Riley Rhodebeck - Sustainability Champion

Riley Rhodebeck is a passionate CSUMB student dedicated to her community and to sustainability. We sat down with the Junior Liberal Studies major to hear more about her.

Why did you choose CSUMB? I chose CSUMB for their art program. It’s great. I really like the VPA aspect of the art classes at this school. I also really liked how this school is environmentally conscious. It has a lot of sustainability programs. What is your role on campus? I’m a student. I’m also organizing a student coalition to get the ball moving on a ban on fracking in Monterey Bay.

Riley Rhodebeck

How did you get into sustainability?

I actually started working on the Measure J campaign in San Benito County. I made large scale signs, political signs, Yes on J .. Ban Fracking movement. It ended up passing, so fracking is banned in San Benito. They were planning to put a whole bunch of oil wells and fracking over in Pinnacles national program, but because of the initiative we banned it.

What are your biggest successes regarding sustainability?

We’ve gotten the word out on campus about the dangers of fracking in Monterey. What we want to do is have the oil and gas industry clean up their waste. Waste- that’s part of the initiative. Right now they’re dumping toxic chemicals into the Salinas Valley River, and it flows out through Marina. These chemicals may be harmful for human consumption. It’s going into protected aquifers. The initiative I’m part of bans fracking and makes them clean up their waste water.

What are you doing on campus in regards to sustainability?

I’m part of the Yes on Z Campaign, which bans fracking in Monterey. I’ve put up half sheet flyers around campus to spread the word about the dangers of fracking.

Why are you so passionate about banning fracking?

Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is when the oil and gas industry uses oil, gas, water, chemicals (many not disclosed), sand, and benzine to inject liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks to extract natural gasses. This causes earthquakes and destroys the earth. Generally, everyone deserves clean water. There’s a lot of risks when fracking. Because it’s right next to our water supply, these cause cracks and it pollutes ground water.

The mural you made in the VPA building is about sustainability. Can you talk to us about this?

What I intended for that was to shock people. I wanted to show people how we are killing mother earth. Mother earth is an entity and she’s being drilled to death by this oil drill. We’re sucking the life out of her body. It took about 30 hours or so to make. She’s intentionally beautiful but she’s in the fetal position, she’s getting sick. She looks yellowish because she’s starting to get too ill.

Sketch of Riley Rhodebeck's Mural
Sketch of Riley Rhodebeck's Mural

How long have you been painting? What drives you towards art?

I’ve been painting now for about 4 years. I do art because I both like to meditate and also want to eventually teach art. I want to teach to college level or elementary school. Recently, I’ve been into political pieces. Getting a message out.

Where do you want your art to go?

I’m hoping to donate my art to either the campaign I’m a part of to ban fracking or possibly to the school. I’m unsure.

What power do students have over sustainability and what impact can they make?

I think students should get out there and fight for environmental justice and not just sit back and believe big corporations and do research for themselves on a broad range of environmental topics, not just fracking. They should move towards a greener future. Less plastic.

What steps are you going to take, and students can take, to have a sustainable holiday?

I’m going to try to get a lot of less packaged food, and cook everything from scratch. People make too much food. I’m going to use reusable containers instead of foil or plastic. I’m going to try to cook some vegetarian dishes. People could buy recycled toys, or you can take old toys to goodwill and buy toys from there or the salvation army.

If you could eliminate one environmental issue we have going on in the world, which would it be?

Global warming. That’s a huge solution, so the ice caps stop melting, so the sea animals live, so everyone’s children can prosper.

What’s one change you can make in 2017 to be more sustainable?

Start riding my bike, which I already started. I have been driving a lot, but now I can ride my bike to school. Ride bikes, or walk, or ride the bus.