By Matt McGregor
Staff Writer 

Students Seeking 'Green' Commitment – Brevard NC


Last updated 11/21/2016 at 5:19pm

Brevard College students and staff say they are "100 percent committed" to having the institution only use renewable energy by 2030. (Times photos by Matt McGregor)

Brevard College's environmental science organization, BC Greens, has partnered with a national movement called "The Climate Reality Project" with the goal of having the college convert from using fossil fuels to relying only on renewable energy by 2030.

Students and professors gathered on the campus this past Thursday to commemorate "The Week of Action for Renewable Energy," which was initiated by "The Climate Reality Project."

Samantha Kiley, a regional organizer with "The Climate Reality Project," said she reached out to BC Greens as part of a campaign to get campuses on board with achieving a full conversion.

"We think Western North Carolina is going to be where a lot of good work will be done to push for renewable energy," Kiley said. "But we need to hit the ground running and make sure that our climate continues to be a priority."

Kaylee Smith, student leader for "The Climate Reality Project" and vice president of BC Greens, said, based on the group's work with fossil-fuel divestment, Brevard College is an appropriate setting to further the goals of "The Climate Reality Project."

"We've participated in a lot of green initiatives," Smith said, "and getting committing to this project is the next step."

Micah Voelzow, a BC Greens club leader, said he believes Brevard College can be an environmental leader in committing to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy, but he said change is hard.

"People are stubborn," he said. "We fear change. We fear what we do not know. We know that we are killing our forests, melting our glaciers, poisoning our water, and that species of plants and animals are dying every day around the world. We know that our mountains – the reason I call this place home – are on fire and we know how to stop it: by switching to renewable energy."

Jim Reynolds, a Brevard College geology professor, said climate change is not a belief but scientific fact based on what we know is happening.

"Scientists have loads and loads of data to confirm that this is happening," Reynolds said. "Every major scientific organization in the United States and in the developed world agrees that climate change is taking place."

He said Brevard College was the first college in the Southeast to commit to divesting from fossil fuels.

"I have a lot of faith in the students here and their grassroots activism, which has been successful in the past with its divestment project," Reynolds said. "And I have a lot of faith that their activism is going make this future happen."

Robert Cabin, a Brevard College associate professor of environmental science and ecology, said the commitment gives him hope to see students swing into action, though, he has concerns about what direction the Donald Trump administration may take.

"A lot has changed after what this country just voted for in the recent election," Cabin said. "But what hasn't changed are the laws of physics and chemistry. The progress that has been made has been threatened by the next administration, led by someone who doesn't accept the basic scientific consensus of climate change, and has the power to undo the steps we have taken to start dealing with the problem."

Cabin said the problem is now unavoidable in the present climate of drought and wild fires.

"Here we are in Western North Carolina and we have a burning," he said. "We have a record breaking heat and drought again, and it's getting harder and harder for people to say climate change is an abstract problem or that it's over there. It's here, and all we need to do is look in our own back yard."

In a statement from college President David Joyce, read by Kaylee Smith at the event, Joyce said he supports Brevard College in striving to achieve "reasonable and prudent" methods to change the college's dependence on fossil fuels over to renewable electricity, and "this is our chance to create a new kind of economy that opens opportunities to all Americans while protecting the planet." He said the college has already made "deliberate and positive" steps toward the goal by banning the use of Styrofoam cups, installing solar panels and charging stations for electric cars and committing to divesting the college's investment in non-renewable energy stocks.

Kiley said though the president has shown support, he has not made a formal commitment to the cause.

"We need President David Joyce to make the commitment that the campus will be powered by 100 percent clean, renewable energy by the year 2030," Kiley said. "As the campus leader, we need him to commit the campus to this outcome, so that a process can be created for coming up with a plan and then implementing the plan."

Cabin said it is up to the students at Brevard College to stand in solidarity with the rest of the world on climate change.

"The scientific community is united in its assertion that climate change is the defining challenge of the 21st century," Cabin said. "We have to make our voices heard."

Members of the BC Greens, college faculty and others talked about the importance of renewable energy.


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