Activism works

29 10 2011

Beyond Coal has been incredibly visible on campus lately, and it’s awesome! Besides the great weekend at VA Powershift, there was a rally for Hokie health sponsored by Greenpeace, with CT coverage. And we’re getting a ton of publicity out for the Flash Rave, another awesome campaign. But why do all this? I’ve heard before from critics that activism doesn’t actually change anything, just gathers a lot of racket. I’ve also heard charges that attempting to create change at VT isn’t enough, since so much of our country’s energy relies on coal. Why focus on campus when the impact may not be felt to the coal industry?


Well, I don’t believe that’s true. Activism from individuals and grassroots organizations have historically made a huge impact, and Beyond Coal is getting noticed. Nationally, the head of the EPA has given her support for our campaigns. And one campus may not make a huge impact on our nation’s coal use, but 16 campuses have already committed to Beyond Coal’s goals. In this day and age, higher ed is a giant part of our economy. Imagine the massive difference it would make to our nation’s energy priorities if every college and university switched to clean energy.


But even if it made no impact at all on coal use, committing to clean energy at Virginia Tech is an issue of living out my own ethical principles. I know that energy generation is absolutely necessary for both my education and for my future career, but I absolutely know that I don’t want to succeed by oppressing other communities. I love Appalachia. I love the culture, the mountains, the people. Coming to school here has been a blessing, because I’ve discovered traditions and a way of life that can be breathtakingly beautiful. I don’t want to poison someone else’s home because it’s convenient for me. It’s easy to ignore a difficult problem — and our nation’s energy issues are obviously very convoluted problems — but it certainly isn’t honorable. If Virginia Tech alone chose to Invent the Future by making their greatest efforts towards clean energy, the Hokie Nation could be assured that they would not be contributing to disasters like this one, which occurred from the tragic consequences of surface mining.


Someone who inspires me as an activist is Elie Wiesel, whose writing has touched millions worldwide. He said that, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.” Trying to change our communities is not futile. Another thing he said was, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Right now, it seems like coal is king. But that will never change unless we speak our against it.




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