University students have proven themselves to be a driving force behind the divestment from fossil fuels movement and they are also key players in the forthcoming People’s Climate March which will take place on September 21. The march is meant to put pressure on political leaders who are convening for the UN Climate Summit in New York on September 23. Students on over 250 campuses have been organizing, to make sure strong delegations attend the People’s Climate March.
Students are well known for the propensity to protest for societal betterment, social justice and environmental issues. They are also central to efforts to push political leaders to act on climate change. Students know what must be done to effectively tackle climate change, but we are missing the political will.
As explained by Maura Cowley, director of Energy Action Coalition, “Students on hundreds of campuses, and thousands of youth vote leaders across the country are bringing their power and voices to the People’s Climate March to say enough is enough,” Cowley, said. “We will divest from fossil fuels and build a new clean and just economy, and President Obama and world leaders better be prepared to join us, or face the political consequences.”
A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report, indicated we are rapidly running out of time to deal with the climate crisis so we must act now if we are to avert a “catastrophe.” We simply cannot afford to dither any longer.
As stated by Whit Jones, the campaign director for advocacy group Energy Action Coalition, “Time and time again [leaders] come together for summits and they haven’t really achieved the action on climate change we need.”
One of the schools attending the March is the Climate Action Society (CAS) at the University Virginia. CAS aims to foster progress in activism, sustainable finance and renewable energy. The efforts of this school reflect initiatives taking place on college campuses all across America and around the world.
“U.Va. students support action on climate change, and we want to join the hundreds of thousands of others marching in solidarity,” said CAS founder Lia Cattaneo, a third-year College student, in an email. “The theme for the march is ‘Action. Not Words.’ We want to act. We want to be part of the overwhelming force supporting positive action on climate.”
Cattaneo said about 60 University students will make the trip with the help of the Sierra Club who is subsidizing the cost of the buses, but students will each pay $30 or $40 in other costs.
Last October, CAS attended the Power Shift conference in Pittsburgh, an assembly of youths seeking to make the issue of climate change a legislative priority. To help coordinate environmental efforts among Virginia colleges they founded the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.
CAS students worked to pass a resolution through Student Council in support of a green revolving fund at the University, which loans money for energy efficiency and green projects with the returns from projects going back into the fund.
The green revolving fund (aka Delta Force program) focuses on making existing buildings better and water conservation and more energy efficient.CAS is also working with the Facilities department to examine options for renewable projects at the University.
Student efforts at the University of Virgina are a prime example of how students are harnessing their power to effectuate meaningful change.
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