The World War II battle of Iwo Jima ended with an epic photograph of US forces raising the American flag atop Mount Suribachi, known as “Raising the Flag.” This photograph represented the end of a battle and signified the struggle and triumph of that battle with Japan. Over the years, this image has been recreated again and again. Years later, the Energy Action Coalition replaced the American flag with a wind turbine to symbolize the peaceful struggle and the much-needed triumph we can achieve with a clean, renewable energy future. This is ONLY energy future we can accept if we want to stop destroying our people, planet, and climate for dirty energy.
This week in the snow-covered, frigid land of East Lansing, Michigan State University students brought a call to action, recreating this iconic image all across campus. Why? Because in a far off corner of south campus at Michigan State lurks the LARGEST campus coal-fired steam plant in the nation, burning 250,000 tons of dirty, dangerous coal every year. A dirty coal plant that was fined last year for violating emissions standards set by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment - awesome, right?
Not exactly. That's why students sprung to action!
MSU Greenpeace joined forces with MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Eco, calling for an end to all dirty energy on campus and to usher in a clean, renewable energy future with sources like wind and solar power. “Raising the Turbine” has taken campus by storm! This week of action has brought students and campus community members out to participate in raising the turbine, calling on Michigan State’s President Lou Anna K. Simon and Board of Trustees to heed the call of students and switch to 100 percent renewable energy.
"MSU has the opportunity to commit to such a transition and truly lead the green movement - the clean energy revolution," said MSU Greenpeace President Tabitha Skervin, speaking while the turbine was erected at Brody Square on Tuesday. "There is no question that this movement will happen, and MSU has the unique opportunity to be at the forefront of this movement!"
While raising the turbine, students have also raised a question to the Michigan State administration. Will MSU transition from dirty energy to renewable energy? Will President Simon and the Board of Trustees agree that 31 deaths per year in the Lansing area due to coal are unacceptable? That over 500,000 asthma attacks, up to 36,000 deaths each year, 12,000 heart attacks each year, and nearly half a trillion dollars per year in hidden costs due to coal is downright immoral. Will Michigan State answer the students' calls for change and demonstrate the leadership needed to spark an energy revolution?
While Tabitha, MSU Greenpeace, and other environmental groups call for Michigan State to lead the nation in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, Power Shift fever has also swept campus by storm.
Wednesday night, MSU Eco, MSU Beyond Coal, and MSU Greenpeace hosted Michigan State’s first of many Power Shift 2011 registration kickoff parties! Dozens of students registered, and are committing to join the movement for a clean, renewable energy future.
Michigan State is Raising the Turbine (RSVP here) for the only future we can afford. The only future with no more deaths or destruction from dirty coal, or any dirty energy source.
How will you Raise the Turbine at your school?
Join Tabitha, MSU Greenpeace, and 10,000 others this April at Power Shift 2011. Register RIGHT NOW before the Sunday, February 27th deadline.
WE are the clean energy future. WE have no planet B.
MSU Greenpeace started a year and a half ago with just one student, Max Johnson. Max had a vision for bringing Greenpeace to campus to fight the University’s dirty, dangerous on-campus coal plant – which consumes 250,000 tons of coal PER YEAR! Today, MSU Greenpeace is a movement on campus. Organizing protests at Board of Trustees meetings, leading marches, mobilizing the students and community, and now that their call for 100 percent renewable energy on campus is being heard!
Just weeks ago, MSU Greenpeace and MSU Beyond Coal teamed up to support a student government resolution calling on the University to switch to renewable energy! The resolution passed unanimously, mainly due to the overwhelming support from students, who, like you and me know that dirty fossil fuels are poisoning our air, water, cooking our planet, and incredibly expensive – now confirmed by a Harvard study. As students continue to raise their voices, the administration is starting to listen.
Yesterday, MSU Greenpeace members met with Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon to discuss their concerns about the campus coal plant. Four student leaders in the group met with President Simon: Tabitha Skervin, Adam Liter, Justine Becker, and Stephen Riccardi.
During their meeting MSU Greenpeace thanked President Simon for her recent steps toward a renewable energy future. Justine asked President Simon what her views were on renewable energy. President Simon agreed that coal and natural gas are NOT the solution Michigan State needs, but she explained that wind and solar are not an option because the campus is so large. She is open to renewable energy as more opportunities arise.
While that’s fantastic news, students are wondering why President Simon doesn’t simply create energy solutions by investing heavily in wind and solar energy research at Michigan State. The University is looking into an anaerobic digestion for powering its farms; however, it needs to think bigger. Create a space race mentality to secure millions in funding from statewide grants, renewable energy firms, and alumni donations. Not only will this create the solutions needed for campus, it will put Michigan State on the map internationally for its pioneering efforts and provide students with the experience and knowledge needed to compete in the burgeoning renewable energy job market.
The students were surprised to learn that President Simon is considering nuclear as an energy solution for Michigan State. Nuclear is a dangerous form of energy that has no place on a college campus.
