Several environmental-focused University of Wisconsin student organizations joined other Big Ten schools in creating a climate coalition in honor of Earth Day last Friday.
The coalition demands that UW increase transparency regarding spending records, divest from the fossil fuel industry in three to five years and reinvest in sustainability, according to the Divest NU Instagram.
According to a statement from Wisconsin Student Climate Action Coalition member Lily Healing, students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign initiated a meeting to reinvigorate Big 10 collaboration in early April of this year.
“There were over 21 students present with at least 8 of the Big 10 schools represented and each campus had the opportunity to share their respective climate action successes, struggles and goals,” Healing said. “Most [of] us seem to be dealing with similar issues, including bureaucratic barriers to divestment and climate action plans lacking accountability and urgency, which really highlights the need for cross-school collaboration.”
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The coalition also urges Enbridge, the company in charge of the controversial Line 5 pipeline, to stop pursuing the construction of the pipeline and to honor treaties with the Indigenous First Nations that will be affected, the post said. The coalition asks Governor Evers to declare a state of climate emergency in Wisconsin.
According to Healing, Big 10 schools have worked together in the past, but past collaborations were relatively single-issue focused and short-lived.
“Big 10 schools worked together in 2020 to pass a resolution calling for Big 10 Universities to commit to climate-conscious investments, as well one in 2019 for schools to declare a climate emergency,” Healing said. “While we can applaud those past moments of unity, they did not create a movement.”
The UW Office of Sustainability hasn’t been approached by the Big Ten climate coalition, but is more than willing to collaborate, Office of Sustainability communications director Nathan Jandl said in an email statement to The Badger Herald.
“We are always happy to engage with students who are pushing for sustainability efforts on campus and in the wider world,” Jandl said.
The coalition asks UW students and the greater Madison community to stand with those already participating in the statewide “March Fourth to Earth Day” movement, the post said.
Healing said the outcomes from the first meeting have been very positive. Schools have formed working groups to meet separately on specific issues like divestment, climate action plans and sustainability education.
“These will enable us to tackle more issues at once and put some fire under Big 10 University Chancellors’ pants by calling their competitiveness on the sustainability level into question,” Healing said. “The students I met at the most recent Big 10 meeting all seem committed to long-term collaboration and I am excited to see the impact of our collective actions.”