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

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