UNC at Chapel Hill – Moving “Beyond Coal” Beyond Traditional Activism
Just a quick update on some things we have done at UNC to kick some coal ash this past week:
Hosting a Student Body President Forum on Sustainability – ‘Beyond Coal ditches the hippie garb and wears a tie’
We hosted an open forum for our Student Body President candidates on Monday, Feb. 13. All three of the SBP candidates made an appearance to give us their pitch and field questions from leaders of different environmental organizations on campus. The questions were pointed, direct, and mostly from “Beyond Coal” members. Students asked questions about local transit initiatives, the renewal of UNC’s student green fee, and support for UNC’s new $500,000 Green Revolving Fund. But the majority of the discussion centered on UNC’s endowment, a testament to the fact that the Sierra Student Coalition has made UNC’s investment practices the #1 environmental issue on campus. Afterwards we released an endorsement to a reporter from the campus newspaper, outlining which candidate we felt most embodied our campaign’s ideals and supported our goals. Here’s an excerpt from The Daily Tar Heel article:
“The Sierra Student Coalition endorsed [Will] Leimenstoll after its forum Monday night.
Katie Orndahl, media coordinator for the group, said Leimenstoll had a strong environmental background and that a lot of his values align with the group’s campaign.
Orndahl added that the group almost chose [Tim] Longest because of his emphasis on transparency within the University, such as with the endowment.”
We succeeded in getting all three SBP hopefuls to say publicly that they question the University’s investment policy and, if elected, will take steps to increase the transparency and social, ethical and environmental responsibility of our investments. As the campaign’s coalitions coordinator Stewart Boss pointed out this week in a Letter to the Editor in the campus newspaper, SBPs have often chosen to highlight the endowment in their platforms without following through during their term.
UNC has an institutional mission “of leading change to improve society and to help solve the world’s greatest problems.” UNC’s investments cannot continue to be the exception to that rule, and — regardless of Tuesday’s winner — future student body presidents should commit to addressing these endowment issues.
Now that we have all the candidates on record supporting efforts to seriously address these issues, we can hold them accountable in the year ahead. The candidate that we endorsed, Will Leimenstoll, took the lead in the race to become UNC’s next Student Body President on Tuesday night with 47% of the vote – 20% more than either of the other candidates. He now moves on to the runoff election as the clear frontrunner.
“Beyond Coal” Open-Mic Poetry Night Event with UNC Wordsmiths – Beyond Coal gets in touch with its sensitive side
The Sierra Student Coalition partnered with one of the best poetry groups on campus, UNC Wordsmiths, to co-host an Open-Mic Poetry Night at the Bull’s Head Bookshop on Wednesday, Feb. 15. There was free coffee from the Daily Grind, plus lots of snapping, coal-dissing, and poetry-spitting. We hung our banner behind the poets to help get our message out, and we gave away some bright yellow Beyond Coal T-shirts and SSC buttons to any poet that volunteered to perform. I served as the MC for the evening, and I was able to tell some jokes, put out some hard facts about dirty coal, and perform some coal-themed haikus for the crowd in between acts. For your reading pleasure, here’s a sampling:
Coal, a dirty fuel
Without it, we could prosper
But, there’s cash involved
Coal and Poetry
Two words that don’t really rhyme
Good, it’s a Haiku
Once a cold fire gem
Now fired hot to make steam
Dirty, two-faced coal
It was a wildly successful event that gave our coal divestment campaign the opportunity to reach a portion of the student body that we don’t get to interact with often enough. Moving UNC beyond coal is not just about protests and rallies and organizing, it’s also about creativity and culture and creating a broader social movement to shift us away from dirty energy.
If only a haiku could save the world…
Next week, we’ve got an event planned with Appalachian Voices to talk about their new “Red, White & Water” campaign to highlight recent attacks on the federal Clean Water Act and the different ways that mining, burning, and disposing of dirty coal threatens our water supply. North Carolina is home to 12 high hazard coal ash ponds (more than any other state), and North Carolina regulators announced last month that the groundwater at all 14 of our state’s coal-fired power plants run by Duke Energy and Progress Energy contains higher than normal levels of heavy metals.
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