AUSG hosts climate change panel
AU Student Government President Sophia Wirth emphasized the relationship between environmental sustainability and other social justice issues on campus during a climate change roundtable on Sept. 25.
Wirth invited students, faculty and staff to a roundtable discussion on furthering environmental sustainability on campus. The panel included School of International Service professor Paul Wapner, Director of Sustainability Chris O’Brien, Fossil Free AU Coalition member Deirdre Shelly and was directed by Wirth.
The discussion comes after the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March in New York City that over 200 AU students attended, Fossil Free AU member Audrey Irvine-Broque said.
The participants of the discussion agreed that in order to create a greater awareness of key environmental causes on campus, students must realize the intersectionality of environmental activism, Wirth said.
Students can sometimes become attached to an issue like feminism and forget the importance of environmental activism. They don’t realize that the feminist issue goes hand in hand with environmental sustainability, Wirth said.
Though the discussion primarily focused on the campus reaching carbon neutrality by 2020, the panelists did note achievements AU has made in regards to environmental sustainability.
In particular, AU is planning to involve itself more with solar power, decreasing its carbon footprint. This past summer, AU announced a 20-year solar energy purchase with George Washington University and George Washington University Hospital. A few months ago, AU also signed a contract to purchase electricity from the largest solar farm east of the Mississippi River, according to O’Brien.
Although AU is currently ranked No. 2 by the Sierra Club for most eco-friendly U.S. campuses, a complacency for environmental activism should not form, student attendee Bryan Paz said.
“At AU we’re so sustainable, [but] there’s a bad side that comes with that,” Paz said. “Many times we become complacent and think we’re super awesome, but I hate that because people start to not care.”
Paz currently works with AU’s Zero Waste Office, which oversees recycling, landfill and composting on campus. He said that students’ carelessness when throwing away garbage conflicts with Zero Waste Office’s 2020 zero waste goal, a goal that entails the ending of sending trash to landfills and incinerators.
“If we don’t fix this contamination issue, then we’re not going to reach our carbon neutral goal and that’s really scary,” Paz said. “So we need to change our culture and say, ‘Hey AU, we’re sustainable, but that doesn’t mean that we can just sit on the sidelines.’ We have to step up when we seen somebody incorrectly put waste in the wrong bin.”
It is actions like recycling correctly that will allow students to become a a part of the climate movement, Shelly said.
“I think that it’s a really exciting time for anyone to be joining the climate movement and doing climate work,” Shelly said.