Environmentalism heads in new directions
Not only is the environmental movement gaining momentum and members by the minute, but its very nature is also changing.
Environmental groups across the nation are tackling new issues stemming from a fresh wave in the movement focusing on social, political and economic issues – not just the physical environment.
“(Environmentalism) is monumental,” said Amy Harris, a senior environmental studies major and sustainability director for UCSU. “It’s like the civil rights movement.”
Harris and other environmentalists said they believe the main reason for the growth of the environmental movement is the fact that activists have made environmental issues such as climate change and energy efficiency applicable to the average person.
“Because everyday people have come to realize that climate change and environmental degradation actually does effect us and not just the clichéd forests and animals, there has been a surge in interest,” Evan Litvin, a senior fine arts major and co-chair of the UCSU Environmental Board, wrote in an e-mail to the Campus Press.
Student activists are taking an active part in this new wave of environmentalism.
This past semester, the Environmental Center held a series of roundtable discussions focusing on environmental justice issues. The discussions focused on issues previously unrelated to environmentalism such as economic inequality, pollution in low-income communities and social justice. While these issues may not seem to be related to the environment, Harris and her supporters said they believe that the environment is more than just nature.
“There’s been a broadening of the issues,” said Vincent Nappo, a senior environmental studies major and co-chair of the Environmental Board. “I think the focus on social issues is only going to get bigger.”
Other events on campus also reflect this new attitude toward environmentalism. On Nov. 12, authors Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus spoke about what they called the “death” of environmentalism and how the movement needs to change if it is to accomplish anything in the future.
“(What we propose) is a politics of strength, a story of overcoming adversity, and a story of human ingenuity,” Shellenberger said during the speech.
Their speech focused primarily on the need for new technological developments as well as economic and political reform. The two authors said they were well aware that their view of the environmental movement was in the minority, but said they believed they were on the right track.
“We don’t assume everyone who’s an environmentalist will go along with us,” Shellenberger said, following the speech.
CU’s administration has also caught on to the new trend in environmentalism.
All future buildings on campus will meet the standards of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design system’s silver level or better, according to an article previously published by the Campus Press.
The LEED system, published by the U.S. Green Building Council, assesses the environmental impact buildings have on their environment and rates them according to a point system. The Wolf Law building, the ATLAS center, and the UMC all currently meet the requirements for a LEED silver rating.
Environmental leaders on campus are working hard to make sure their voices are heard.
As part of the Focus the Nation Campaign on Jan. 31, environmentalists said they hope everyone on campus will take part in a nationwide discussion on climate change. They are asking all the faculty on campus to find a way to relate their subject to climate change. Other events are being planned for that day to make sure everyone knows about the issues.
“Our goal is to make it so you won’t be able to walk around without being confronted by climate change in some way,” Harris said.
Contact Campus Press Staff Writer Rob Ryan at email@example.com.
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