Fighting on a Larger, Local Scale

Throughout the Global Week for Future and the United Nations Climate Summit, which took place from Sept. 20 to Sept. 27, the world witnessed a global phenomenon of students, scientists, world leaders and activists working together to bring attention to the issue of climate change and its growing impacts around the world. Yet, as the strikes conclude and we return to our normal routines, we risk placing the pressing issue of climate change on the back burner of our minds once more. Climate change is always present, whether through the unseasonably hot weather or in the natural disasters that devastate communities at home and abroad, and we cannot risk disengaging from the critical conversations around this issue. The question remains then: how do we, as Amherst students, continue the conversation and activism on climate change?

The answer lies in working locally, both on campus and at home, to draw awareness and enact change. Last year, the college took a bold step by vowing to achieve climate neutrality by 2030 through the modernization of its energy systems and a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Students, faculty and staff alike applauded the unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees in joining other institutions of higher education in the fight against climate change.

But the campus-wide fight against climate change should not and does not end at a mere vote. It does not end after a press release by the administration. Students and other members of the Amherst community must remain involved in this monumental undertaking both within and outside of the administration. It is our job to hold the administration and the board accountable for its progress on the position, whether through demanding informative and timely progress updates, joining the Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee or participating in further activism and advocacy.

The Climate Action Plan Advisory Committee, which was proposed in the Climate Action Plan, intends to gather a set of faculty, staff and students to evaluate key issues in the plan. We have seen how committees consisting of all members of the Amherst community have led to new initiatives combating food waste or new educational policies that give students flexibility for pursuing the open curriculum. While the intention behind this committee is commendable, its execution so far appears lacking. Given climate change’s impending timeline, it is imperative that the college form this committee as quickly as possible to provide input on the initial implementation of the Climate Action Plan. But we have yet to receive a community-wide announcement discussing the committee or announcing open positions. What use does a committee have without its members, especially those from the student body?

Furthermore, it is important that Amherst students demand more transparency in the implementation of the Climate Action Plan. Amherst students were integral to the proposal, creation and advocacy of the plan from its very beginning. Students were vital to bringing much-needed attention to climate change through forums discussing its impacts, countless meetings with administrative officials and, of course, the recent climate strikes. Without transparency, there is no accountability. With the Climate Action Plan, we stand at a critical crossroads. By demanding transparency and accountability now, whether through frequent email updates or announcements by the administration, we ensure the success of the Climate Action Plan through 2030.

We as students must also urge the college to work on its stance on climate change beyond the Climate Action Plan. To say that the Climate Action Plan is enough is wrong. As a leader among liberal arts colleges and an institution with national influence, the college must set an example for its peer institutions, alumni and community by going above and beyond. Completely divesting our large endowment away from the fossil fuel industry is one major way Amherst can fulfill and affirm its commitment to solving climate change. The fossil fuel industry has repeatedly contributed to the exacerbation of climate change, which has led to climate disasters and crises around the world. The fossil fuel industry, furthermore, continues to lobby Congress and other federal agencies to decrease regulations on pollution, conservation and emissions that affect the health and safety of all Americans. As students — and as people living in the very fabric of a climate crisis accelerated by fossil fuels — it is our job to bring attention to this critical issue. In an era where our climate is already irreparably damaged, passive support for the movement and implicit financial support for fossil fuel industries is more than not enough — it’s wrong.

Yet, working locally is not isolated to the boundaries of our campus. As we witnessed with the campus-wide climate strikes, it is essential to collaborate with our community. While inviting Massachusetts State Rep. Mindy Domb to our campus to discuss local and statewide efforts was a fantastic first step, the Amherst community should look toward efforts that aim to integrate our campus-wide Climate Action Plan into greater community initiatives. This could involve working with our Five College partners and encouraging them to pursue climate action plans of their own or working with the Town of Amherst to prompt regional green initiatives. No matter the idea, any effort to bridge our campus with the larger Amherst community will help continue the conversation about climate change on a larger scale.

Unsigned editorials represent the Editorial Board (assenting: 14; dissenting: 0; abstaining: 0)