Students for Sustainability to lead coalition of organizations in rally, petition

Kenny Phipps and Myrka Moreno

A coalition of student organizations led by Students for Sustainability will hold a rally on March 14 in Ragsdale Plaza. At the rally, the student organizations, collectively called the Coalition for Climate Justice, will present the university administration and Board of Trustees with a petition that calls for St. Edward’s to commit to drastically reduce its use of fossil fuels.

The petition, which is still undergoing revisions, calls for St. Edward’s to conform to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s suggested targets on reducing carbon emissions. These targets seek to limit what is referred to as catastrophic climate change, or the warming of the Earth by more than two degrees celsius over pre-industrial levels.

This shift would place St. Edward’s ahead of the United States as a whole, as the Trump administration has been systematically weakening climate protection regulations put in place under former President Obama.

The petition currently calls for the university to reduce its use of fossil fuels by 45 percent by 2030 and to source 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

“The end goal would be for the administration to… commit to a very formalized and institutionalized goal for the reduction of greenhouse gasses, and for the this first rally the short term goal is to kickstart this movement,”co-president of Students for Sustainability Miguel Escoto said.

In addition to these goals, the university would also be charged with presenting a yearly report to students and faculty that would provide updates on the university’s progress towards those benchmark percentages. This annual report is key to ensuring the petition’s goals get achieved, according to the rally’s organizers.

“It’s important for the next generation of students so they can continue the conversation, so they can always have statistical figures that allow their decision making and that increases transparency within the administration and its students,” Escoto said.

The Coalition for Climate Justice draws its name from the relationship of catastrophic climate change to social issues. The IPCC report lists increases in food insecurity, certain diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, flooding, droughts and other issues as results of catastrophic climate change.

“One of the positive things about this university is that it instills in us that sense of justice and that urgency to fix injustices in this world, and the reason we used the word “justice” was to call back to that and to emphasize the human aspect of this,” Escoto said.

Over 20 student organizations, honor societies, and sports teams have formally signed on to be a part of the coalition, according to a list shared with Hilltop Views provided by Students for Sustainability. Monarchs on the Hilltop and the Student Government Association have yet to confirm their involvement at the time of this writing.

The large number of organizations is critical to the petition’s success, according to Escoto.

“We wanted to get everyone involved to show the administration that this issue is not something that just SFS cares about, it’s something that our generation really cares about,” Escoto said.

Students for Sustainability co-president Mary Knothe echoed this sentiment.

“[We are] showing it’s not just SFS, it’s all of us together,” Knothe said.

The goals stated in the petition would require institutional commitment and investment. Escoto and Knothe are optimistic that the university will be responsive to the petition’s goals.

“From the different people I’ve spoken to in the administration, they’ve been very positive and overall supportive of this movement, so I hope to see they are impressed on how organized and united we are as students,” Escoto said.