Campus Global Theme logo

Campus Global Theme Statement of Purpose

Campus Global Theme Statement of Purpose

The Campus Global Theme program identifies a topic linked to one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and engages the entire UC Davis community in related discussion, learning, discovery, and action. The second Campus Global Theme is Transformative Energies: Repowering and Empowering the Planet, dares to imagine repowering and empowering the planet as being two sides of the same coin.

Transformative Energies: Repowering and Empowering the Planet

UC Davis’ second Campus Global Theme, "Transformative Energies: Repowering and Empowering the Planet," invites the campus community to explore the humanistic, social, and scientific dimensions of energy. Given the ever-impending environmental crisis that global warming poses, we, as part of planetary communities, need strategies for achieving a just energy transition. “Transformative Energies” dares to imagine repowering and empowering the planet as being two sides of the same coin. It holds out the possibility that an energy transition from a reliance on hydrocarbons to sustainable technologies simultaneously entails upending embedded systems of social inequity and ecological damage. Racial, economic, and environmental harms have been enmeshed with the world’s historically tenacious and dominant forms of power. Such power threatens energy democracy and our capacity to identify and recognize greenwashing and misinformation. Transformative Energies seeks to compel a deeper understanding of these connections and to build complex, multi-faceted efforts to transform them.

Transformative Energies calls upon members of our campus to share creative ways to reconsider and reconfigure our relationship to power through scientific, social, humanistic, and artistic experimentation and analysis. Inspired by the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), "Transformative Energies” summons UC Davis’ varied interdisciplinary strengths and encourages collaborations and conversations on Transformative Energies, imagined historically and contemporarily, materially and speculatively, humanistically, artistically and scientifically.

The Campus Global Theme will run from January 2022 to June 2023, and offers a platform for the entire university community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the broader Davis public—to engage in discussion, debate, and dynamic action on power in its many facets. We invite all members of the campus community to submit proposals to host an event or activity.

The Repower-Empower Dualism

A starting point for the Transformative Energies Campus Global Theme is an understanding that “repowering” and “empowering” are not two separate initiatives, but rather two dimensions of the same project. This orientation trains us to consider how the capturing of power as a geophysical-chemical force has been intricately bound to the uneven distribution of racial, geographic, economic, political, and bio-systemic power and welfare. It compels reflection on how distinct forms of harnessing geophysical-chemical force often imperil a diversity of landscapes, life forms, and land rights holders —be they human, animal, plant, or protozoa. This is not a coincidence. Our Repowering-Empower dualism appreciates this relation—whereby the parameters of one term inherently shape those of the other—and seeks to shift this relation toward livable futures for all. As we envision and enact strategies for an energy transition, this Campus Global Theme calls for attunement to the collateral need to ensure the empowerment of our planet’s diverse human and non-human ecologies.

A Collective Obligation

Our history and mission as a land-grant research and teaching institution oblige us to recognize that real challenges thwart any easy transition to renewable energy that simultaneously embraces diversity and equity in all its manifestations. This Campus Global Theme foregrounds efforts and actions by our campus community that analyze, experiment with, and deconstruct—so as to construct anew—the complexities entailed in such a transition. We are convinced that the UC Davis campus is up to the challenge.

As a top league research and teaching institution, UC Davis faculty, students, and staff are immersed in an array of research, teaching, and outreach efforts that intersect with the Transformative Energies theme.

We research how different energy sources—both conventional and alternative—interface with wild and urban ecologies, as well as the regions between these two poles. We investigate how anthropocentric ideologies of growth can undermine entire realms of biota and human communities that sustain intricate ecosystems. We study the interconnections between compromised ecosystems, jeopardized human health, and fossil fuels, as well as the danger that alternative energy could re-entrench these relations. We research how environmental racism will not simply disappear with an energy transition, and we challenge the colonial impulse to ‘outsite’ our energy infrastructure onto marginalized, disenfranchised communities. We examine the intransigence of entrenched political forms and social forces that deny transition or its need. We collaborate with youth movements, community care collectives, and mutual aid networks to envision and enact an alternative politics of being and belonging. We philosophize on the epistemic and ontological preconditions determining our present predicament. We venture into research beyond our disenchanted world to explore what it has meant over time and place to abide in a sentient planet. We explore the decolonial and empowering potential inherent in land-grant institutions. We deploy the power of ecocriticism and speculative fiction to probe the past conditions, marginal traditions, and future manifestations of unfurling transformative energies.

We experiment with alternative designs and synergistic innovations for powering diverse global communities, and we study how they will transform interactions with one another and distinctive planetary ecologies. We investigate historically the economic, political, and legal obstacles to moving away from hydrocarbons and to addressing the ecological and human health damages across Earth’s systems over time. We examine, and imagine, what it would take to recalibrate power systems (in the dual sense) such that they generate racial, social, economic, political, cultural, and environmental equity. We deploy green chemistries and technologies to revolutionize apparent and latent links to fossil fuels and fossil fuel-based materials (e.g., plastics). We ask how innovative architectures and education can facilitate circular economies built on sustainable materials in tandem with renewable energy. We work to understand the unique socio-economic constraints and opportunities of transitioning industries, institutions, and communities away from a dependence on fossil fuels across diverse global demographies and geographies. We harness our research to inform local, state, national, and international policy. We engage a multiplicity of voices and creative forms to stage provocative performances and curate profound public art that draw attention to and engender reflection on our role in existing and systemic inequities. We challenge our daily complicities and acts in and against conventional power.

Call for Programming

Our call for programming for January 2022 to June 2023 includes an invitation for faculty, staff and students on both the Davis and Sacramento campuses to apply for mini-grants (you may also apply to offer programming without requesting a mini-grant). Grantee and other associated programming will be featured on a calendar of events, to be disseminated on campus and regionally. The theme series will also be marketed on the Global Affairs website, campus calendars, social media, and at campus and community events in order to showcase programming to broad audiences.

The 2022 Call for Proposals is now open.

As we initiate this Campus Global Theme, we look forward to partnering with you in creating, hosting and leading events. UC Davis community members interested in getting involved are invited to visit or email

Programming and Events

We encourage our community to think creatively in developing venues for transdisciplinary, intercultural engagement that incorporate various ways of knowing, learning and participating.

Possibilities include:

  • guest speakers and colloquia
  • field trips and hands-on learning
  • fiction boards of collective speculation
  • experimental workshops
  • experiential laboratories
  • performances or story-circles
  • film or art showings
  • apps or web mapping
  • podcasts or radio shows
  • data synthesis or crowd sourcing
  • research collaboratives
  • design competitions
  • science-to-action or science-to-policy
  • dissemination of educational materials and surveys
  • collaborative action with communities
  • visions of campus transformation
  • daily acts challenge
  • and many, many more

Rebecca Hernandez
Faculty Co-chair, Campus Global Theme
Associate Professor of Ecology and Earth System Science 
Land, Air, Water Resources

Suzana Sawyer
Faculty Co-chair, Campus Global Theme