May 8, 2007

Speak softly and carry a green stick

This year, a noticeably high level of student activism exists on campus, from groups decrying the genocide in Darfur to others striving to kick Coke off campus. In terms of realized success, however, one student group stands above the rest.

The Green Campus Initiative (GCI) was formed in 1999 in anticipation of pending construction projects on campus, according to its website. The founding members aimed to encourage administrators to factor sustainability and green building habits into the construction plans. Since then, the group has blossomed into a multifaceted environmental organization that impacts many aspects of campus life.

GCIís repertoire includes spearheading recycling programs, investigating alternative energy sources, incorporating local and organic food in the dining halls, contributing to Earth Week programming, and introducing the energy reduction campaign Battle of the Bulbs. Most influential, however, is GCIís role in the creation of the Sustainability Council, a committee of students and administrators that seeks to evaluate the Universityís level of sustainability and make recommendations for improvement.

As GCI states on its website, ìwe consider ourselves to be quiet activists.î It is perhaps due to this restrained decibel level that GCI is able to garner both respect and tangible results as a student activist group. The Sustainability Council is one of the most impressive advances the group has made toward achieving its goals. Prior to the Councilís formation, no method for evaluating sustainability levels existed. Next fall, the Council will release its comprehensive report on the Universityís sustainability status, enabling appreciable suggestions for new projects that will make campus greener.

The sensible practices and philosophy of GCI contrast starkly with the aggressive tactics of groups like Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND) and the Coalition for Immediate Divestment. Rather than antagonize University officials, GCI members work closely with them, sharing ideas to achieve progress. In addition to thousands of dollars in outside grants, GCI has recently enlisted financial support from the New Initiatives Fund to augment its native plants garden. In contrast, STAND has ridiculed the $200,000 Darfur Action and Education Fund sponsored by the Board of Trustees, money it could use to help end genocide.

While it is true that environmental consciousness and human rights violations inspire differing levels of urgency, the ineffectiveness of sensationalist protesting remains clear. GCI members demonstrate the maturity and intellectuality that are crucial to the formulation of success through activist avenues.

While organizations utilizing flashier methods of activism may generate a lot of energy, itís the groups willing to collaborate with administrators toward the generation of new ideas and solutions that actually get things done. Weíre not in the í60s anymore, Toto, and contemporary activists should avoid tactics that have failed in the past and embrace those that are succeeding now.