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Monday, October 18, 2021

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Members of the SDSU Office of Sustainability (Photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic) Members of the SDSU Office of Sustainability (Photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic)
 


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Gener Abdon finds communities of support at SDSU to pursue his interest in sustainability.
By Aaron Burgin
 

“Gener’s enthusiasm and results consistently inspire me to continue making positive change in campus sustainability.”

Sometimes you have the passion and the drive to accomplish great things, but you’re missing one thing — a support network.
 
When Gener Abdon, a junior majoring in International Security and Conflict Resolution, decided to devote his energy to boosting sustainability at San Diego State University, he was met with student leaders, the university’s shared-governance body, and the administration all willing to listen and help work toward making a difference — the support system he needed.

The support contributed to a powerful sense of accomplishment. “I am so fascinated at how much change humans can make both good and bad,” he said, “and the interconnectivity that the definition entails. I think that the concept of sustainability is vital towards combating our present problems."
 
Abdon enrolled at SDSU in 2018 with a passion for social justice and sustainability — sparked partly by a high school experiment involving detergent and freshwater plants. At first, though, he wasn’t sure where his efforts would be most impactful.
 
“I wanted to engage and revamp myself as a person, with the goal to have an impact on sustainability,” he said. “My first week, I was able to have conversations with decision-makers at a Associated Students Green Love meeting and asked them how can a student like me engage in those high-level conversations and make a difference.”
 
Abdon’s first opportunities came in summer 2019, working with students who shared his goal of continuing to make SDSU a more sustainable campus. The university is nationally recognized for its environmentally responsible practices, garnering placement on The Princeton Review’s 2021 “Green Colleges” list.
 
Abdon, recent SDSU graduate Courtney Ransom and current students Sarah Karver, Cassie Weinberg, Charlotte Roberts, Taylor Mosley and McKenna Avery organized a climate action strike that fall semester. The event focused on committing the university to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, creating a chief sustainability officer position and ensuring SDSU’s future Mission Valley campus will be carbon-neutral.
 
The event was a huge success, with SDSU President Adela de la Torre and other members of the administration and student leaders in attendance. Some 500 students marched from Hepner Hall to the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union.
 
“It really sparked my passion to go above and beyond with my activism,” Abdon said.
 
Abdon found an additional outlet of advocacy when he was accepted into an internship program with the SDSU Office of Sustainability and credits former SDSU Energy and Sustainability Officer Tom Abram and Ally Duncan, a former energy and sustainability analyst, for their guidance and moral support.
 
“They were pivotal to my success,” said Abdon.
 
Abdon and the other students persuaded Associated Students to form a climate action committee, calling on the university to develop a plan to meet the 2030 carbon neutrality goal. The A.S. University Council concurred in an April 22 vote.
 
A month later, the University Senate called on SDSU to approve a sustainability policy and to commit to the 2030 carbon neutrality benchmark, and to incorporate the city’s climate action plan goals of 100% renewable energy by 2035 for SDSU Mission Valley.
 
De la Torre subsequently signed the Senate resolution, and Abdon said the news was thrilling.
 
“I was beyond thrilled and happy to see a yearlong project be successfully executed,” Abdon said. “I felt so accomplished.”
 
Amid turnover in its membership, he said, the sustainability group has endured as a source of support.
 
Avery, a senior majoring in sustainability, said she draws as much inspiration from Abdon as he does from her.
 
“Gener’s enthusiasm and results consistently inspire me to continue making positive change in campus sustainability,” Avery said. “He is one of the hardest workers I know, and his determination is unmatched.”
 
Despite the difficulty of remaining productive while off campus due to COVID-19 protocol, Abdon said he remains active in seeing his sustainability goals implemented through the university’s new strategic plan, “We Rise, We Defy: Transcending Borders, Transforming Lives.”

One of the plan’s five strategic priorities, “Resilience. Designed to Thrive,” calls for SDSU to designate executive-level leadership to develop and provide oversight of its sustainability efforts, update the University Climate Action Plan for all campus locations and to “develop guiding principles for sustainability that include local and international standards (as referenced in the Associated Students Carbon Neutrality by 2030 Recommendations).”
 
After graduation, Abdon hopes to pursue a career in sustainable development.
 
“I have always been fascinated how even though the gap between developed and developing nations is pretty big, we still have a long way to go here when it comes to sustainable development,” he said. “I want to champion that in the future.”