From campus to community to state, students across the Southeast will have a strong campaign this coming school year, pushing more schools’ administrations and state legislators to convert to renewable sources of energy and move away from fossil fuels.
Students are expanding beyond just their campuses this fall by building relationships with their surrounding communities as well as connecting with directly affected communities, explained Southern Energy Network regional coordinator Liz Veazey.
With many victories on campuses with the “green fee” -- a small yearly fee students vote to pay that goes directly toward using renewable energy on campus -- students are looking to expand their horizons and alter the future and image of fossil fuels across the region.
At the Southeast Climate Convergence in Western North Carolina August 8-14, around 20 students and non-students gathered for a youth caucus to share ideas and discuss strategy for the upcoming year. The youth discussed ways to bring together communities and campuses, strategies for recruitment and retention, and plans for diversifying the population of youth activists.
Coalitions are popping up all over the region, from statewide student networks to campuses working with other regional collaborative efforts. In August, a new anti-coal coalition formed with the working name Virginia Chesapeake Climate Action Network. VACAN, the eight-school network, set a primary goal to expand to 15 schools during the fall semester and continue building power on campuses. The group organized with the sentiment that great urgency is needed to stop all new coal mining and coal-fired power plant construction in the state, according to CCAN student organizer Tom Owens. The group is also working to create a strong connection to affected communities in the Virginia coalfields.
Over the past few years, students have been organizing various statewide coalitions specifically targeting coal. But this year, students will add nuclear energy to the list of targets, according to Veazey.
Another trend on campuses is pushing the President’s Climate Commitment setting a goal for climate neutrality with zero emissions on campus. According to the website ( www.presidentsclimatecommitment.org), 11 colleges and universities in Virginia signed the statement, six in North Carolina, seven in Florida, seven in Georgia, three in Kentucky, three in Tennessee and four in South Carolina. Instead of becoming involved in the PCC, West Virginia schools are focusing more on solidarity work with coalfield organizations, according to Student Environmental Action Coalition coordinator Danny Chiotos.
National politics will also be a major target over the next year with the upcoming presidential elections, said Veazey. Students in New Hampshire are organizing a publicity march next year to gain presidential candidates’ attention on the issues of climate change and renewable energy. South Carolina also has an early primary and students are planning to make their issues prevalent in the primary debates.
Student groups are planning a full schedule of events for the school year, says Veazey.
-On Sept 4, the Climate Emergency Council is organizing a day of fasting to bring attention to climate change.
-.From October 19-22, the Energy Action Coalition is hosting the PowerShift 2007 National Youth Climate Conference in Washington, D.C.
-From October 21-23, No War No Warming is planning a national intervention on Capitol Hill to demand that the U.S. pull out of the war in Iraq and end all contribution to global warming by the burning of fossil fuels.
-February 8-10, SEN will host its 5th annual Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Ga.
-In the spring, Mountain Justice will host the second annual Mountain Justice Spring Break. No date has been determined yet.
For more information about ways to get involved in the youth movement, check out www.climateaction.net or www.chesapeakeclimate.org