While students were pleased to have the meeting, they want President Simon to lead the charge developing solutions to shut down the campus coal plant and replace it with 100 percent renewable energy. Not in 20 years, but today. Here’s Justine she said:
I love attending Michigan State, but with the university relying on the burning of coal as it's energy source, I can't help but feel like I am negatively contributing to the environment just by taking classes here. If MSU transitioned to 100% renewable energy, the students wouldn't have to be guilty because of the University's dirty habits and would instead get to be a part of the clean energy revolution.
The administration is walking in the right direction, but now it needs to sprint toward a renewable energy future.
Next week, MSU Greenpeace is teaming up with MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Eco to host a week of action: Raising the Turbine! They will reenact the famous scene of Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima, but instead of an American flag they're raising a large wind turbine. RSVP here to help Raise the Turbine. This week of action is gearing up for two important events next week:
- A massive Power Shift 2011 registration party Wednesday, Febraury 23rd at 8pm in 305 Bessey Hall on MSU's campus. RSVP here.
- Michigan State’s first ever Energy Steering Committee meeting on Friday, February 25th.
Next week, students will continue to rally support for 100 percent renewable energy, mobilizing students to attend Power Shift 2011 and set the stage for the Energy Steering Committee to move the University away from dirty energy and toward the clean, renewable energy future students and our planet deserve. Thanks for starting this movement Max. Onward and upward we go!
Ren Ostry is a Greenpeace Semester alum from the fall 2010 class and a current campus coordinator at Ithaca College with the Greenpeace Student Network. Read her story below!
The second largest palm oil company in the world has finally heeded to a global Greenpeace campaign that included Greenpeace youth, and I’m happy to announce that the palm oil branch of Sinar Mas, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), has agreed to stop deforestation in the Indonesian rainforest!
This win is not only huge for Indonesia, for our planet, and for our future, but for the youth activists at Greenpeace as well. The forest campaigns that targeted Burger King, Nestle, and Unilever were won with the help of dedicated Greenpeace youth activists who organized and demanded that these companies stop supporting rainforest destruction.
Last fall, I had the incredible opportunity to join this campaign with my Greenpeace Semester class. We went to Philadelphia to carry out a week of actions outside various Pizza Huts and insist that they join the ranks of Burger King and the others by cutting their contract with GAR. We collected hundreds of postcards, drove calls in to Pizza Hut Headquarters, made “Pizza Cut” props and uniforms, and dressed as orangutans that were protesting to save their brothers and sisters back in Indonesia.
We didn’t see Pizza Hut fold that week, but so many managers passed our
message along that the company made plans to fly a regional manager in
to find out what was going on! I was so pumped by our week of actions
that I couldn’t stop there. When I got home after the Greenpeace
Semester, I hosted a pizza party. A local pizza parlor donated a few
pies, and I took the opportunity to share with my friends and family
what was going on in Indonesia.
We pledged to begin eating more local and sustainable foods that are
healthier for us and for our planet, and we made phone calls to
companies that hold contracts with GAR.
I am now campus coordinator at Ithaca College for the Greenpeace Student Network. I’m grateful that I have this opportunity to continue to motivate and aggregate youth activists. I’ve seen directly through this campaign that if you take the time to educate and embrace a cause, others will follow suit. Our generation is one of reclamation, and we will not let the corruption, greed, and naiveté in this world continue. From saving the rainforests of Indonesia to demanding a coal-free Facebook, I can promise you that there are young people fighting for a greener and more peaceful future every day.
As you might have noticed in the news over the last week, a few thousand people descended Rancho Mirage, CA this past Sunday to let billionaires Charles and David Koch know that their secret strategy meeting of wealthy, right-wing elites would not go unnoticed or unopposed. As if flying theGreenpeace airship over the Ranchos Las Palmas resort the previous Friday wasn't enough, a coalition of over 30groups including labor, environmentalists, the faith community, and progressives organized a rally to “Uncloak the Kochs” to ensure that in 2011,the Kochs and their friends will be propelled to a new level of shame andinfamy in the public eye for their efforts to funnel billions into manipulating our elections and unraveling environmental, consumer and public health protections for the vast majority of Americans.
The day kicked off with a panel organized by our friends at Common Cause called "Uncloaking the Kochs: The Billionaires Caucus and its Threat to our Democracy". The panel featured Robert Reich, former United States Labor Secretary; Van Jones, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Irvine Law Dean; Lee Fang, Center for American Progress investigative journalist and Koch Brothers expert; and DeAnn McEwen, Co-President of the California Nurses Association. The speakers addressed a standing room only crowd of 300 people, focusing on the impact that the Koch brothers and other special interest have on decision-makers and public policy.
