News from the College Scene…

Hardly a day goes by now when there’s not news of sustainable development on campus, or activism on behalf of it. Came across several stories in recent days:

Students at Maine’s Bowdoin College (the alma mater of such lumanaries as writer Nathaniel Hawthorne) are pressing the administration to join the ranks of schools purchasing 100% of their power from renewable sources. From The Bowdoin Orient:

Members of the new student group Clean Energy Now plan to present a lettr to President Barry Mills and Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer Katy Longley today urging the College to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable sources of energy. Such electricity is produced by wind power, hydropower, or biomass, and not by fossil fuels that emit greenhouse gases.

As of press time, the group had also gathered over 430 signatures for a petition and it plans to soon begin a faculty and staff letter drive.

The 13 students from the new group who signed the letter—many of whom have been active with Sustainable Bowdoin and the Evergreens—wrote, “There is no better opportunity to fulfill…our commitment to the common good than through the purchase of renewable energy for the campus.”

“We ask that the College commit to a purchase of 100 percent renewable energy in its coming contract, which will demonstrate its continuing commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility,” they continued.

The purchase of 100% renewable power would push the campus beyond the goals of Governor John Baldacci’s “Carbon Challenge,” of which the college is a signatory. No word from the administration at this point, but the students are hopeful that there goal is well within Bowdoin’s financial reach.

While Bowdoin’s students are using fairly quiet techniques of promoting sustainable development, students at Penn State are continuing their sit-in. Apparently, it’s working to some degree, as yesterday “It’s Getting Hot in Here” reported that university president Graham Spanier met with the group — something he hadn’t done in the two years they’ve been calling for carbon emission reductions targets at PSU:

[Spanier] came outside his office to the sit-in to meet with them for seven minutes before he had to run to another meeting. The group communicated that they are willing to negotiate and that what they want is a commitment to setting the highest goal possible after a feasability study to be done this summer. They also want the students to be a part of the decision when it is time to set the goal and want a deadline by which a goal will be set. They made it clear that they aren’t willing to compromise the Kyoto goal until it has been proven infeasible by an independent study.

No agreements were reached, but the students labeled it a “respectful” meeting.

Finally, write Blake Hough of the Johns Hopkins News-Letter wonders if his school can “catch up” to other universities implementing sustainability measures:

As colleges across the nation maintain their fervent pursuit of environmental initiatives, one might wonder: Can Hopkins can join the race? Might we catch up? The answer is a resounding yes! The successful leadership of so many other universities offers us an advantage; they’ve done the hard work, tested processes and confronted their problems. All that Hopkins needs to do is choose which projects to undertake. Local organic food options and green dorms are two basic foundations many schools build upon.

Hough gives a detailed overview of local organic food programs at a number of college campuses, as well as green dorm developments, including competitions to create the “greenest” dorm building.

Though I graduated from my undergraduate program nearly 16 years ago, I still find student activism inspiring. These students are proving that, despite the pressures of studies and day-to-day necessities, they can find the time and energy to push for a greener world. More power to them…!

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