Spotlight on Seniors: Fulbright Recipient Chanah Haigh ’23 Focuses on Environmental Activism

By Mirabella Miller ’24

Portrait of Chanah Haigh '23 at the Scripps College Rose Garden

Chanah Haigh ’23 has always had a passion for the environment: It drove her decision to transfer to Scripps and has guided her academic and professional ambitions since she arrived. Haigh wanted to study the environment in a place with natural beauty, like California, and the state is also a national leader in environmental policy. With those criteria in mind, Scripps seemed like the perfect choice to pursue her passion and get involved in local environmental politics.

“I think environmental degradation and climate change is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, problem we’re facing as a world,” she says. “It’s a really exciting time to be part of environmental activism, since there’s a lot of momentum and public interest in it right now.”

This year, Haigh has dedicated many hours to developing the thesis for her environmental analysis major, which explores the environmental impacts of the rapidly growing logistics industry in the Inland Empire. Her thesis focuses particularly on the multiple warehouses dominating great swaths of land in nearby Fontana.

“The warehouses have taken over a lot of the land in the region, creating serious health and environmental consequences,” she says. “I’m working with local organizers at Fast Forward Fontana to see what can be done to help residents protect themselves from these impacts and figure out how local and national legislation can be used to their advantage.”

In addition to working with Fast Forward Fontana, Haigh has also made other valuable connections in the local political community. She recently published an op-ed in the Fontana Herald News, co-written with Pitzer College Adjunct Professor of Environmental Analysis Michael McCarthy, that explores how the recent increase in warehouses impacts the quality of life for area residents.

Professor McCarthy created a digital map to visualize the recent rise in warehouses, and Haigh wrote the accompanying story. Pitzer Professor of Environmental Analysis Susan Phillips and Fontana resident and community organizer Bobbi Jo Chavarria were instrumental in the writing process, providing editing and support. Haigh, who is also an English minor, enjoyed the writing process.

“It was a ton of work with multiple edits and a lot of people involved, but it was really fun, and I love getting to see my work out in the public,” she says.

She credits the interdisciplinary nature of her studies at Scripps with cultivating her ability to examine pressing environmental policy issues from multiple angles.

“I’ve loved how interdisciplinary my studies at Scripps have been,” she says. “It’s given me more understanding of other people’s perspectives and taught me to be flexible and to think on my feet.”

Just as she has built valuable local connections in Fontana throughout her thesis work, Haigh has also immersed herself in the Scripps community through various activities. She’s a leader of the Nishmat Jewish group, a tour guide with the Office of Admission, and she plays the violin in the Irish Music Ensemble. These experiences have fostered her growth throughout her time at Scripps.

“I have had to leave my comfort zone to lead services, play the violin in a group, and lead tours and information sessions for Scripps,” she says. “I’ve had to put myself out there in front of a lot of different audiences, and I love how comfortable I’ve grown leading and being part of a group in those spaces.”

Next year, Haigh will again step out of her comfort zone as she embarks on a Fulbright to teach English in the Czech Republic.

Haigh transferred to Scripps in January 2020 and took a gap year during the pandemic-induced remote instruction before returning to campus. The Scripps community, especially the Scripps transfer community, has welcomed and encouraged her throughout her journey.

“I have had anything but the traditional college path, but I have found so much community here, as well as the opportunity to explore my passions and try new things,” she says.