Activists gathered in New York City on Sept. 21 for the People’s Climate March, which organizers said was the largest climate rally ever. Photo by flickr user South Bend Voice under a CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.
Students, alumni and GW’s top officials are leading sustainability efforts on campus, in D.C. and nationally.
University President Steven Knapp is speaking at a summit in Boston this week for higher education leaders who have started sustainability initiatives on campuses across the country. He and American University President Neil Kerwin will lead a talk about their agreement with GW Hospital to derive portions of their electricity from solar energy over the next several years.
And two weekends ago, the People’s Climate March drew hundreds of thousands to New York City in what became the largest march on the issue in U.S. history. An alumnus is hoping to use the momentum from that historic event to push divestment legislation through the D.C. Council.
In light of this movement, two Hatchet opinions writers reflect on the best course of action for GW students looking to take action against climate change.
Make sustainability a part of your everyday life
Georgia Lawson, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
By the year 2030, a significant chunk of D.C. could be underwater.
To many, climate change is a tired subject. It can be easy to disregard because it doesn’t seem like an urgent issue. But a report published last week by Climate Central, an organization of scientists that conducts research on climate change, tells a very different story.
The organization found that by 2030, flooding could be more than 6 feet above the local high-tide line. Looking at what 6 feet means to the District, we come upon some frightening realities.
Below the 6-foot water line lies 1,350 acres of land and about $4.6 billion in property value. This area encompasses 1,400 people, 400 homes, one hospital, one museum, two military facilities and 12 Environmental Protection Agency-listed sites, such as hazardous waste and sewage operations.
This threat puts our country’s political hub at stake. And as GW students that live and breathe D.C. culture, we have an obligation to protect our city. We study, have fun, perform community service and do much more here. For some of us, it will become our permanent home.
This school and this city is where GW students leave their mark. Since we try to take full advantage of everything the District has to offer us during our years here, it’s our job to keep it safe for future students who want to do the same.
The University has promoted green practices through the eco-challenge. Hatchet File Photo
Although everyone is to blame for climate change, the University has tried to help by promoting sustainability and green practices.
In recent years, GW has made great progress in the realm of sustainability. This summer, the University announced that it would start buying solar power. University President Steven Knapp is speaking this week about GW’s sustainability measures at a summit on climate leadership in Boston.
The University has also encouraged students to participate in residence hall energy-saving competitions, hosted green move-out at the end of every year and even launched a sustainability minor.
But University programs aren’t enough. While efforts on the part of GW can be beneficial, action to combat climate change on campus rests largely with students themselves.
Students should do more to help the environment – especially given Climate Central’s report. The programs are there: All we have to do is participate. And every Colonial should join in the fight for our planet.
This means actually using the recycling bins GW provides and turning off the lights when you’re the last one out. It means not standing under a scorching shower for 20 minutes after you’re already clean. It means thinking twice about the resources and energy that went into making the disposable coffee cups you drink from every morning and to where they go after you throw them away.
Do it for the planet, and do it for D.C. Do it for the monuments and museums and the wealth of knowledge that’s rooted in our city. Do it for your home here as a Colonial.
Throw your support behind divestment at GW
Kinjo Kiema, a sophomore majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet columnist.
The People’s Climate March was almost double the size of the March on Washington in 1963 – about 400,000 people demonstrated in the streets of New York City two weeks ago calling for action on climate change.
It’s refreshing to see this kind of traditional activism. A significant amount of organizing and activism is now done online. For example, after the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., so-called “hashtag activism” helped bring the issue to D.C., rallying thousands to sign a petition and hundreds to appear in front of the White House.
Sometimes it feels like we don’t see giant protests and marches about political issue anymore – at least not in the United States.
This march was timed close to the UN Climate Summit, a day when world leaders came together to determine what action their nations would take to address climate change. Regardless of what came out of the summit, the immense size of the march shows that any efforts to mitigate environmental destruction take a large show of public support.
Two years ago, University President Steven Knapp said he want GW to be the “chief model of urban sustainability in a city that itself aspires to be a green city,” in a speech on Earth Day. Hatchet File Photo
GW students can’t organize an entire march of that scale on their own, of course, but there’s still a way we can act in a public way on this issue: encouraging our University to divest from fossil fuels. To do that, the campus divestment movement, which has progressed for the past two years, will need a surge of support.
Fossil Free GW is a student organization that’s lobbying the University to pull its investments out of the largest fossil fuel companies. Before GW can take action, it needs to know that students consider divestment a priority. Back in February, Fossil Free GW tried to drum up enough support to hold a campus-wide referendum on divestment, but the group has fallen far short of the 2,500 signatures necessary to put it to a vote.
We know even talk of a referendum can be effective: About a year ago, Student Association leaders planned to hold one on moving Student Health Service to a central campus location. Before that even happened, though, University President Steven Knapp threw his support behind the issue, and there never had to be a vote.
That’s because it was obvious students were united by the idea. Visible student enthusiasm for a fossil-free university is a key step toward pushing administrators to act. A referendum on the issue, with a strong show of student support, would be even better.
If you want to help stop climate change, you may not be able to participate in massive demonstrations like the one in New York, but as students, our voices are powerful. As we’ve seen in the past, one university can often set a trend for others to follow.
The best way to help make change is by joining the movement right here on campus.