Carbon Nation Puts Renewable Energy in Perspective

As you might have known from firsthand experience, we watched a documentary by the name of Carbon Nation at our Tuesday meeting. If you weren’t there, you missed out on a great night—the only thing better than the pizza and desserts was the feature presentation!

Whereas some other documentaries look at the problems surrounding fossil fuels, Carbon Nation takes the opposite approach. It looks at the alternatives to fossil fuels, and how moving toward those alternatives does more than just help the environment and public health, but can also strengthen national security, boost the economy, and do so much more to help this nation and the world. It took us from coal plants in China to the frontlines with our soldiers to Washington D.C.! This movie not only gave everyone a reason to transition to clean energy, it gave us all a few good laughs along the way.

But it wasn’t all comedy and free chocolate (how better to spend Valentine’s Day, though?). This movie said a lot about our campaign, both the positives and the negatives. We all want Michigan State to move off of coal and onto cleaner, more efficient, and safer energy sources like solar and wind power. The documentary showed us how it can, and is being done. According to Carbon Nation, civilization requires 16 terawatts of energy to run. The documentary then goes into the potential of each source of alternative energy, where it’s already being implemented, and what it could mean for the future.

The documentary didn’t just talk in the abstract, it gave us solid statistics every step of the way. From efficiency percentages to how much oil was spent on air conditioning for troops in Iraq to how many terawatts of energy of solar power hit the earth. Having those numbers put many of these solutions into perspective.

The documentary reminded us of all of the reasons we got involved in the first place. We all have seen some sort of problem and wanted to fix that problem.  We knew that we couldn’t just sit and snack and enjoy an amazing movie: thanks to Carbon Nation, we found ourselves more fired up than ever. We want to thank all of you for showing up. We hope you learned a few things, and had as much fun as we did! Now that we know what can be done, it’s time to push the university to get it done!

Screening Carbon Nation on Valentines Day

At our weekly meeting this Tuesday, February 14th at 7  p.m. on Natural Sciences we will be screening the documentary “Carbon Nation”. This is an excellent opportunity for you to learn what you can do personally, and what we can do on a global scale, to combat climate change. Carbon Nation is a documentary anyone will benefit from because it does not care whether you believe climate change is happening or not – the ideas that it describes to fight climate change would, and already are, benefitting other social issues.

So, invite your friends to movie night! All of us will come away with new ideas and inspiration, and we will also get in some high quality bonding time! Plus, there will be some free snacks . . . you can’t say no!

Additionally we will be wrapping up last week’s Media focus and discussing this week’s focus – Faculty Coalitions.

Come out, eat some food, and get inspired! See you there on Tuesday from 7 to 9 pm in 304 Natural Sciences.


11/11/11, Make a Wish!

On Friday, November 11th 2011 (11/11/11), we took to the streets and made phone calls to President Simon. We set up shop outside the rock, the International Center, and the Hannah Administration Building from 11-1 and stopped passerbys, informing them of the dangers of our on-campus coal plant, and asking them to call President Simon to voice their concerns.

Making these phone calls is not something unique to 11/11/11. We have been receiving a ton of support from student groups, community organizations, fellow students and students from other universities across the midwest. Coal is an issue that affects everyone, and now everyone is banding together to show their wish of MSU retiring the T.B. Simon coal-fired power plant and transitioning to renewable energy sources. We have been calling President Simon voicing our concerns for the last few weeks, and we will continue to do so until our voice is heard.

We encourage all of you to call her as well. Her number is 517-355-6560. We are keeping track of every call made. So if you could track every call you make using this form it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Feeling the Love at MidWest Powershift 2011

Hello All!

It has been a couple of whirlwind weeks for MSU Beyond Coal, and everyone on campus has been pushing for a 100% renewable energy future!

