Last week, in a statement that defies global scientific consensus, Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt said carbon dioxide is not a “primary contributor” to climate change. This claim, though baseless in fact, is not a surprising one to hear from the current administration.
Pruitt has spent his career fighting for the oil and gas industry, suing the agency he now runs 12 times. His boss, President Donald J. Trump, has argued that climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese.
I bring up these dangerous falsehoods not to be partisan, but to make it clear that the Trump administration is not going to take action to curb the effects of climate change. It’s up to us to pick up the slack. It’s up to local governments, small organizations and student groups to take action. That’s just what Husky Environmental Action Team (HEAT) is doing this election season because we have been waiting too long to see important environmental changes happen on our campus.
In 2007, after more than 5,000 Northeastern students signed a petition, President Joseph E. Aoun signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC). This petition called for participating universities to, within two years, set a date for when their university would be carbon neutral. Students were excited by this and looked forward to a time when they could be proud of Northeastern’s carbon footprint.
However, nearly a decade has gone by and students are still waiting for any big steps to be taken to address how our school impacts the environment. Most notably, the ACUPCC reports that Northeastern has generated 0 kwH of energy from renewables. In addition, the link to Northeastern’s carbon neutrality plan is so outdated, it’s not even listed on the ACUPCC website. This is unacceptable.
To remedy our school’s failure to act on the Climate Commitment, HEAT has introduced two referenda questions for the SGA Direct Election to address Northeastern’s carbon footprint. One is to expand renewable energy generation on campus; the other is to ban single-use plastic water bottles from on-campus businesses. Let’s take them one by one.
Expanding Northeastern’s renewable energy program is key to becoming carbon neutral. Alternative energy sources like solar, wind and geothermal are all sources that release no greenhouse gasses after construction. In addition, these sources are cheaper than ever, especially when considering special incentives offered in Massachusetts. They are also extremely feasible. Ever walked out of International Village and nearly blown away because of the strong wind? That wind could be powering the lights in your apartment.
Northeastern has had plenty of opportunities to make this a reality. East Village and the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex have both been completed within the last few years and yet neither were fitted with renewable energy installations. It’s not a lack of opportunity, it’s a lack of will. HEAT wants to show the administration that the student’s will matters too, and students want clean energy to power their classrooms.
Banning single-use plastic water bottles is another important step in addressing our carbon footprint. Last year, Americans used roughly 50 billion plastic water bottles last year and only 23 percent of those bottles were recycled. We are filling up landfills with plastic bottles when we are lucky to have clean water in our taps. Ever been to Outtakes and purchased an eight pack of mini water bottles? We all have. It’s tempting, but it’s wasteful. It’s crucial that we ban single-use plastic water bottles so that we aren’t tempted to contribute to the problem.
Northeastern has been called “America’s Greenest University,” yet we’re not seeing that on campus. It’s important that we take action and tell the administration that climate change is real, and we need to do something about it. Vote “yes” on the referenda questions regarding expanding renewable energy and banning single-use plastic water bottles.
– Max Wagner is a sophomore business administration manager and president of HEAT.
Photo courtesy Thad Zajdowicz, Creative Commons