One of my favorite things is when young people instigate change. This can be on any level, just as long as you make others think! Keeping with my theme from the last blog – a couple of years ago, a group of environmentally conscious students hosted a film and panel discussion about the hidden costs of coal-based energy production for the Athens community. The result was something absolutely incredible.
As a result of finding out about the use of coal across campus, many of my peers decided that they wanted to see a major change from the University- thus began the Beyond Coal movement. For months on end, students in the Beyond Coal exposed and shared public health, ecological and climate change costs of coal energy production. This got the attention of important people in the environmental world, such as Rich Rusk, an organizer with the Georgia Climate Change Coalition, who stated in an address to the state’s Coalition that the environmental leaders of today were the young and the passionate and called for everyone else to emulate them.
The organizing members of Beyond Coal pushed UGA’s administration and financial advisors to commit to retiring the coal boiler and, in addition, to create a task force that would ensure that community concerns are considered and that all alternatives to coal are diligently investigated. The group received immense support from both students and faculty: a petition gained over 2,000 student signatures as well as over 80 faculty endorsements backing the push to retire the coal boiler. In the end, the voice of the people was heard and heeded!
Institutions of higher education should always be the exemplars of modern energy solutions. If you see an institution follow through on their environmentally based promises in your community, I encourage you to call for change. Often, the smallest actions, such as writing a letter to someone holding a leadership position can and do make the biggest difference.