Nick Proctor ’23
Four. That’s the number of people who attended the interest meeting for Davidson’s chapter of Sunrise Movement, an organization committed to fighting climate change. On a campus with nearly 2,000 people, I refuse to believe only four of us are committed to combating this serious threat to our existence.
As the students of an influential school, we must do better to bring environmental justice to the forefront of conversations on campus. Environmental justice extends beyond simply combating climate change; the practice seeks to acknowledge that climate change disproportionately affects poor people and people of color in America.
We must act now, though, because we’re running out of time. The effects of climate change are long lasting and difficult to stop.
We can look at the Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman as an example of a company that is doing harm to our Earth. Built by Duke Energy, who provides most of our electrical needs on campus, Marshall Steam Station has burned coal for 55 years in an effort to provide energy to nearby Catawba County.
However, the coal ash from the operations at Marshall has infected the groundwater in the area and poses a threat to water in Catawba. In response, the North Carolina Department of Energy has ordered Duke Energy to close the station and all other coal-burning facilities in the state.
Duke’s proposed response?
A 15-year period to close the plant, followed by three decades of maintenance to completely shut down operations. Generations of North Carolinians, largely poor people and people of color according to Mercy Corps, have felt the impacts of this pollution, and Duke Energy is in no rush to make a change.
But at a school where, according to the New York Times, the median family income is four times as large as that of the state of North Carolina, we have the power to push organizations like Duke Energy to make change.
Many of our students have money, influence, and privilege; the question is if we are going to use it to help those who don’t.
As a campus, we have to take concrete steps now to push back against climate change and look at what we are (and aren’t) doing to fight it.
For example, are we sustainable in our dining habits? A meal from Davis Café can include two paper containers, a plastic bag, and a plastic bottle; this is neither the most efficient nor most sustainable practice.
The prospect of Davidson going plastic-free is huge, but is it enough?
Our individual actions to combat climate change are important and valid, but according to Fast Company writer Morten Fibieger Byskov,it’s the actions of corporations that pose the greatest threat to our existence.
As long as Duke Energy has the luxury to drag its feet—and organizations like Davidson continue to give them financial support—our climate struggles are only going to continue.
As students, we have the ability to foster environmental justice on our campus. By learning about environmental justice, we can ensure that the people who are most burdened by climate change are not fighting alone.
These opportunities for education are abundant.
We have an Environmental Studies department that brings speakers to campus and offers a variety of classes on environmental issues. These professors are making the effort to educate us; we have to acknowledge that effort.
On this campus in particular, we have a unique opportunity to promote education about climate issues.
The Cultivate Justice Conference coming here on March 27th and 28th is a chance for all of us to engage with environmental justice on a direct level. For a $5 admission fee, students will interact with leaders on environmental theory and confront the threats that climate change poses.
Through this conference, students will have the chance to be on the frontline in the fight against climate change and to promote environmental justice across our country.
Outside of campus, our actions need to extend to the ballot box. As voters, we must hold our elected officials accountable to addressing climate change.
We need to call our members of Congress and demand that they support the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal constitutes a concerted effort to bring environmental justice to our communities.
This effort will have a profound impact on those who are directly affected by our climate crisis; it’s easy to make jokes about our beaches sinking underwater when your only concern is your family’s beach house.
But for the people who live in these coastal areas and the many more who depend on access to oceans for financial security, climate change poses a threat to their ways of life and their very livelihoods.
Voting for candidates that support systemic change to our climate policy is imperative.
Not to be overdramatic, but our world is literally falling apart. California is on fire, Antarctica is under water, and the world just experienced the warmest January in recorded history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
We are obligated to use the privilege we have as students at this college to make change.
If you are a student with money, with influence, or with power, stand up. We must hold decision-makers accountable and pressure those in control. It’s obvious that we care on a superficial level, but at some point, our actions have to go beyond Instagram.
Nick Proctor ’23 is undeclared from Calhoun, Georgia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.