Should You Pressure Your School to Become More Eco-Friendly?
At Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, a determined group of students is demanding that school administrators sell off their investments in fossil fuel companies—to help fight climate change.
So far, they’ve made little progress with school officials. But publicity about their initiative has sparked action on other campuses as well. Students at dozens of colleges have begun demanding the same thing of their administrations in an effort to force action on global warming. So far, there’s been moderate success. Unity College in Maine and Hampshire College in Massachusetts have both complied with student demands.
See Also: Online Degrees in Environmental Science
But is this success repeatable at accredited online colleges? It’s not too late to find out. Here are some thoughts about how to drum up support for a similar demand at your online school.
See Also: Online Environment Science Courses
Talk to the students—and the teachers. School administrators are more likely to listen to a crowd than a lone voice. Talk to your fellow students to see who would stand behind you—and don’t neglect your professors. Start a discussion group or initiate an in-person meetup if enough students in your area are supportive of your cause.
Know your audience. Students and professors in the areas of green energy, environmental science, and other related topics are a good start in finding a group of people supportive of your cause. While some business majors are passionately pro-environment, you may be less likely to find a sympathetic audience there in general—as business and environmental causes are so often opposed.
Find support outside of school. Students at other schools had tried this kind of demand before the students at Swarthmore did it, but the movement failed to gain traction. Swarthmore’s success was aided by the grass-roots nonprofit 350.org, run by writer and activist Bill McKibben. The name refers to the maximum safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as determined by climate scientists—or 350 parts per million (it’s already at 390).
Publicize your efforts. You don’t necessarily have to rely on the press to pick you up to get publicity. You can start a blog to document your efforts, start a Twitter feed or a Facebook page—and publicize it to other students. Put a link at the end of all your forum posts for online classes. Be sure students can find any websites where you discuss your demands. The more publicity is out there about your efforts, the greater pressure your school will feel to acquiesce.
Don’t limit your efforts to finance. There are other ways online schools can contribute to efforts to combat global warming—everything from adding solar panels to their buildings or reducing energy consumption generally. Depending on your school, building support for other changes that help the environment may make more sense.
Make connections with other schools. So far, this movement has happened primarily on traditional campuses. But as an online student, you could benefit from connecting with students undertaking this initiative on other campuses to develop new ideas to take action on, gain support, and coordinate your efforts.
Climate change is an intractable problem. The goal of the divestiture movement is to make investment in oil and gas disreputable, as investment in tobacco companies is today in many quarters. While it may not force rapid change, it may put enough pressure on oil and gas companies to take notice—and spur them to intensify development efforts into green energy. It’s difficult to effect change on a local level—but if enough college students on enough campuses draw attention to this issue, there’s a possibility these concerted efforts could have a real impact on climate change.
EPA: Climate Change: What You Can Do At School
New York Times: To Stop Climate Change, Students Take Aim at Investment Portfolios
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