Last weekend we attended MidWest Powershift 2011, a Youth Activism Conference in Cleveland Ohio, and needless to say IT WAS AMAZING! Here’s a quick run down of what we did:

Friday: Arrived in Cleveland and listened to keynote speakers like:

Mansfield Frazier: life long Cleveland native, Urban Vineyard owner, and activist
David Cobb: 2004 Green Party Presidential candidate
Lois Gibbs: Leading activist in the battle for Love Canal, Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice.
Ethan Nuss: Field Director for the Energy Action Coalition

Photo by Josh Lopez

After these incredibly knowledgeable and motivational speakers, about 300 of the students in attendance followed David Cobb to Occupy Cleveland to stand in solidarity with the movement until it was brought to a close by the police. This was a phenomenal opportunity for students to see that our movement reaches beyond our campus, and as always, beyond coal. Its is hard to think of anything more motivational than marching, chanting and singing in complete solidarity with so many people.

Saturday: Sessions! SO MUCH KNOWLEDGE

Basically, sessions are specialized classes that we attended on environmental issues ranging from fracking for natural gas to listening to the tactics of other successful Campuses Beyond Coal campaigns.  A more detailed description of what we learned, and what the MidWest thought of it, will be available shortly.

One really big highlight from Saturday is all the new friends we made! MSU was networking like CRAZY. We met so many students from all over the MidWest who not only were familiar with our campaign, but were ready to jump in the fray with us. This attitude is something that will not soon be forgotten. Eyes all over the MidWest are on this campaign! This is serious responsibility, and we refuse to take it lightly.

Before we left for PowerShift, 3 MSU Greenpeace members were arrested after a sit-in at President Simon’s office. This bold and powerful action launched a massive wave of momentum that we rode into AND out of Cleveland.

Saturday evening, we were invited to stand on stage with Phil Radford, the Executive Director of Greenpeace as he praised our work so far, and demanded that we never stop fighting. It was both humbling, and electrifying to receive this type of support. While on stage he also continued our newest campaign tactic, calling President Simon’s Office and leaving a personal message urging her to commit to directing a no coal goal for MSU. His message was one of hundreds that PowerShifters left for President Simon.

Sunday: Direct Action!

After a breakout focused on the environmental issues faced by our State, PowerShift mobilized! We marched around the city of Cleveland demonstrating against the Keystone XL Tar Sand pipeline that President Obama is due to authorize or deny this Friday, November 4th. Once again, Michigan State’s battle was highlighted in a stop in front of a local coal fired power plant. Much like Occupy Cleveland, the focus was on standing in solidarity, not only for the future of the planet (as if that’s not enough!) but for our lives right here, right now.

Photo by Josh Lopez

Dancing, Rallys, and Arrest

Just two weeks ago, two groundbreaking events were held by two of Michigan State’s environmental groups: MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Greenpeace. Since then, the nation has been alight with the issue of the T.B. Simon coal-fired power plant, the largest on-campus coal plant in the country.

On Wednesday, October 19th, MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Greenpeace hosted a “Dirty Dancing Flash Mob for Clean Energy” in front of the Hannah Administration building. This flash mob was just one event in a much larger national month of action called “100% clean: 100 actions for clean energy” It was cold, windy and raining all day, and by the time 4 p.m. rolled around the weather had not lightened up at all, but that didn’t stop dozens of students from gathering before the steps of the administration building. To the tune of House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” students danced in the rain, their dancing symbolizing the “song and dance” that the administration wants the students to perform. However, as the song progressed, small groups of students began to stop dancing. They donned surgical masks with stickers reading “100% clean” across the front, and sat around a standing central figure who held a poster with coal-related health facts, symbolizing the refusal of the student body to participate in this “song and dance” any longer.

