Since the Center for Sustainable Communities was established at Ambler Campus in 2000, Ambler’s reputation for environment work on campus and in the community quickly grew.
Now, some students and faculty members said they think it’s time for Main Campus to follow in Ambler’s ecological footprints.
Main Campus’s Students for Environmental Action group is trying to change Temple’s energy policies and educate students about the environment any way they can, even if it means getting attention in seemingly silly ways.
On Oct. 27, in the midst of an array of Homecoming events, SEA had a table set up in the lobby of the Student Center. While posters, loud music and flyers that they handed out on previous days all drew students’ attention, the fight that the group staged between two students dressed as a windmill and smokestack was the group’s most conspicuous ploy to attract students to their cause.
SEA’s commitment to its message makes the group stand out, according to junior political science major and SEA student government representative, Andrew Kelser.
“I went to a meeting and realized the group was about more than just recycling or some small scale project,” Kelser said.
SEA is the antithesis of “doing nothing” on environmental issues, rather, the organization’s goals are “very ambitious,” according to SEA’s president, Laura Stein. Stein said the club’s ultimate goal is to get Temple to commit to zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. A short-term goal is to convince Temple to purchase at least 15 percent wind power by the end of this semester.
These goals are linked to the Campus Climate Challenge, a national environmental challenge for universities’ student organizations that Temple is participating in. This challenge was designed by the Environmental Action Coalition, a partnership founded in 2004 and comprised of over 30 environmental and youth organizations in the United States and Canada, including Greenpeace and the National Wildlife Federation.
The main goal of the challenge is adoption of a 100 percent clean air policy, meaning that each university does not use any energy source that pollutes the air.
One of the advantages to being registered as part of the Challenge is the resources that are available to participating student organizations, Stein said. One of these resources is the Sierra Student Coalition, which works directly with many university student organizations, including Temple’s.
Kim Teplitzky, a former Temple student, works with SEA and the Sierra Student Coalition, helping the club with recruitment methods and their energy proposals.
“I’m not organizing [schools’] campaigns,” Teplitzky said. “But with my past experience at Temple, I can really help them avoid the common pitfalls that I ran into.”
According to Robert Mason, an urban and geography studies professor at Temple, one of these common pitfalls may be keeping students’ interest in the club’s goals. About five years ago the club had made a strong push for wind energy, but the enthusiasm eventually evaporated.
“The club was really sputtering,” Mason said. “But students’ energy now has really picked up.”
Currently, SEA has its highest membership ever with 30 active members and 200 people on its listserv. Many of the club’s members are not environmental studies students.
Kelser said he has noticed that students are very eager and receptive to the goals of the club.
“I think SEA will continue to grow because global warming affects everyone eventually,” he said. “Our goals will affect everyone.”
Though student involvement is increasing, the group said that the participation of Temple’s administration is uncertain. Kurt Bresser, the energy manager at Temple, declined to comment, though the group said that they and Bresser have recently begun talking about energy policies.
In Pennsylvania, 33 schools, including the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, have committed to using some percentage of wind power.
Most students and professors within the environmental studies department or SEA said that they think interest among students won’t be going away anytime soon.
“There is a lot of popular attention to environmental issues now because of general news coverage and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” Mason said. “This is a window of opportunity for Temple to promote itself as an ecological and environmentally responsible institution.”
Morgan Ashenfelter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.