Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition

Unifying the voice of a generation in environmental solidarity

Officially Announcing the MSSC Student Summit

From Chloe Gleichman, Steering Committee member at Central Michigan University

The MSSC will be hosting its first annual summit on Central Michigan University’s campus in Mount Pleasant, MI this coming February 9-10!  This convergence of Michigan student activists will be a fabulous opportunity to connect and strengthen the environmental movement here in Michigan through hands-on workshops, invigorating speakers, and action-based dialogue.  This two-day convergence is only two months away, so mark your calendars for February 9-10 now and diligently watch our webpage for updates!!

Can’t wait to see you there!

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Do the Math and KXL Action in DC

This past Thursday at 3:00 PM I received a text from 350.org organizer Janina Klimas asking if, provided funding, the MSSC could get a bus full of MI students to attend Bill McKibben’s Do the Math talk and White House action around the Keystone XL pipeline.

This past Saturday at midnight I stepped on to a bus with 53 Michigan students from 4 different campuses all ready and excited to spend 24 out of the next 48 hours on a bus to/from DC to hear Bill and demand that President Obama say no the Keystone XL pipeline.

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As noted in Inside Climate News, getting 53 students to attend this event last minute was surprisingly easy. After our work this past fall around the Prop 3 campaign, I was able to use the MSSC’s newly expanded network to reach many more student leaders to help recruit people from their campuses to get on the bus with us. Of course, our success also had a lot to do with how fired up and awesome MI students are to begin with. CMU students from the Student Environmental Alliance are so awesome that they made a MI against KXL parachute for all of us to play with during the action on Sunday!

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Because of this awesome visual and the excitement level of MI students, we were a big hit at the action! Here are some highlights that we were really excited about:

– Bill McKibben gave us a shout-out while on stage during his Do the Math talk that called on everyone to start working towards getting our institutions (college campuses!!) to divest from fossil fuel companies. One thing that is certain for our climate is that these fossil fuel companies (AKA the richest industry in the history of money) will do everything in their power to delay climate action so that they can keep making money. With this extremely large obstacle standing in the way of a livable future, saving the planet, keeping countries above water, and other important things, its time to get serious about limiting their power to affect our policies and politics and making it clear that supporting them in any way is unacceptable. Did you know that most universities generate revenue by investing their money in fossil fuel companies? Something must be done.

– Bill McKibben signed our parachute and told us that he would skype with MI students anytime! Maybe he can help us take some action on all the Enbridge pipelines being built through and around our state and waters.

– MI students marched around the White House with 3000 other concerned friends to demand that President Obama say NO to the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010 many MI students participated in a similar white house action where 1200 people were arrested in the largest non-violent action our generation has ever seen. This action got President Obama to say no to the pipeline for the first time, when it seemed a done deal that it would go forward. Unfortunately, TransCanada was able to begin construction on the southern leg of their pipeline, which is being currently  being protested and delayed by many brave individuals. After TransCanada re-submitted the whole plan through the State Department, its time for Obama to make another decision on whether or not this plan to bring tar sands oil from Canada through the Gulf of Mexico should go forward. (hint: it shouldn’t! This pipeline has been described as “game over for the climate” by NASA scientist James Hansen)

Overall we had a great trip that allowed us to bond as environmental students in Michigan, as well as to take action on an issue that is extremely important to us. To take us out, here’s some thoughts from some students in attendance (you know, the people who really matter!)

Vinncent Roncelli, Central Michigan University:

The Keystone XL pipeline is of great concern to me because it would lock the United States into a dependency on dirty fossil fuels. Climate change is happening and carbon emissions released from these burning fossil fuels is one of the greatest contributors to our warming planet. There are so many passionate students here at Central Michigan University that care about the well-being of our environment, so we decided it’s time to tell the Obama administration we do not need his dirty pipeline plan, and it is time to start investing in clean renewable energy. Thousands of concerned citizens rallied around the white house to spread this message and I truly believe they heard us, and if they decide to ignore our message, we will be back. We wont stop until our dependency on dirty fossil fuels stop!

Marissa Solomon, University of Michigan:

Living in Michigan, we don’t get a lot of opportunities to tell our government that we care about the environment, and that the climate needs to be a top priority. That’s why I decided to go to DC this weekend. The Obama administration has an Earth-changing decision on their hands, and we need as many people as possible to tell them that they need to say no to this dirty pipeline, and to say yes to new policies that will reduce our carbon emissions and start making progress toward a green economy and a safer climate. Marching in solidarity with 3,000 people and over 50 Michiganders was really amazing and inspiring, and I know that we made a difference!