MSU Beyond Coal president Talya Tavor set the mood with a slam poem about coal, the effects of coal, her story, and the role that the administration plays. She was followed by three incredible speakers; Nic Clark, the Michigan Campaigns Director of Clean Water Action; Robbie Richardson, a CARRS professor at MSU; and Douglas Jester, the former mayor of East Lansing and a senior consultant with 5 Lakes Energy. When the inspiring speakers finished, banners were unfurled revealing the phone numbers of a handful of administrators at MSU, including: Fred Poston, the Vice President of Finance and Operations; Lou Anna K. Simon, the President of MSU; and the MSU Board of Trustees. Adam Liter, the Vice President of MSU Greenpeace, made the first call to the President’s office demanding that she make a directive to the Steering Committee for 100% renewable energy on campus.

All in all, dozens of students frustrated with the administrations lack of action, braved the harsh Michigan autumn weather to relay an important message to the administration. We students demand that our health be taken seriously and the university transition to 100% clean, renewable energy sources. We are sick of being sick!

There is a nice, short article and video of the event in The State News.

The next day, seven members of MSU Greenpeace marched up the steps of the administration again, wearing the same surgical masks.  But this time they sat in the lobby of President Simon’s office and proceeded to read the hundreds of names off of the petitions they collected over the past year. Each name was a student who demanded that the university transition to 100% clean, renewable energy and retire the T.B. Simon coal plant. For two years now, students have been actively voicing their concerns about the coal plant, and still the administration does not seem to take these concerns seriously. Since the student demands were not being met from afar, these students decided to take their concerns directly to President Simon.

The Hannah Administration building closes at 5 p.m.. At that time, the police asked the students to leave. Four of them did. Not because of intimidation, but because that had been the plan. Three members (Peter Rustad, Adam Liter and Kendra Majewski) stayed, and were arrested for trespassing.

This amazing video by Greenpeace describes the event further.

We, members of Beyond Coal, members of Greenpeace, and the student body in general, have been trying to make our voices heard. We’ve set up meetings. We’ve called. We’ve gathered petitions. We’ve rallied. Members of Greenpeace have taken the concerns of the student body directly to President Simon’s office. Still our concerns are not being heard by the administration. But after last Thursday’s sit-in, our concerns are being heard elsewhere. The State News, the Lansing State Journal, Michigan Messenger, mlive, The Oakland Press, The Chicago Tribune, Channel 4 News in Detroit, and many other news sources and blogs covered the event.

The events of this week caused a stir across the nation, and the momentum from it followed us and carried us through MidWest Powershift 2011.

We’re Back! Come Join Us!

Welcome Back Spartans!

The MSU Beyond Coal campaign is back on campus and in full force! Just in the time we have been back on campus we have gotten close to 1,800 new petitions signed! THAT’S CRAZY!

Let’s start with some facts:

  • Michigan State University hosts’ the nation’s largest on campus coal plant.
  • Coal is single-handedly the most destructive industrial process being employed in the US. From mining to burning to disposing of the coal ash, coal is dirty, dangerous, and outdated.
  • On average we burn around 250,000 tons of coal every year.
  • That means a little more than 600 tons a day.
  • To give you a visual, that is about the weight of 125,000 average sized cars.

This is where our campaign comes in! We have been working almost non-stop since we got back on campus to get a commitment from the administration for a 100% clean energy future. Even though the administration did their best to ignore us last year, we are disappointed but far from defeated. Last fall, a committee was formed to flesh out a plan for MSUs’ energy future. Unfortunately, no strong decisions have been made.

This is why we are still fighting, because there is no reason MSU shouldn’t be guaranteed a 100% CLEAN energy future. Not a future that is a 100 years down the road, not 40 years, but a future that starts NOW.

Our campaign is being watched all over the country. Just in the last week, 5 coal fired power plants in the heart of coal country have announced that they will be closing their doors as a direct result of national beyond coal campaigns.

Think about this: If we here at Michigan State can continue the good fight and close the nation’s largest on campus coal plant what excuse would there be for any other hold outs of America’s dirty energy past?

This is why we need you! The administration has shown us already that having 1 out of every 10 student’s signature is not enough to convince them it’s time to make a commitment. Everyone can make a difference, no matter what kind of time you can give. This semester is going to be HUGE and we need your help!

