Students rally to move UGA beyond coal

Posted: Saturday, December 1, 2012 5:15 pm
Written by: Taylor West

With a march from South Campus to downtown, students and Athens residents rallied to move the University beyond coal.

Members of the UGA Beyond Coal campaign paired up with the Georgia Climate Change Coalition to rally in support of clean energy and the replacement of the on-campus coal boiler on Saturday.

The march began at 1 p.m. on South Campus across from the coal plant and progressed toward the stadium, ending downtown.

Allie Brown, a senior anthropology major from Atlanta, has been involved with UGA Beyond Coal for about a year.  She said the Rally for Climate Action is the result of a four-year campaign to get rid of the coal boiler on campus.

“We still have a coal plant and we mainly run on a fossil fuel economy around our campus,” she said.  “We are really asking our administration to be leaders in clean energy. “

Brown said so far the campaign has gotten around 5,000 student petitions, 150 faculty endorsements and 200 community endorsements.

“The administration has kind of said ‘yeah we will get rid of it’ but they don’t have a set date and that is something we really want to see,” Brown said.

Brown said University President Michael Adams agreed to meet with members of the campaign, but the meeting has yet to happen.  She is hoping after the rally the group will get their meeting and begin developing a plan.

“It’s not just about getting rid of the coal plant – it is what are we going to replace it with,” she said.  “We want to see clean renewable energy replacing it.”

The group is asking for a comprehensive feasibility study to be done by the University, which includes renewable energy as an option.  The University Student Government Association recently passed a resolution supporting the study.

A study has already been conducted, but it did not look into renewable energy as an option.

Cristina Duque, a senior sociology major from Roswell, has been involved with the campaign since it started.  She said the Sierra Student Coalition, the group running the UGA Beyond Coal campaign, wants the administration to take the impacts of coal seriously.

“Burning coal right on our campus is really a symbol of the dirty energy we are addicted to in this country,” she said. “The purpose of this rally is really to keep honing in on our message, get the attention of the administration through media, show them that here is a wide variety of support for this.”

Ashley Parin, a first year international business and finance major from Milton, said the cause has been important to her since high school.  She said she hopes the rally will raise awareness.

“The environment is in dire straights,” she said. “The administration, they might be ignoring us, but we do have support, and we will not stop until our goals are met.  We are fighting for something really important here.”

Giovanni Righi, a freshman ecology major from Lawrenceville, said he also hopes the rally will help inform more people about the group and its work as well as to raise excitement for the cause.

“[I hope] that more people will know about this, first of all, and second of all that the administration or someone with some sort of authority over this sees that there is considerable excitement in moving our campus beyond coal,” he said.

Melissa Link, managing editor at Ethics and the Environment, a journal from the philosophy department, said she attended the rally because of the human toll of dirty energy.

“The people who are going to be most affected by climate change are the least responsible,” she said. “A lot of native populations in third world countries and countries that don’t have the financial resources or infrastructure resources to deal with the results of climate change.”

She said she is not happy with the number of people in attendance at the rally.

“This is just such a small sampling.  There are so few people here.  There should be hundreds of people here,” she said. “This is the most important issue to affect our planet.”

Even though she said she is discouraged, she said she hopes the administration will care about the rally and start to make changes.

Duque, unlike Link, said she is happy with the gathering.

“It is a hard time to get people out with finals and everything so I’m super excited about the turnout,” she said.

She said she is also hopeful that the administration will see the rally as a sign of support from the community as a whole, but the administration has a tendency not to listen to students.

“I think there has definitely been a legacy of the student voice being ignored here on campus,” Duque said. “If they keep ignoring us we are just going to rally harder.”

Duque said the campaign deserves the attention of the administration, and University should be setting an example in clean energy.

“We want to make sure our University is the best it can be,” she said. “Things like burning coal is outdated and dirty and just not a symbol of what a flagship institution should be doing.”