The month of October has opened with a rush of cold weather and a number of environmentally themed events planned by and involving University of Mary Washington students.
Last weekend, twenty UMW students drove four hours to Virginia Tech to attend the Virginia Powershift Conference. Author and environmentalist Mike Tidwell spoke to over a hundred students over the course of this past Tuesday on the issue of climate change. This upcoming Saturday the school will be hosting its annual Sustainability Day, hosting a number of eco-themed activities.
These events come with the growing environmental movement across the state and in the realm of our own campus.
But of course, the goal of this movement is not to attend conferences and bring speakers: it’s to see change.
Environmental activists in UMW’s Ecology Club and other students across campus have dedicated many hours trying to educate and to inspire, but chiefly to see a real shift to sustainability at our school and across the region.
However, the depth of change that has actually occurred is not as evident.
Certainly, many things have been accomplished. There is a regular light bulb exchange in which students can trade in their incandescent light bulbs for the more efficient and longer lasting compact fluorescent lamps (CFLS). Dining services has committed to using more local food and educating students about lessening food waste. Recycling on campus is easier and more visible.
In addition, members of our campus have worked on numerous campaigns across the area to assist in accomplishing such goals and ending mountaintop removal, keeping the ban on uranium mining in Virginia and shifting to clean energy sources.
However, this is not nearly enough.
As students, we should certainly keep attending conferences, questioning speakers and celebrating sustainability, but we should also demand much more rigid ecological practices from our school.
Here at UMW we have a perfect chance to make a real difference. Our campus is just the size of a couple city blocks, we have administrators who really listen to us and most importantly we have power because we are paying tuition.
Administrators, this wave of environmentalism is a chance for our school to lead a movement that will surely define our generation, which will allow us to become a model for other universities to learn from and aspire to be.
Students, this is your opportunity to push to be a part of something you care about and to truly change the course of not only your future, but to also help people in other parts of the world who are affected by our incredible mass consumption and use of fossil fuels in the United States.
Let’s not allow the wave of environmentalism end with the month. Let’s push it to new levels, instead.
As Mike Tidwell said during his visit on campus, “We have a moral responsibility to work on this issue.”
So, as fall turns to winter and winter turns to spring, let’s all take advantage of the opportunities we have being on a college campus and continue to truly make a difference.