Greenpeace volunteer leaders from Los Angeles Vanessa and Lauren came to Rancho Mirage for the rally
The panel was followed by a rally hosting close to 2,000 people who came from across California and the US to hear speakers representing all walks of life who have fallen victim to the Koch’s poisonous influence over theirlives. The crowd was addressed by a cancer survivor describing her trials with the complexities of the American healthcare system, a student challenging the Kochs to an open debate, and an investigative journalist who’s beenuncovering the depths of the Koch’s corruption.
At the rally’s close, activist Jim Hightower deputized the entire crowd as membersof the “People’s Center for Disease Control”, and attendees moved down thestreet towards the Rancho Las Palmas Resort to quarantine the area to preventthe spread of the Kochs’s dirty money and influence. The sight of a thousandpeople marching straight across Bob Hope Drive and boldly up to the frontentrance of the resort was an incredible display of solidarity amongst thediverse crowd. Agents of the People’s Center for Disease Control cheeredon several dozen activists in hazmat suits that crossed into the resort’sdriveway and across police lines to send their message directly to the Kochs(we know the brothers were on the roof watching the whole thing!). They werepeacefully detained while the crowd blocked the intersection and chanted“arrest the Kochs, not the people!”
We Americans have an incredible fight ahead of us to protect thefuture of our country from wealthy elites like the Kochs and their allies whowish to diminish the very democratic values on which our country wasfounded. While the access enjoyed by these powerful forces will continueto push back on the fundamental rights of everyday citizens, actions taken bythose on Sunday send a powerful message: people are more powerful than dirtymoney, and when we come together as a movement, we build something far strongerthan the Kochs’s empire. If we are vigilant and determined, we willcontinue to seek the truth and break through the lies and corruptionorchestrated by the Kochs.
Today, students with the environmental group Eco-Action teamed up with Greenpeace to call on President Obama and University officials to get real and invest in truly clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. Hundreds of students and Penn State community members braved the cold winds, freezing rain, and slippery sidewalks to visit Greenpeace’s solar vehicle, the Rolling Sunlight. They came out to enjoy solar-powered hot chocolate and coffee, and to learn about clean energy solutions like wind and solar. Penn State's Vice President of Student Affairs, Damon Sims, and Sustainability Director, Erik Foley, were among a few notable attendees joining the crowds today.
This ray of sunlight shines on the eve of President Obama’s visit to Penn State to tour campus research facilities and speak about innovation, clean energy, and “winning the future” by investing in renewable energy. His visit follows a State of the Union address that plugged real renewable energy solutions like wind and solar, and false solutions like carbon capture and sequestration, natural gas, and nuclear.
Penn State is also missing the mark when it comes to renewable energy. Just weeks ago, the University made a major decision to switch its on-campus steam plant from coal to natural gas, missing a huge opportunity to transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Students and community members are frustrated, and some outraged, by the University’s decision. Many are asking questions about Penn State’s connections to the natural gas industry, because several key decision makers and researchers on campus have either worked for or receive funding from natural gas companies. Penn State is intimately tied to the natural gas industry. In fact, the University just received its single largest donation from a Pennsylvania natural gas industry tycoon.
The Rolling Sunlight was a source of inspiration and hope for those concerned about Penn State and America's clean energy future.
Eco-Action officer and Greenpeace campus coordinator Braden Crooks took the stage to lead a rally where several inspirational speakers addressed the crowd. Braden read a statement from Cindy Kalbach, a community member in the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania who could not attend because of inclement weather. Cindy said that natural gas well drilling has "destroyed environment, infrastructure, health and quality of life" in her community. She has a chronic cough from breathing in dust from as many as 50 trucks passing by her house each hour. Her drinking water has methane levels that register at a "highly explosive level" so that she can literally light her water on fire. Cindy has supported Penn State in the past, and is disappointed that the University is not speaking out against the destructive method of harvesting shale gas, a process known as fracking. She has also called on the Obama administration to help her, but her cries for help are not being answered.
The crowd heard similar messages from Ben Ketchum, Outreach Coordinator for the anti-fracking group Gas Truth; Steve Hvozdovich with Clean Water Action; and Robert Gardner, Greenpeace's Climate and Energy Campaigner.
They all raised some serious questions for Penn State and President Obama, which are touting natural gas as a clean energy source. Following the rally, Braden expressed his hopes and expectations to get some answers when he attends President Obama's speech on campus tomorrow. He told me that "today Eco-Action and Greenpeace showed Penn State and President Obama what real renewable energy looks like, and it has nothing to do with natural gas.”
Let's hope that we see real leadership from both Penn State and President Obama. We need 100 percent renewable energy like wind and solar, not dirty energy that endangers our communities, human life, and our climate.
Tomorrow the excitement at Penn State continues! Several Eco-Action members will attend President Obama’s speech, while many students and community members will demonstrate outside calling on Penn State and President Obama to do thing right thing: invest in truly clean, renewable sources of energy. Will they answer the call of a generation in desperate need of real clean energy solutions?
Stay tuned to find out. Many more updates to come from the front lines at Penn State.
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