The Sierra Club recently announced its intentions to join 350.org in the next Keystone XL White House action, scheduled close to the time when President Obama will have to make the decision. How many students will join us for that one?

And I know that all of the students who attended will join me in saying a big THANK YOU to the amazing 350.org organizers that made all of this possible! Can’t wait to see you all again soon!

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So we lost Prop 3…

And I know many of us have been feeling a little sad about that. Its always disheartening to see something that you worked so hard on go wrong, but in the end its all about the lessons you learn and how you move forward. In the case of Prop 3, there are many lessons to learn for ourselves, our organizations, and our movement as a whole, but also a lot of insight to be gained about how to move on with clean energy for Michigan now.

In the end, it turned out that voters didn’t really have a problem with clean energy in Michigan, they just didn’t want to change our constitution to make it happen. According to the American Wind Energy Association, only 1% of people who voted “no” did so because they are opposed to clean energy.  In addition, every other ballot initiative seeking to amend the constitution also lost, and by a fairly large margin. I guess if you want to get anything done here, an amendment to the constitution is not the way to go.

Of course, none of this was helped by the MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars spent by our state’s two largest utility companies and their dirty energy friends. Their biggest talking point for their vote no campaign was this constitution argument. They even had help from another group just promoting voting no on all of the amendment initiatives. When we put all this money together, the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs campaign supporting Prop 3 was outspent 5 to 1 by these two groups.

All together, it seems that Prop 3 had some very large obstacles in its way to becoming a part of our constitution, even though the majority of Michigan voters would like to see more clean energy. It is extremely sad to see our state reject this opportunity for a better environment, thousands of jobs, and a new future, but we can’t think that Prop 3 was our only  hope.

According to Midwest Energy News, wind energy in Michigan now costs much less than a new coal plant. We are also still on our way to achieving 10% renewable energy in our state by 2015, its not much but its still driving a larger market for clean energy. It seems that, mandate or not, Michigan is headed for a clean energy future. (well, DUH we are running out of fossil fuels and the climate is being destroyed!!!)

To me, the most hopeful part of all this was all of the progressive victories across the country we saw last week. Even though groups like the Koch brothers spent billions of dollars, people still came out to vote for the values that were important to them, like not hating women and gay people. We now have more diversity than ever in the House and Senate, and exciting new moves forward in several states, like the passing of same sex marriage in Maine and Maryland and the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. And hey, after all that money was spent, we still have the same president, democrats still control the Senate, and republicans still control the House. (Suddenly images of money burning in garbage cans are popping in to my head)

Although money and arguments about process won the day in Michigan, I see a lot of hope for clean energy in our very near future. There is a lot of momentum building off of climate change’s newest tap on the shoulder, hurricane Sandy, and President Obama will soon have to (again) make a decision on Keystone XL. The people of Michigan have made it clear that we must now turn to our elected officials and demand accountability from them if we want to see action on clean energy, so lets start doing it!

The MSSC will absolutely continue to fight for clean energy even though the election is over. Be a part of the solution by joining one of our issue based working groups! Currently, we are coordinating statewide action around fracking, tar sands, divestment, and 100% campus sustainability, but we need your help so sign up on our website today!

It was great working with many of you this past fall on Prop 3, and I can’t wait to move forward and do more great things together as a movement. We may have lost this one, but there are many more fights to come.

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Taking Back the Tap at CMU

From Mariah Urueta, Vice President of the Take Back the Tap organization at Central Michigan University. 

Take Back the Tap at Central Michigan University has been working endlessly to gradually phase out the sales of bottled water on the campus. Already, over 60 confirmed schools across the nation have ended the sales of bottled water through hard work and dedication. If Central Michigan University becomes the first University, or school in general, to make this grand step towards reducing our carbon emissions and increasing sustainability altogether, this will hopefully allow other schools around the state to follow! On Monday, October 29, Take Back the Tap’s legislation was passed by both the House and Senate of our Student Government Association (SGA). This is the fourth time it has been passed through the House, and the first by the Senate with a vote of 11 to 5 and 2 abstaining. Now that this is accomplished, Take Back the Tap plans to present their SGA support, nearly 1,800 petition signatures, and some picture petitions to Purchasing and Contracting in hopes of making amendments to the current Coca-Cola contracts. We will be sure to keep the MSSC posted! Not only will this be a great step for the university in terms of retention rates, financial, health, and environmental aspects, it will be an easy one at that- just drink out of a reusable water bottle!
Until our next step, let us go forth and conquer!
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Michigan: Sold to the Highest Bidder

The following is an account from Chloe Gleichman, a CMU student and prominent climate activist, of what happened at the recent MDNR land auction protest. Remember hearing from Jordan Lindsay about the previous MDNR protest? Well the auction happened, and 195,000 acres of Michigan land were sold for oil and gas development. 

