After stops at twelve universities over the course of eighteen days in a journey totaling over one thousand miles I have reached an important conclusion: students in the Pacific Northwest are taking campus climate organizing to new heights. Here is what a small fraction of these schools are doing:
Did you know the students at Western Washington University are trying to protect their community from a massive coal export facility being proposed just a few miles off campus? Their first kick off meeting garnered the participation of more than 100 students inspired by some seriously herculean outreach efforts lead by a small number of young people who don’t want to breath the harmful dust from the coal trains; who don’t want their bay to suffer from black tides as a result of the same contamination entering the waterways of Bellingham; who don’t want their city to be the lifeline between the US and Asia for one of the dirtiest industries in the world. Western student, Chelsea Thaw, commented, “The energy at the meeting was palpable. This issue has been a galvanizing force for student activists and an opportunity to learn from elders in the community who have grown up the town are fighting to keep it the way they remember it.”
Have you heard about the creative way Whitman students are showing solidarity with the global movement to stop the development of the Keystone XL pipeline? At a school of only 1500 students, they are organizing more than 50 volunteers to visually represent how all students, no matter their origin, are affected by fossil fuel consumption by creating a human map of the US. This is the launch event for a bold beyond fossil fuels campaign that is already getting significant attention.
Moving south, my visit to Portland left me thinking about food in an entirely new way. I am an urban gardener and frequenter of many a farmers market, so you might be surprised that I had an incredible time planning a Fried Food Fest with students at the University of Portland. Members of the Biodiesel club at UP are turning grease to gas that will power many campus appliances. Co-founder, Dan Browne, says, “It has been fascinating hearing everyone’s different interests in biodiesel from business to engineering this year. There are so many different facets to biodiesel that anyone can get involved; you get out what you put in.”
Eugene, OR was the southernmost point of my epic journey and it did not disappoint. The students of the University of Oregon will be hosting Power Shift West the weekend of November 4-6 and they are working tirelessly to make this the most inspiring event of the season. During my stay I witnessed late evening phone bank sessions, logistical meetings, and some serious on-campus recruitment from the members of the Climate Justice League and OSPIRG. I can’t wait to return in just a few short weeks to witness this empowering event. If you want to see the energy and amazing work of students of the Northwest in person join us for Power Shift West November 4-6 at the University of Oregon.