Our Kick Off Meeting is Tuesday September 27th, at 7:00 PM in 105 South Kedzie Hall. Just in case you need even more incentives to come out, and bring everyone you know, we’ll have free chipotle! So get there early, and get ready to be a part of one of our generations’ most important fights.

Want more info RIGHT NOW? Check us out in the main lounge of the union every day at 10, 2:30 or 5:00, or check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

-Mollie VanOrsdal

2011 MSU Clean Energy Forum a priceless experience

Over 175 people turned out to hear the speakers and show their support at the forum on Thursday, March 31st 2011.

As a freshman at a Michigan State, it is all too easy to get lost in the crowd. Luckily for me I found the group Beyond Coal, sponsored by the Sierra Student Coalition. I can comfortably say that joining Beyond Coal and attending the 2011 Clean Energy Forum on Thursday, March 31st have easily paid back the highest dividends of my freshman year.

Last Thursday, MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Greenpeace hosted the MSU Clean Energy Forum, panel of four speakers who educated the crowd on unique aspects of the battle for a dependable, coal-free future at MSU.  Here’s what they had to say:

Professor Sean Huberty, lead faculty of Lansing Community College Alternative Energy Engineering Technology Program, spoke about investing in building efficiency NOW to afford major savings later. He encouraged MSU to undergo a redesign and retrofit process for existing buildings, and identified a need at MSU for more educational opportunities in green energy and efficient building and design.

Douglas Jester, former Mayor of East Lansing and a senior consultant with 5 Lakes Energy offered an insider’s perspective of sorts:

It is already feasible and affordable to convert our economy entirely to renewable, low-polluting energy sources, but there is work to be done to optimize such an energy system and improve the technologies.  Michigan State University is an ideal place to do that work, demonstrate it to others, and educate the people who can do it for our whole society.

And, he stressed, though we still need to learn and improve these clean energy technologies, we learn best by doing and at MSU we cannot afford to wait any longer.

Mike Johnson, senior coal analyst with Greenpeace USA, spoke perhaps most directly about the possibilities in a clean energy future for MSU. He outlined in his powerpoint entitled “Bold Times, Bold Responses” that one of the foremost objectives for MSU’s transition should be should be cost effective, long-term strategies that meets energy needs of growing research.  He was very clear that there would be no “silver bullet” for campus, but that it is possible for MSU to be aggressive in moving towards a 100% renewable energy future.

D. Alexander Bullock, president of Greenation, spoke from the heart, appealing to the activists in the room. He worked with a new definition of freedom, claiming a freedom TO instead of the freedom FROM that American history is so accustomed to.  He spoke about a need to view the movement towards a global clean future as culture war: sighting that the only way to get something done is to be fully invested and active.

The panel then answered direct questions from the audience: ranging from the personal, to the hypothetical. In ending, of course it was fitting to ask what thought, ideal, or point of hope each panelist wished that the audience would walk out remembering. The answer was to continue to fight, continue to educate and recruit students, and to learn through action.

What I’ve learned is this: one person in a million won’t be able to give the world the clean energy future it deserves; instead millions must focus and relentlessly pursue it as one.  Michigan State students deserve a healthy, prosperous coal-free future, but this will not happen without true activism on campus. It’s time President Simon embrace this effort, so that MSU students can graduate and lead the rest of the world towards the clean energy future we deserve.

This will not be an easy journey, but transitioning off of coal to 100% renewable energy on campus is possible.  And it is crucial that MSU take bold action immediately to put us on the right course.

That is why, at the end of the forum, MSU Beyond Coal and MSU Greenpeace raised this challenge to President Simon:

By Friday, April 22nd, this Earth Day, publically announce a commitment from Michigan State to move off coal and provide an ambitious timeline to transition to 100% renewable energy.

We know you have the leadership; we are calling on you to make this announcement by Earth Day, and eagerly await your response.

Mollie VanOrsdol, Written Media Coordinator, MSU Beyond Coal