My dad calls it the Magic Trail. It is a short, winding path through a thin forest where the birds, so trusting of humans, will land on seeded hands to grab a snack. Embedded in the safety of a state park, the Magic Trail is as much mine as it is the birds, the rocks, the trees, the deer.

But yesterday, a part of this trail became the property of a new owner, the oil and gas industry. At the hands of our own Department of Natural Resources, the mineral rights of 195,000 acres of our public land was sold to the highest oil and gas industry bidder in the fall edition of a biannual land auction, some for as little as $2/acre.

Sold is one way to describe what happened to the land and water in that grim, austere auction room, but as a citizen of Michigan, a more appropriate word would be stolen. Our land was stolen from us by Big Oil and Gas with the consent of a department whose mission is to conserve and protect.

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Poisoning for pennies. No!” Citizens yelled minutes before the auction, until told by a conservation officer, the DNR’s own private police force, that we would be subject to arrest for any disruption we made. The public viewing area, rows of seats behind the bidders, quieted down, but only for a moment.

As the auctioneer put parcel after parcel of land up for bid, emotions were flaring. Devastation. Anger. Betrayal. Powerlessness. While parcel after parcel was sold, citizen after citizen was ejected from the auction room for disrupting a “lawful” meeting, shouting impassioned cries at the bidders and auctioneers.

“Stop it! Think about the people you are poisoning! Think about the children! Stop!” yelled one young woman, in tears, as she was dragged out by four conservation officers. Seven people were arrested for speaking out, attempting to lock in to the auctioneers table, or disrupting the auction. Six were held overnight in jail and charged with felonies for resisting arrest. The fascist state tendencies and class warfare that is inherent in domination by industry became ever more apparent as the bidders sneered at us and laughed, as if the entire auction was some sort of silly game in which they were the winners.

But while we may have been the losers yesterday, a love for our state, a love for our land and water, and a love for each other unites. Intimidation and fear will not crush our spirits or conviction. We are the people and although the systems of power do not acknowledge us, we are not going away. We will not stop until they do.

And if they frack, we’ll be back.

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GOTV for Prop 3!

The election is almost here! Which means crazy town for most people I know, but its also been a lot of fun. These past few days MSSC’ers have been hard at work spreading the word about Prop 3 to as many students as possible to secure a clean energy victory for Michigan on November 6th. 

 

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MSU students from the MSSC and MI Clean Water Action at the Rock on Thursday, Nov 1.            

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Trick or Vote outside the Student Union at U of M!

Students have been outside on campuses all week braving the chilly temperatures to make sure that their peers get out to vote YES on Prop 3 November 6, and that Michigan can begin to free itself from some of the corporate power and tyranny exercised by our utility companies. Did you know that both DTE and Consumers Energy EACH contributed 11 million dollars to the opposition for Prop 3? Enbridge even pitched in $10,000, the company that spilled one million gallons of tar sands oil in to the Kalamazoo river  in 2010. All while complaining that renewable energy is too expensive…

These corporations and their money are Michigan’s biggest threat to clean energy. It seems that they will do anything to protect their profits from coal and coal infrastructure (DTE own many of the rail lines that import coal to MI!). These companies want to continue profiting from coal at the expensive of our health, our environment, and our economy. 

Please, vote YES on Prop 3 and let the people decide what is best for our state, not corporations that profit from pollution. And don’t forget to tell all your friends!

Given all this corporate spending, we need to be on our ground game as much as possible in these last few days. The most important things we can do right now are help to call voters and educate them about Prop 3, and ensure that we have poll greeters at all the top polling locations throughout the state handing out literature about Prop 3 on the 6th. If you have any time within the next few days, please help with these efforts! Organizers are coordinating phone banks (with pizza!) all across the state, and the Prop 3 campaign will be stationing as many poll greeters as possible. Sign up here to tell us how you can help out!

If we all pitch in to help pass Prop 3, I am confident that we will be celebrating a clean energy victory on November 7th. 

 

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