Student environmental leaders from campuses around Wisconsin met Saturday at the University of Wisconsin to organize a new student coalition aimed at advocating climate legislation.
Wisconsin Student Climate Coalition, in partnership with Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group’s Big Red Go Green, is forming a coalition of seven schools in an effort to influence the Wisconsin Legislature to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
To generate buzz on campuses statewide, coalition organizers are starting a 10,000 postcard petition in support of their climate change legislation campaign.
If successful, the petition would be one of the largest student petitions on climate change in state history.
UW junior Scott Thompson, coordinator of WISPIRG’s Big Red Go Green effort on campus, said one of his main objectives was to organize a statewide network of students to give individuals a voice at the state level.
“Our coalition consists of UW-Stevens Point, UW-Milwaukee, Marquette, UW-Madison, UW-La Crosse, Northland College and Ripon College,” Thompson said. “More than 80 students are already involved, and we are working at the grassroots level.”
Luke Lockhart, a junior at Ripon College, said there are legislators currently working to draft a climate change bill in the Wisconsin Legislature that follows the recommendations put out by Gov. Jim Doyle’s task force on global warming.
“Our efforts are to ensure that the bill is aggressive and has some teeth to it so that Wisconsin can be a leader in climate change legislation into the next generation,” Lockhart said.
Thompson said opponents of renewable energy fear it will cost the state valuable budget space at a time in which the budget is tight, and that it may also result in more layoffs. However, he added green jobs and economic recovery are not mutually exclusive.
“Seventy-five percent of our state’s energy comes from coal, 100 percent of which we have to import because Wisconsin has no coal resources of its own,” Thompson said. “Biomass is a great renewable option for Wisconsin because it would be creating Wisconsin jobs and using Wisconsin resources.”
The coalition will be using a variety of media types to spread their message via Facebook, a text message campaign, a website forum and a newsletter.
UW-Stevens Point student Katie Kloth, an environmental leader and campus activist, said a recent visit to Power Shift in Washington D.C., a national climate change conference held last weekend, inspired her to start a coalition.
“What I realized was that no one individual can do it on their own, but that we need to educate people to let them know that through a collaborative effort they can change things politically,” Kloth said.
Kloth said WSCC will also rate Wisconsin legislators based on the “conservation scorecard” developed by the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters, to inform students which legislators are backing the issues that coalition members care about.