You still sometimes hear periodic laments from progressives over the apathy of today's students in the face of major political turmoil. The Nation's investigations, however, have turned up a new generation of student activists engaged with the issues of the day and creatively and courageously working against the forces of reaction the magazine regularly chronicles.
Sam Graham-Felsen's new Nation magazine piece detailing the accomplishments of the group Students for a New American Politics (SNAP) helps demonstrate that students are not currently lacking in either political commitment or savvy.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle recently helped make the same point. Citing the efforts of students to promote clean energy and efficiency as influential in his decision, Governor Doyle announced a massive five-year program to make four University of Wisconsin campuses completely energy independent.
The program – endorsed by the Wisconsin Student Public Interest Research Group -- comes in the wake of significant student action. Students across the University of Wisconsin system have been active for several years at both the campus and local level, promoting sustainable policies and educating students and the general public about clean energy solutions.
The program will ensure that 100 percent of each campus's energy supply comes from clean sources like wind and solar, as well as biomass, which has significant potential as a homegrown fuel in Wisconsin. Details of the energy independence program can be found by clicking here.
Meanwhile, in Maine Bowdoin College has been powered by renewable electricity since July, after a student-run campaign last spring succeeded in securing a commitment from President Barry Mills and Treasurer Catherine Longley for the purchase of one hundred percent "clean" renewable energy on its campus. The school is now buying 12 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power per year from Miller Hydro Group -- the owner of the only certified low impact hydroelectric facility in Maine.
At the College of the Atlantic (COA), as Ben Adler reports for Campus Progress, the environmental movement received a jolt that could reverberate last Friday when new COA president David Hales announced a commitment to making the school a "Net-zero" emitter of greenhouse gases. "If institutions across the country begin to follow suit," Adler writes, "the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions--and the concomitant reduction in global warming--could be significant."
In Colorado students are also in the forefront of fighting for their futures, starting with the state's House Bill 1147, which would establish energy efficiency programs for Colorado consumers. Republican governor Bill Owens has already vetoed the bill once, but he's in an increasingly tight race to keep office this November, so there's still hope that he'll sign the popular bill if it gets re-submitted by the Colorado Legislature. As the student-run CoPirg's useful fact-sheet notes, the bill would enable utilities to give consumers rebates on new efficiency products, and require the utility companies to reduce energy consumption twenty-five percent by 2011. (If you're a Colorado citizen, click here to ask the governor to support the bill.)
If you're a student and want to help move your campus toward energy independence, check out the Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) website. The CCC--which I wrote about last August--isa project of more than thirty environmental and social justice groups in the US which runs clean energy drives on campuses nationwide as well as taking part in municipal and state-level advocacy and public education campaigns. If you're not a student, don't dis the kids. Celebrate and support what they're doing.