Letter: SEED critiques ignore NU’s ‘green’ activism

Critics of the environmental movement on campus, and of Green Cup in particular, although crippled by anemic assessments of the campus’s environmental community, have made a few good points. Green Cup is small in scale. It makes miniscule changes at great cost to its organizers and competitors. It is not campus-wide, and its scope is not nearly broad enough to make large changes quickly.

We often hear eco-skeptics rankle environmental communities for their karmic pride and granola-crunching prejudice. Some fail to notice that such thoughtless glossing of the environmental movement is the boring relic of 1970’s culture wars – if you are going to offer a critique, do not offer the same tired rhetoric. It’s both an insult to the intelligence of hard working and passionate individuals, and a demonstration of one’s ignorance of the facts of modern environmental thought . Guess what? Environmentalists are no longer on the fringe.

Some criticize Green Cup because it does too little. Many acknowledge that campus green activities are mainstream, yet argue that those activities are insufficient. Very few still have the audacity to challenge the science of climate change or suggest that there are no problems to be solved. Still, suggestions for a number of things that Northwestern should be doing better abound. Like a campus-wide Green movement! Gee, that would be fantastic. Oh, if only there was a group of dedicated and intelligent students who were willing to start such a movement.

The campus wide green movement does, in fact, exist, and it is much larger than one would expect. There’s quite a lot going on that’s greener than Green Cup. Environmental academics are expanding with the Environmental Policy and Culture Program, and students on the Student Advisory Board will make an environmental recommendation to trustees in the Spring. Facilities management is in the process of conducting an industrial grade energy audit of all buildings on campus, largely because of encouragement from the Sustainability Working Group which works to foster coordination between at least four student groups, academic departments, and administrators. There are more than 30 new recycling bins outside on campus thanks to efforts of a few devoted students working with SEED. There are weekly service trips to five different environmental sites, and volunteerism is on the rise at NU. An environmentally-themed dorm was established on campus for the first time last year to bring together a group of concerned students. Oh, and President Bienen just endowed the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern with a million bucks.

Yes, we need a Green Campus Movement. We need people who are inspired and excited by the prospects that a new environmental movement can offer, not people who dwell in ancient rhetoric. Calling all innovators, visionaries, critics and intelligent life: Green Cup is not enough. We’re trying, but we need your help, your ideas, your hard work. To get involved, start with a look at Student for Ecological and Environmental Development’s website: http://groups.northwestern.edu/seed/, or send them or me an email at [email protected]

-JESSE SLEAMAKERWeinberg seniorCo-chair, NU Students for Ecological and Environmental Development