Letter: Voting for the Climate

In next November’s presidential election, we’ll be casting votes that shape the future of climate change. It’s time to start thinking about whom we want to make those decisions and what kinds of decisions we want them to make. Climate discussions often fall into ruts. By now we know the gist of the climate problem and a lot of different things we can do to kind of, sort of, make a difference: using those CFL bulbs, putting our computers in sleep mode, trying to drive less. But how can you jump-start real change that meets a giant problem with giant action?

Yes, Williams has made some big news splashes with its commitment to sustainability – from the “green” Commencement to local foods in the dining halls to plans for the new environmental center. These projects are wonderful, and an important part of the kind of change that needs to happen, but we should also remember that we can make a difference on a larger scale.

This Saturday, Nov. 3, is one opportunity for students to connect with a national push to raise climate action even higher on the political agenda. The College and community members are joining the national Step It Up movement to demand that leaders use their power to confront global warming. Across the nation, thousands of communities are organizing events to show just how much voters want to know what action their representatives will take.

Here on campus, we’re hosting speakers Massachusetts Senator Ben Downing and local politician Jane Allen, and organizing a free tour of the Jiminy Peak wind turbine. We’ll also have tables for letter-writing and learning about the presidential candidates.

More than anything we want to emphasize the importance of combining education with political action. How many times have students told other students to think beyond the Purple Bubble? Our Step It Up events aim to encourage students to examine the potential of political action such as the proposed Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act, as well as gain a deeper understanding of what renewable energy really looks like. However, we also want to use this knowledge to tell the speakers what we want, to write letters to other politicians and to guide our own participation in the next election.

Within our Purple Bubble, we’re encouraged to put together information to attack problems and make arguments in logical, innovative ways. We’re students: we have the incredible luxury of getting four years to practice learning and thinking. This luxury is now our great tool for expressing the opinions and asking the questions that will push our leaders to take the action we deserve.

More than anything, this upcoming first week in November should remind us of the power of politics. It should also remind us of the power that we, not just as voters, but as student voters at Williams, will have throughout the year to influence these critical debates and their outcomes.

Julia Sendor ’08