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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Sustainability at St. Joe’s


We need to be fighting climate change

A series of wildfires have been ravaging Butte County, California, near the state’s capital of Sacramento since Nov. 8. Camp Fire, as it is now being referred to, currently has an estimated death toll of 85. The fire was finally contained on Nov. 25. Two hundred forty nine people are still missing as of Nov. 26.

These wildfires, the deadliest in the United States since 1918, are part of many recent events which demonstrate that climate change is worsening and we are running out of time to mitigate its effects.

The New York Times reported in October that major consequences of climate change, including the continued depletion of coral reefs and an increase in wildfires and food shortages, could reach a point of crisis as early as 2040 if immediate efforts are not made to stall the rate at which the planet is warming.

While it is important to stay informed about the severity of what climate change is doing to the planet, promoting alarmist attitudes and spreading panic are more unproductive than motivating. We need to recognize the current status of climate change and that it is a human problem with a human solution.

Individuals and institutions, including colleges and universities, all need to do their part. That includes us at St. Joe’s. However, the university currently lacks a centralized organization dedicated to creating a more environmentally friendly campus, utilizing input from students, faculty and administrators.

St. Joe’s had a sustainability committee formed in 2009 which was comprised of 40 faculty, staff, administrator and student members. However, the committee is no longer active.

Most sustainability initiatives at St. Joe’s are now proposed and financed by Green Fund, a completely student-run organization. Past projects sponsored by the group have included installing water bottle refilling stations on campus and supplying students with reusable food containers.

Green Fund was one of many student groups impacted by budget cuts this semester. In previous years, the group was financed by a $5-per-student charge as part of an activity fee. Its 75 percent budget cut, effective this fall, was attributed in part to dwindling membership and a decrease in activity from the organization, implying a lack of interest from the student body.

The need for a centralized, well-funded group dedicated to planning and implementing university-wide sustainability initiatives has never been greater. Campus organizations set the tone for how we interact with our school environment–and that extends to efforts like recycling and other sustainability practices.

However, Green Fund’s model of students having the sole responsibility of bringing proposals to the administration does not encourage involvement from all members of the St. Joe’s community, including faculty and staff.

A sustainability-focused group would need to cull input from the entire St. Joe’s community, as the previous committee did, to ensure that all members of the university are engaged in making our school more eco-friendly.

The efficiency of a centralized, sustainability-focused group would also need to be supplemented by student groups’ efforts to make their events and meetings more environmentally friendly.

All student groups can find their own ways to contribute, starting with small changes like providing compostable utensils at general meetings where food is served. Easier-to-implement initiatives can create a precedent for larger-scale events, like a letter-writing or phone-banking campaign in support of sustainability-focused legislation.

Outside of ensuring our dining facilities are adhering to sustainability best practices, other campus locations, like the SJU Bookstore, have steps they can take towards a more environmentally-friendly future. While it may not be realistic to expect the university to move the newly-renovated bookstore completely online as other colleges have done, selling course packs in the form of ebooks would substantially cut down on paper waste.

The current system at St. Joe’s, in which students use physical course packs for 15 weeks before discarding them, is financially and materially wasteful.

Ensuring environmental sustainability is supported by our Jesuit mission–Pope Francis even wrote one of his encyclicals, “Laudato si,” on the importance of quickly and effectively responding to climate change.

To this end, all members of the St. Joe’s community ought to take advantage of the university’s call for feedback on how it can ensure the continuance of its Jesuit mission, either at the Nov. 28 examen in Campion Student Center’s North Lounge, or in the Mission Priority Examen Survey, distributed via email on Nov. 2.

We need to consider how sustainable our campus actually is, while asking all members of our community to further our Jesuit mission by committing to making the planet a safer, more habitable place for all people.

—The Editorial Board

This week’s Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor, Opinions Editor, Editorial Page Editor, Copy Chief and Assistant Social Media Manager. This editorial reflects the views of the Board and not the entire Hawk staff.

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