The Tweeter in Chief has wasted no time demonstrating that his administration has no intentions of holding back, and does not care about science. In the transition between executive agencies, Trump issued a gag order on employees from the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and the Dept. of Health and Human Services to temporarily blackout any communications on climate change. Scientists in the governmental sphere, understandably, were very frightened their research would be erased. Generating much uproar, Trump then signed an executive order Tuesday, January 24th to revive the Keystone XL Pipeline project, and approve the Dakota Access Pipeline. On February 2nd the Republican-controlled Congress passed a bill to repeal the Obama administration’s restrictions on waste dumping from coal mines in waterways. Not to mention the general notion of his presidential campaign was patently to give the fossil fuel corporations what they want.
Each of the above actions and intentions pose a direct and severe threat to the quality of life of anyone reading this article. Given the United States’ substantial influence in international affairs in this critical time, they constitute crimes committed against humanity. It is exactly as bad as we thought it would be, and the worst is yet to come. As emerging adults, we will be forced to cope with the disastrous effects of climate change already secured by the emissions, pollution, and degradation of decades prior, including that unleashed by the Trump administration. If nothing changes, the next generation will be forced to live in a drastically altered planet, the likes of which disaster movies depict. This is why rapid, local action to mitigate the impending, or rather, active climate crisis is paramount.
IU President Michael McRobbie rightfully issued a statement in response to Trump’s Muslim ban condemning it as “contrary to the very core of our values as an institution committed to excellence and innovation... respect for the dignity of others and engagement in the economic, civic, cultural and social development of ....our world.” However, we would like to ask McRobbie if he is willing to use his power and authority, when it comes to climate change, to be the “engaged citizen” committed to “public service” IU promises to develop us into. Does he really care about the dignity of the individuals from the seven countries? Or only to the extent that they are an economic and social asset to the university through research production, teaching labor, and some semblance of diversity? To use his own words, “IU’s... missions are inextricably bound with the rest of the world,” after all. As students with tremendous concern for the sustainability of civil society, we are not convinced McRobbie would prove an equal commitment to other matters affecting any of those seven countries such as famine, pandemic disease, and violent conflict caused by the effects of climate change, effects of which IU is a contributing party.
Before a sedative, administrative response the likes of “But look how much we’ve already done for sustainability!” is inevitably issued, the reader should know that President McRobbie has declined to sign the American Colleges and University President’s Climate Commitment which was contained in a resolution passed by both the IUSA and the GPSG in 2009. Now simply known as the Climate Leadership Commitments, the CLC is the nation’s preeminent directive by which universities can formally commit to achieving carbon neutrality (mitigation) and/or highly improved sustainability and resilience measures (adaptation). Very importantly, it also helps institutions measure, communicate, and be held accountable. There is no other initiative of equal rigor. Of the 697 signatories, Ball State, Butler, Depauw, Franklin College, Goshen College, Indiana State, and Rose Hulman represent Indiana. Ohio State University Columbus is a public, Big Ten institution approximately 20% larger than IU Bloomington, and it is a signatory. There are three other Big Ten signatories in addition to OSU. Yes, IUB is one of the 361 colleges the Princeton Review labels as a “green university”, but IUB is consistently absent from virtually all top rankings including the Review’s Top Fifty. For example, there are five Big Ten schools featured in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership Top Thirty from 2016; IU is not among them. President McRobbie has also disregarded a formal call for divestment of IU Foundation funds from fossil fuel companies, another national directive which was endorsed by the All University Student Association representing all 115,000 IU students. Excellent or innovative are not the words that come to mind.
Let’s talk about integrity. IU Bloomington flaunts the number one environmental policy graduate program in the country, yet we are mediocre at best when it comes to climate action. How can we recruit the nation’s brightest graduates to study an issue that the university administration is demonstrating it does not respect? Climate change is not a political issue or a mere difference of opinion. It is real. It is existential. It is caused by human activity. The time for debating facts is long over. We challenge President McRobbie and the Board of Trustees to commit to aiding us in building a future we deserve in a credible way in regards to the crisis of climate change. We have compiled a variety of substantial measures that can be implemented at all IU campuses and would hope to meet with the president and other influential stakeholders so that the Sustainability Planning in IU’s Master Plan can at least be worth the paper it is written on.
The future is ours, but with the lack of effort given to climate change on our campus and around the world, the future we stand to inherit is ravaged. The measures we seek are uncompromising and just the beginning of what is necessary if those after us are to be able to celebrate a tricentennial after our bicentennial in just a few years. President McRobbie, it would be a great shame for inaction on climate to be a salient part of your legacy. Your lack of effort on this issue has led us to demand you speak and fight with us. Failure to act convincingly on climate change will put all of our futures at severe risk. In the fierce urgency of now, it is time to act--decisively.