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Iowa State’s Live Green! initiative encompasses the intersectionality of climate change by offering students, faculty and staff environmental, economic and social sustainability opportunities.

An Iowa State doctoral student co-authored a new book that addresses the intersectionality and holistic approaches needed to address the global climate crisis. 

The fifth-year doctoral student, Andreas Miles-Novelo, co-authored the book Climate Change and Human Behavior: Impacts of a Rapidly Changing Climate on Human Aggression and Violence with psychology professor Dr. Craig A. Anderson.

Part of Miles-Novelo's research is about the human body's physiological reaction to heat and how such changes affect human behavior. Multiple studies have proven that increased heat leads to increased aggressive behaviors.

"And because you're devoting all these resources to try to cool your body down and try to regulate yourself, you're doing [a poor] job of evaluating your emotions, and your behaviors become more reactive," Miles-Novelo said.

Understanding the body's response to heat can give researchers insights into how people might react to the severe weather conditions caused by climate change.

Miles-Novelo's research continues beyond the hard facts by examining how the media impacts people's attitudes about climate change. He specifically looks at in-groups and out-groups that reflect political, economic and social systems that harbor inequality.

Climate change is often looked at from the perspective of infrastructure. Better water quality initiatives, waste management solutions, designing to prevent gridlock, etc. However, Miles-Novelo studies climate change from a sociological perspective.

"We're constantly thinking about our environment, or social settings and how is that influencing how we behave and how we think and how we feel," Miles-Novelo said. "And so [my advisor] really started to think about climate change in that sort of aspect."

Miles-Novelo's research opens up a dialogue about a holistic approach to climate change, emphasizing intersectionality.

In his book, Miles-Novelo not only stressed the importance of hard change, such as reducing emissions but the need for humane and fair treatment of all people in policy changes.

"That's why in particular, in our book, we talk a lot about the Green New Deal as a set of policy ideas, because it tries to think about these things holistically," Miles-Novelo said.

For example, Miles-Novelo uses New Orleans as an example in the book when he talks about the intersection of social behavior and infrastructure.

"If a levee breaks in New Orleans during Hurricane, what is the neighborhood that gets flooded?" Miles-Novelo said. "It's the neighborhood right next to the levee that actually tends to be a poor neighborhood, more racially diverse neighborhood."

As Miles-Novelo prepares to defend his dissertation this summer, he acknowledges that his research is far from over. The levels of complexity in the intersectional approach to climate change require nuanced understanding. Miles-Novelo hopes that his book will help others grasp this understanding and encourage them to engage in the conversation.

"This is going to take a global coordinated effort, especially if [we] want to, you know, save our species from extinction," Miles-Novelo said.

However, not all climate-change empathetic individuals are interested in reading a research-based book.

"The most important component of moving forward toward a sustainable future is to identify what resonates with you and to make that commitment yourself," said Merry Rankin, director of sustainability for Iowa State.

Rankin and Miles-Novelo can agree that sustainability is a lifelong commitment because the effects are intersectional; environmentally, economically and socially.

Live Green! offers many sustainability opportunities, Iowa State's sustainability initiative and Rankin's main line of work. Rankin also works with the city of Ames, which is working on a climate action plan that students can get involved with.

"I really don't want sustainability to sort of be that thing we did at Iowa State or that thing we did in college," Rankin said.

The Live Green! initiative was introduced 14 years ago and has since made substantial advancements in reducing Iowa State's emissions, shifting to renewable energy sources and reducing landfill waste.

"There is sort of this benchmark that we compare ourselves to, that we are evaluated against related to our commitment to sustainability, and that is the international certification called STARS," Rankin said. "And I've been so excited that we have been able to achieve a Gold certification for three consecutive certification periods."

Live Green! has not only made substantial progress in operational goals, but it also improved social awareness of the issue through events, such as Sustainapalooza and Earth Day, social media presence, sustainability courses and career opportunities. A few of the many social advancements include events such as Sustainapalooza, a website, a newsletter, more social media presence, educational campaigns and alternative spring break options.

The goal of the Live Green! initiative is to increase awareness of environmental, economic and social sustainability among students, faculty and staff through education, engagement and empowerment.

"We hope that everyone is also empowered to find their connection to sustainability in their own lives, in their own opportunities and within their own resources they might have available to them," Rankin said.

The Live Green! team understands that people have different interests, so they emphasize the importance of personalized sustainability. Their top priority is to make sustainability accessible and understandable. 

"There's a lot going on," said Valentine Chenus, a campus and community engagement intern for Live Green!. "So I think it can seem like a really heavy burden to try to take on, like living sustainably and trying to help fight climate change. And so we really just want to help students to feel educated and empowered to go out and live sustainably."

One way to get educated and empowered is to join an environmental, economic or social sustainability club.

Ashley Kleve, a fellow campus and community engagement intern for Live Green!, agreed and shared multiple high and low-commitment ways to get involved.

"So just showing up to our events and learning from our social media presence is another way," Kleve said. "And there's also the sustainability minor, and lots and lots of different classes that relate to sustainability."

Live Green! has many events coming up, including Earth Day in April (updates to come on the website). Chenus and Kleve are in charge of the Earth Month calendar, which lists multiple campus and surrounding community events related to sustainability. The calendar is already 50 pages long.

If commitments outside of school are too much, consider sustainability-related courses listed on the Live Green! directory website.

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