Being politically active does not only mean endorsing candidates or passing out fliers in Washington Square Park. To be politically active, all you need is to advocate a cause you strongly believe in.
For Gallatin senior Robert Raymond, political activism means promoting sustainability. It means studying the influence of factors like education and political participation on the economy, environment and society. And most importantly, it means experimenting.
“Sustainability is the great experiment of our time,” Raymond said. “We’re basically going to have to redesign how we relate to our environment and each other, both in our social and economic lives.”
Raymond believes sustainability is only attainable through social, economic and environmental reform. He actively promotes these ideas through various means, including operating co-ops, leading the NYU Bike Share Program and spreading environmental awareness.
Raymond said he realized his power to make a difference from his experience as a choir member. His Chicago choral group brought together students from various neighborhoods, suburbs and income levels in the city, and allowed Raymond to hear different perspectives and learn from the experiences of others — the basics of social sustainability and justice.
Since then, Raymond has founded the Student Food Cooperative at NYU and became a member of the 4th Street Food Co-op in an effort to strengthen both social and economic sustainability.
“I created a co-op at NYU to give people an outlet to do things they’re passionate about,” he said.
Raymond said co-ops help economic sustainability by providing members with needed resources at accessible costs. Members are encouraged to voice opinions in discussions to reach decisions that they all agree on. Subsequently, social justice is achieved.
As the coordinator of the NYU Bike Share Program in the Office of Sustainability, Raymond also educates a large community about sustainability and continues to create a lasting impact.
“The bike share is kind of like the gateway drug to sustainability,” Raymond said.
Through the bike share program, students are introduced to the concept of co-ops and are encouraged to help maintain a collective system. Since Raymond took the position in January, the program has grown to include 13 locations and 75 bicycles.
As time progressed, Raymond said he realized environmental justice presents one of the largest challenges faced by our generation.
“It is not only an issue of buying local and going green,” he said. “It requires an immense shift in the world’s structure and ideals.”
However, he is concerned that sustainability hasn’t been a big issue in this year’s election.
“Because big energy and oil companies fund [candidates], they can’t speak out against them,” Raymond explained.
Raymond wants to see political figures address climate change, other parts of environmental justice and sustainability as a whole. But he said America’s current structure is inhibiting.
To engender the necessary infrastructural and ideological changes to achieve sustainability, Raymond believes awareness must start locally. He actively engages in discussions about things such as food and the bike share program in his own community.
After graduation Raymond hopes to be a community organizer and to continue turning ideas into realities. He aspires to promote sustainability by brainstorming concepts of social, economic and environmental justice and testing them out in reality.
Following the path of education and experimentation, Raymond said he would like to eventually become a teacher.
“If people don’t have a place to explore alternatives and be creative with others, awareness will not change the world,” he said.
A version of this article appeared in the Friday, Oct. 26 print edition. Emily McDermott is a staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.