MSU holds 18th Annual Earth Conference

Mankato’s Living Earth Center and MSU’s Environmental Committee on Saturday held the 18th Annual Earth Conference in the CSU. 

The theme for this year’s conference was “Bridging the Divide: Our Collective Role in Reconnecting Relationships.” The purpose of this year’s theme was to address the climate crisis and  focus on the many ecological, agricultural and political divides it has caused. 

The conference addressed that the climate crisis has been an ongoing global issue that has affected the world ecologically, agriculturally and politically. In an effort to stop this crisis from escalating, it is necessary to forge social collaborative connections in order to work toward creating a better world as the gaps between people and nature continue to widen. 

The conference’s keynote speaker for this year was Carolina Ortiz who is part of the Comunidades Organizando el Poder y la Acción Latina also known as COPAL. The organization seeks to impact the quality of life for Latinos in Minnesota through development, advocacy and community. 

In her speech, Ortiz shared the many struggles that her community goes through due to environmental injustices. She explains that the connection shared between the efforts of COPAL and the theme of bridging our divides is the work that has been done through the development of community. 

“I think it’s part of the work that we have been trying to do these past five years of how do we build community while understanding that we live in a society where there’s walls everywhere and trying to have a connection and understand that, like I said, at the end of the day, we all want to live a better life. So how do we work together? And I think that by having discussions like these and opening up and wanting to work together really,” Ortiz said. 

Ortiz was accompanied by other notable speakers. 

Paul Ebenga, the founder of the Blue Earth Project, presented on ecological resources. He was followed by Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin from Tree-Range Farms, who presented on agricultural practices. Social connections were later presented by Mohammed Alsadig, the executive director of Greater Mankato Diversity Council. The talk concluded with Kathryn Lozada, a South Minnesota organizer of ISAIAH, who discussed political disconnect. 

During the conference, many attendees were tabling and representing non-profit organizations, revealing environmental resources in Minnesota and bringing awareness to environmental injustices taking place in the area. 

Lozada was representing ISAIAH, a regional organization that helps address both local and regional community issues. Their goals for Minnesota are to create a healthy environment for fellow Minnesotans and act toward racial and economic equity in the state. Lozada shares the progress that ISAIAH has created and potential encouragement of MSU students joining the cause of environmental justice. 

“We just won a bunch of big things at the state legislative session with our own organization. And we’re coming back into local communities this fall, especially to look and to have lots of intentional listening conversations and hear what feels most pressing in each community, what we work on together at the community level and then what we elevate to the state level.” she said. “We’re thinking about potentially building decarbonization goals at the state level to bring to the next state legislature as well and meeting with student groups and inviting the local legislators to have a conversation on campus and be able to share what we’ve delivered the last legislative session. Students are a part of making that possible because students should be able to have that relationship with state legislators too.”

With political, agricultural, sociological and ecological knowledge shared, Ortiz explains that many participants from the Earth conference hope to make a change not just with the sole community of Mankato but of MSU’s as well. Ortiz shares her advice for MSU students looking to get involved in today’s environmental movement. 

“If you’re passionate, join organizations that are already doing the work. COPAL and 10 other organizations that are doing this, join them and get involved. And if you are not feeling passionate about the work, because it’s like a scary place to go to or it’s something that doesn’t feel welcoming, find a space that does. There’s many places out there. Find your community, find your people and get involved.” she said. 

For ways to be sustainable and learn about the climate crisis, visit Mavericks for Sustainability at or contact the Environmental Committee for any sustainability questions.

Header photo: Mankato’s Living Earth Center and MSU’s Environmental Committee on Saturday held the 18th Annual Earth Conference in the CSU. (Anahi Zuniga/The Reporter)

Write to Anahi Zuniga at

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