the woods.
Across the group’s impressive social media channels, students from Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University advocate for cleaner state energy policies. They educate the public on the historic contributions of Black Americans to modern agriculture. And, they invite the community to participate in everything from community clean-ups to local food production.
Caleb joined MoreGreen as a freshman. “I’ve always been a lover of the environment, and I want to be involved in things that are positive for my community,” he says. “I engaged with MoreGreen because I wasn't satisfied with our government's efforts to address climate change.”
A local chapter of Audubon on Campus, Morehouse MoreGreen “envisions a world progressing toward the betterment of our health, our air, and our land,” according to its charter. “As a group, we partner with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, taking water samples in the community. We support Five Points Farm, located on the roof of a train station, with their upkeep. And, we volunteer with AWARE Wildlife Center. On our next bird walk, we are planning to bring local K-12 students along to get them involved, too,” says Caleb.
Across the country, Audubon on Campus is active on more than 100 college campuses. The goal? Ensuring that students have the tools they need to become effective advocates for conservation, climate change and their communities.
While Black and Brown communities often face the harshest effects of climate change and environmental degradation, their voices remain under-represented in the environmental movement.
“America is diversifying quickly. Environmental issues will only remain relevant if we, the organizations advancing these goals to protect the environment, also diversify,” says Kim Brand, vice president of networks for Audubon.
To meet future environmental leaders where they are and develop a more diverse pipeline of talent, the Walton Family Foundation is supporting Audubon's work to grow their campus programs to 13 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.
This investment is part of the foundation’s five-year strategy to engage and empower diverse allies to protect rivers, oceans and the communities they support.
It’s an investment that supports young leaders like Caleb as they create programming, access internships and career pathways and coordinate environmental advocacy with other campus chapters.
Diana Braithwaite is director of the campus chapter program for Audubon. “Black and Brown students are already doing this work in their communities. Our goal now is to support them through our larger network of resources,” she says.
“HBCUs are, rightly, very protective of their students for historical reasons,” says Diana. Her work to create new campus chapters has centered on heavy involvement from faculty. She also seeks creative ways to incorporate conservation into existing curriculum and secure additional funding for chapter offerings, from assistance traveling to national conferences to volunteer support at local events.
In the Atlanta community, Caleb says Audubon has provided tour guides, helped them plan and fund local events and sent experts to augment their learning experiences. That has allowed the club to expand their offerings on everything from birding ornithology to watershed activities, he says.
“Audubon’s commitment to including us is extraordinary. They are really doing the work they say they do,” says Caleb. “By involving next generation leaders in their process, we are seeing the positive change that comes along with that. And, we can make sure these efforts continue,” he says.
As Audubon on Campus continues to engage more deeply with young communities of color, Caleb is now one of many future leaders inspired by his chapter.
“Right now, I’m participating in an internship that takes a closer look at how equity impacts public health. I’d like to continue this work, making sure my community is as healthy as it can possibly be.”