Students Take Action Nationwide to Move Campuses Beyond Coal
Students at Virginia Tech, Purdue University, Bates College in Maine and the University of Illinois kicked off a nationwide month of creative actions focused on moving America’s campuses beyond coal. The coordinated effort 100% Clean: 100 Actions for Clean Energy aims to unite local efforts into a nationwide movement to retire university coal plants, cut university ties with the coal industry and move the nation’s institutions of higher education to clean energy solutions.
“We have students on our campus who are getting sick from breathing coal dust coming from the campus coal plant across the street from their dorm. This is unacceptable. We want Virginia Tech and universities nationwide to be leading the way towards an innovative, healthy and clean energy future, not stuck in the past relying on dirty coal,” said Kara Dodson, a senior at Virginia Tech and coordinator of the Campuses Beyond Coal campaign on campus.
Since the Sierra Club launched the national Campuses Beyond Coal campaign, 16 schools have already committed to retiring their coal-fired plants on campus. Pollution from these plants is responsible for dangerous pollution including mercury, carbon dioxide, arsenic and lead, and can lead to more severe asthma attacks, bronchial infections and cancer.
More than 150 students from across Virginia rallied at Virginia Tech wearing face masks and green hard hats at the Virginia Power Shift summit on Sunday. They called on the university administration to live up to their motto—Invent the Future—by retiring the campus coal plant that poses a health hazard to students.
Speakers included a student who lived in Thomas Hall, a dorm next door to the Virginia Tech coal plant, showing off a black soot covered towel she used to wipe down her window sill. Other students keep air filters in their windows to keep the coal dust out of their homes, but still struggle with the light and noise from the plant on a daily basis that can make it difficult to sleep or study.
“Every year a new group of students are subject to the pollution from this plant and others like it on campuses across the country. It’s time for our universities to step up and lead the way to moving our nation beyond coal and dirty energy to real clean energy solutions,” said Madeline Rigatti, a sophomore at Virginia Tech and former Thomas Hall resident. “Students like me have had to live with being sick because we had the bad luck of living near this plant and it’s simply wrong.”
“Students are leading the way pushing their universities to invest in innovative clean energy solutions. This month of action demonstrates the growing momentum on college campuses to move our nation off dirty, 19th century fuels that are making people sick. Coal, and the soot, smog and other pollution that comes from it impacts Americans across the country. We think that students can help reinvent the American economy by pressuring our administrations to invest in clean, safe and reliable energy on campuses from California to Connecticut,” said Kim Teplitzky, Campuses Beyond Coal campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club.
Over the next four weeks students will be hosting flash mobs, 60’s dance parties, camp outs, rallies, art builds, call-in days and more to call attention to the public health risk of depending on dirty energy in their campuses and communities. At the end of the month student leaders will bring the stories and photos from these events to Washington, D.C. to deliver to the Obama administration demanding further action to protect public health.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
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The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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