On Friday, the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies hosted a conference to launch the grassroots organization Campus to Congress (C2C). Eban Goodstein ’82, a Williams graduate who majored in geology and currently directs the Bard Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College, founded the organization last spring to build a network of faculty, students, staff and citizens interested in addressing global warming and promoting clean energy solutions.
The conference, which was also organized in part by members of Students for a Just and Stable Future, a campus group committed to state-level political work against climate change, aimed to increase C2C network membership by working toward a goal of engaging educators at 1000 colleges and universities and to include 50,000 students each year in effective dialogue with Congress, corporations and cities on clean energy solutions for the future.
Following Goodstein’s opening address and a presentation on climate, small groups hosted breakout discussions.
Juliet Schor, an economist and author of Plentitude: The New Economics of True Wealth and Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture, gave the keynote address later that night.
“We’re really alive at an extraordinary moment in human history,” Goodstein said of the plethora of climate and energy decisions awaiting the college-age generation. “Our insight has always been that on every college campus and high school campus in the country. There are dozens of people who get this.”
Goodstein referenced events like this summer’s heat wave in Moscow and the recent floods in Pakistan as evidence of climate change’s observable impact. He noted that the U.S. emits about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gasses but only has about four percent of the world’s population.
“It’s really up to us,” he said about keeping a pro-environmental mindset. “You can’t duck the leadership role that this extraordinary task demands of you.”
And students at the College are apparently following in his footsteps. Vera Cecelski ’13, a member of Students for a Just and Stable Future, played an important role in organizing the conference.
“Williams is a wonderful place to host this conference,” she said. “We have a student body that is increasingly interested in climate change, and we are trying to get a broad group involved in work on that front. An event like this one really brings attention to the cause.”
Cecelski said she hopes Friday’s talks inspire students to action.
“I know I already am starting to work with a local Williamstown activist group, thanks to people I met in the breakout groups [after the talk],” she said.
Cecelski cited the importance of activism on both large and small scales.
“As students, we’re working to get people involved in political campaigns that will impact the environment, as well as really focusing on campus issues, like increasing local foods in the dining halls,” she said.