By Stephen Lokos, Central Michigan University SEA Member
The main environmental group at Central Michigan University, Student Environmental Alliance or SEA, has undergone a substantial amount of changes this past semester. The group has become much more focused on community/university involvements and projects. One might say that the group has started undergoing the active part of activism as of late. SEA used to be based more around educational efforts within the club and also attempts at gaining new members through tabling, movie showings, and Earth Week events. The club had its annual river cleanup and would partake in hosting, or helping to host, events on campus that pertained to environmentalism. However, the main focus of the club seemed to pertain more to education of its members through presentations about environmental issues.
That practice continued at the beginning of the new semester and SEA tried to liven things up by creating groups that could all work on a presentation related to a similar environmental idea. The idea was to promote social growth within the group and to also help provide information to the other members of the group with the presentations created. The major changes that are now present within SEA today occurred after Powershift 2013. The group restructured its main goals of education and turned them into activism, which, in turn, also educates members of the group and others who see the types of things SEA is trying to do. The idea of having groups that were self-created based on central interest was kept. However, instead of having these groups work on creating an educational presentation they are based on efforts to implement changes within the University and Mt. Pleasant community. There are a variety of groups that SEA currently contains.
There is a solar energy based group, which is working on pressuring CMU to implement more solar panels on campus to help provide electricity and heating for CMU buildings. The group just recently had legislation passed in the student government showing support for an increase in solar energy on campus. There is a group that is beginning to work with the indigenous Chippewa members to help build local connections with the Native American members of the community. This group also plans on working with the Chippewa to try and obtain a moratorium or ban on fracking, because attempts through the local community have been unsuccessful (Mt. Pleasant’s high school students are known as the oilers). There is a group that is working on a divestment campaign on campus. They just recently had legislation pass in the student government showing support for divestment. The group has also meet with some of the main financial advisors at CMU and is scheduled to present at a board of trustees meeting in February. There is also a group working on the recently developed palm oil campaign, which urges major snack food companies to remove palm oil from their goods due to the destructive methods by which palm oil is obtained. There was also a recent political prisoner writing event that a few SEA and also a few nonmembers attended. It is unknown at this time if this will be a reoccurring event.
These groups each have their own goals and strategies, which are not affected or approved of by any SEA e-board members. SEA has become more of a space where these groups can meet an hour every week to pursue their own passions instead of being dictated as a large group by a few voices whose ideas are most heard. This helps to create greater member involvement because there is a greater chance that someone gets to work on a project they enjoy instead of merely going with the flow of the bigger group. We also hope that this will help to retain new members because they feel more involved in the club, but because this is just a recently implemented strategy the outcome is not known in those regards.