Climate Activism on Campus Gathers Steam

A few days after the IPCC climate report was released last October declaring that climate change is occurring faster than expected, concerned Appalachian State University  students formed the Climate Action Collaborative. Through a series of public meetings hosted on campus, students, faculty and community members discussed the issue. Much of the early discussions centered around the responsibility that App State has to find a way to cut carbon emissions.

“If a school known for its sustainability leadership is not willing to cut carbon emissions, then it's unlikely that less-green schools will be willing,” was a sentiment voiced by participants. Other hot topics included the amount of funding supporting athletics, new building projects on campus and the administrative inertia standing in the way of more aggressive climate goals.  

This semester the Climate Action Collaborative has started out strong, hosting organized resistance workshops and making ambitious plans for the spring semester to demand a 2025 climate commitment for App State. This proposal would be more than a token, as it would mandate a climate board being created for the purposes of holding the university accountable. This shift would require that climate change become more of a main course at the table, rather than just the complimentary mint that you can take or leave.

Luckily, it is not all doom and gloom for the Climate Action Collaborative. Their approach to their next event is to celebrate the opportunity for structural change and social justice the climate crisis bring in tow. At the last workshop, I realized that, underlying all my passion, I hid a deep anger and frustration for previous generations who lived such wasteful lives. However, climate change is not exclusively having a negative effect. 

Some of these positive changes, for me personally, that have come with climate change include my new ability to accept my interdependence with other people, finding fulfilment in non-monetary pursuits, and coming to terms with my own mortality. These are personal realizations and growth that would have been much harder to achieve if I lived in a time where gasoline was cheap and jobs were readily available, like my grandparents did. The prosperity of that time would have kept them blind to how exploitative their way of living was and the deathly toll that it takes on people and the natural world around them.

A recent graduate of App State’s sustainability program, Sydney Blume, has been heavily involved in the program since its inception. I asked her to share her perspective of the challenges the group is currently facing and the future she hopes it will bring about. From her perspective the bigger task that the group is facing is to make key connections with other organizations also working toward the same goals from a slightly different perspective. By practicing and exemplifying "a decentralized, consensus-based, non-hierarchical organizing structure," the group is leading resistance to the oppressive, isolating and exploitative nature that dominates organizational structures by and large.

The main imperatives will be for App State to establish climate neutrality by 2025 and to organize a climate curriculum as a core focus of every course of study. Although there is a lot of momentum behind the climate cause, Blume believes now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

"I consider myself an optimist by default," she said. "I have high hopes for this group because inaction is not an option."

If you're interested in getting involved, check out the Climate Action Collaborative’s Facebook page or visit their website. On the website you can find the student pledge, key protest dates and further information.