Guest post by Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign
Nationwide young people are working to move their college campuses and communities beyond coal to clean energy solutions – and they are winning. In the past few weeks we’ve seen three colleges decide to move beyond coal on their campuses, showing yet again that students are helping to lead the fight for clean energy. Just this week a local University of Minnesota Campus Beyond Coal leader, Sri Simmons, was awarded the 2011 Udall Scholarship in recognition for her commitment to the environment.This week we also saw Miami University of Ohio announce it would immediately begin reducing the amount of coal burned on campus and eventually eliminate it altogether. Miami students had worked for months to pressure the university to improve local health by abandoning coal, and the Miami Beyond Coal Group activated more 600 volunteers to advocate against coal this semester alone. And last week came another hit from Ohio, when Ohio University (OU) announced it would move beyond coal by 2016. Over the course of the campaign against coal at OU, well over 2,000 students signed a petition urging the college to move beyond coal – which is more than 10% of the entire student body. The week before that, Western Illinois University announced it would decommission its coal plant and rely on its gas-fired plant.
These campuses moving beyond coal underline a strong trend of schools across the country moving to reduce dangerous pollution and mitigate financial uncertainty by ruling out the future use of coal as an energy source. And in the process they are taking the lead with new clean energy sources such as geothermal at Missouri University of Science and Technology, lake source cooling at Cornell and major efficiency efforts at UNC.The Sierra Student Coalition has been instrumental in moving campuses across the nation off coal. Miami University joins the ranks of Cornell University, Penn State University, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio University, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Clemson University, Oberlin College, University of Louisville, Western Kentucky University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Missouri University of Science & Technology, SUNY-Binghamton, and University of Wisconsin-Madison. The students who have fought to move these campuses beyond coal are many of the same who will be gathering next week to participate in Power Shift, where thousands of young leaders will converge on Washington, DC, to stand together to help push the nation to move beyond dirty energy sources that are harming the health of people and the planet. Today’s the last day to register for Power Shift, too. I’m inspired to know that these amazing young people are our country’s future. We’re in good hands.