This Friday, students at the Orange County School of the Arts will have an Earth Day celebration, with organizations such as the Dana Point Ocean Institute, Greenpeace, and the Bolsa Chica Conservancy making their way to our campus. Students at OCSA will hopefully shed their apathy around issues like climate change in what seems to be an act of environmental dedication by our school administration.
However, some of OCSA’s most powerful leaders have participated in a variety of environmental crimes, exposing not only the hypocrisy behind the Earth Day celebration, but the carefully-manipulated visage that OCSA presents to the world.
OCSA’s administration is adamantly secretive and undemocratic — a recent controversy over this year’s Gala, which was “Latin-themed” mobilized a frustrated student body against an administration unwilling to listen to the students they were meant to serve.
In fact, the administration used intimidation tactics and outright lies to stem any critique of the culturally insensitive event — even as the school touted its “nurturing environment” accompanied with “supportive faculty.”
This incident served to show not only the authoritarian character of the administration, but also the lack of transparency that permeates almost any event or decision at OCSA, and the fact that OCSA will do anything to save face and maintain its image to the general public.
The lack of transparency is exactly why OCSA’s board members and community partners can avoid the public spotlight. This is how the hypocrisy comes to play — although OCSA seems to devote itself to the environmental cause this Earth Day, many of its leaders are involved in the fossil fuel industry and have contributed to the ecological catastrophe of climate change that we are confronting right now.
For example, the treasurer of the OCSA Foundation, Douglas F. Garn is the former CEO and President of Quest Software, a company that prides itself on working with Total Petrochemicals, one of the “largest publicly traded oil and gas companies in the world,” according to Quest’s website. Total Petrochemicals is a subset of Total S.A., a member of “big oil” and the corporation behind the Yadana Natural Gas Pipeline in Myanmar, a project that that used civilian slavery and was the site of countless human rights abuses, according to EarthRights International.
Along with helping Big Oil, Quest Software also works with the Department of Homeland Security, a fact that wouldn’t necessarily appeal to most of the students at OCSA, showing how non-representative these figures are of the student body and how once again, the students at OCSA are left in the dark in terms of gaining almost any information outside of their academic and artistic spheres at OCSA.
In Garn’s case, Total was simply a client of Garn’s company, however, “community partners” like Robert J. Follman and Sebastian Paul Musco have been actively working with the fossil fuels industry for years. Robert J. Follman is the CEO of R.A. Industries, which has been serving the oil industry for over 35 years, supplying the tools necessary for the industry to lead us closer to ecological catastrophe. R.A. Industries also supplies missile aircraft components and strut assemblies in defense drones, which have undoubtedly been used to kill countless individuals over years of American military interventionism.
The money earned in selling such products is being donated to OCSA, which raises ethical concerns for OCSA students as well, given the fact that their education may have been financed through technology that may have killed students just like them abroad.
According to the Orange County Business Journal, Sebastian Paul Musco is the founder and chairman of Gemini Industries, which reclaims precious metals to be used by corporations such as ExxonMobil, which according to the New York Times had lied to the public about climate change for decades, and Dow Chemical, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency is the second-largest toxic chemical waste producer in the nation.
All of this comes from someone who is meant to represent the community of OCSA, although it is true that OCSA is notorious for ignoring and mistreating the surrounding Santa Ana community. For OCSA, its community consists of the wealthy philanthropists from South Orange County who contribute to the foundation, not the low-income, majority-minority community that surrounds the actual school.
Our last figure is Mohamed El-Erian, a member of the CSArts Foundation Board of Governors, who was the deputy director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Managing Director at Citigroup.
According to the World Rainforest Movement, the IMF has promoted the rapid deforestation of endangered forest habitats in developing nations by quantifying growth as exports and foreign investment, thus allowing the world’s most powerful corporations to take advantage of our planet’s natural resources, continuing the legacy of centuries of colonialism, slavery, and exploitation around the globe.
The IMF is not only violating environmental rights, but its neoliberal economic policies have accelerated climate change itself along with global poverty. The fact that someone who had power in an organization whose policies have led to cases like the Rwandan Genocide is worrying when they assume power in our educational institution.
Additionally, according to Banktrack, Citigroup was one of the major sponsors of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the controversial project that endangers not only the rights of indigenous people in this nation, but the environmental rights of the entire world. Although Mohamed El-Erian may not have made any decisions regarding the things listed above, he is someone with considerable corporate experience in entities that have been incredibly abusive to our environment, and having someone with such experience in a high position at OCSA is absurd if the school wants to consider itself environmentally dedicated enough to have an Earth Day celebration.
Although these board members and “community partners” may not be as important to the student body as the actual school administration, they still have a level of authority over the student body and must take responsibility for their actions, especially when students at OCSA will suffer from the environmental consequences of their actions.
The hypocrisy of OCSA to proclaim an Earth Day celebration as their foundation members continue to hold considerable influence in the detriment of our planet is clear. I hope that on Earth Day, my fellow students will ask themselves what they can do to promote environmental justice on their own, without relying on an institution of deceit to present it to them. I hope that Earth Day will not be co-opted by those who damage the Earth, but rather, for it to be a day of reckoning for such figures.