New developments at WashU

by Dave Warnock, Midwest Student Organizer

I feel lucky that something really interesting on campus fell into my lap, so my first blog post will be somewhat more interesting than “people came to the meeting.”  The upcoming event will be a great opportunity for spreading awareness about endowment issues at WashU.  We were planning to do an education and networking activity at about this time in the semester, so we are excited about this turn of events.

But I suppose, I should tell you what’s going on, rather than continue to babble.  WashU’s local environmental group, Green Action, is putting on the Climate Solutions Forum, and they have invited Students for Endowment Transparency to participate.  The impetus came when, last semester, two new board members were chosen.  And they are (get ready for this) the CEOs of Peabody Coal and Arch Coal!  A less than savory duo to say the least.  Peabody is the nation’s largest coal company, and Arch is not for behind.  Both make extensive use of the destructive Mountaintop Removal process in Appalachia, and then ship it into Missouri on a daily basis (despite the fact that the northern Plains of Missouri are a great place to put Wind Turbines that are closer to home).  At the same time, WashU decided to create the Clean Coal Consortium.  This made it clear that WashU administrators did not hold Green Energy in high esteem, and would cling to Fossil Fuels.  It was also dressed up in the marketing term “Clean Coal”, to protect their image.  This creation, in conjunction with the new Coal Execs on the Board, spurred Green Action toward protest.  Our campaign has been allied with that movement from the get go.

So the Climate Solutions Forum is the latest development in Green Action’s campaign for WashU to abandon Fossil Fuels, and become a leader in renewable energy.  It was planned to match with the coming of the Coal Execs to campus and the latest development of the Clean Coal Consortium (October 2nd-4th).  They’re trying to push Carbon Sequestration as “the way of the future”.

The Forum, however, will show where the future really lies.  First, we are going to show up at their main event, a big fancy dinner in which an Obama administration official will be addressing personnel from WashU, Peabody, Arch, Ameren UE (our local electrical provider) and several other St. Louis corporations.  We will wearing T-shirts and carrying signs that say “Stop Ignoring Our Climate Future” and other statements along those line.  Mind you, we plan to be quiet and undisruptive (even CEO’s have free speech rights), but we will be noticed.

Part Two will come on the heels of this attendance.  Green Actions is planning a series of workshops at WashU, at which students, faculty, and even the administration and CEO’s may attend, where they will hear all about the many simple paths we have available toward making a Green Energy future.  It is to lay out for all to see, it isn’t that the corporations can’t do it.  It’s that the won’t do it. Hence the theme, “Stop Ignoring”.

Anyway, Students for Endowment Transparency is going to giving a workshop/teach-in (whatever you would call it) on the Endowment Process and Socially Responsible Investment.  We look forward to showing the environmental benefits of establishing a Committee on Investor Responsibility.  The teach-in will show that Green Action could use the Endowment to further WashU’s environmental commitments, by voting proxies on corporate sustainability, screening for solar panel companies and away from oil, and the like, giving them another prong upon which to lead their efforts.  All of the progressives at WashU, myself included, are looking forward to the Climate Solutions Forum.  And I must say, all in all, WashU is clearly becoming a much more exciting place than when I started.

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