Our university has always painted itself as a green school, and that's not without receipts. We ranked 19th on the Sierra Club’s Cool Schools 2018 list, which celebrates schools with good environmental practices. We've invested thousands of dollars into solar power to reduce our carbon footprint, and we have our recycling program that recylces over 75% of our waste. All of these are accomplishments are amazing.
But as I've written previously at the Loyolan, regarding flooding infrastructure on campus and the impact of the new East Quad buildings, I believe LMU can always do more to ensure it lives up to the model of a green school. Rather than focusing on fixes to green initiatives by this administration, it's time to look beyond that — toward our student culture.
If LMU students really care about the environment, we need to be thinking globally.
The fatal flaw I see when it comes to our green activity on campus is that it usually starts and stops at local sustainability. Sustainability, as defined by the EPA, means, "to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations."
Sustainability, obviously, is a vital aspect of environmental action, and LMU has certainly done a lot to reach that goal. Students are certainly conscious about their plastic usage, food waste and electricity.
But when we box ourselves into this mindset of watching out for our own garbage and making sure our individual impacts are as close to zero as possible, we can miss out on the big picture of environmental destruction — even when it's on campus.
Last semester, ECO Students, an environmental advocacy student organization on campus, started a petition with the aim of getting the LMU administration to divest from tar sand companies. It's been a major problem at LMU for years, at least since 2013, and it absolutely goes against the idea that we're a green school.
The petition, however, was only a small effort. Though many students signed on to the petition, it's unlikely that the LMU administration will take these concerns from a minority of students seriously.
The culture isn't there to continually shame LMU for investing in what the National Resource Defense Council called, "some of the dirtiest oil in the world."
Outside of ECO Students, the amount of larger student environmentalist activism is either just sustainability or nonexistent. Green LMU is a departmental group, not a student organization, and it is entirely about sustainability.
Local sustainability is just one part of becoming an eco-conscious citizen. It’s not enough to make sure you have the right to a clean and green home; it’s fighting to make sure your neighbor has those rights, too.
Over the past few months, that fight has become ever more relevant.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that this July was the hottest month on record, breaking local records across the planet. Current climate change projections are expected to negatively impact the global food supply, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August.
And, of course, the burning of the Amazon rainforest. The number of fires in the Brazilian Amazon this year has increased over 80% compared to 2018, as reported by NPR.
“The Amazon for years has been neglected, by their own Brazilian population and its government,” explained Maria Beatriz Avinte Freire, a sophomore film and television production major from Manaus, Brazil. “The difference about the Bolsonaro administration is its total lack of care or interest [in] it.”
Jair Bolsonaro is the far-right president of Brazil and he has been most responsible for the current damage being done to the Amazon. Since his administration began, Bolsonaro has robbed protections for indigenous peoples' lands and handed over power to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply. Bolsonaro also fired the head of the National Institute for Space Research for defending deforestation data.
In August, he sarcastically asked a reporter if he was supposed to blame martians for the current fires before erroneously shifting blame back to NGOs. Bolsonaro has been nothing if not destructive.
“Even though big cities in the Amazon, like my hometown, are not yet being affected by it,” added Maria Beatriz Avinte Freire, “the fires in the Amazon directly impact the lives of thousands of indigenous people who have fought for years to have protection on the areas that are their homes.”
Our commitment needs to go beyond social media posts raising awareness about the issue. Social media trends, at best, last a few days. Environmental movements need to last far longer and truly tackle as much as possible. Fires aren’t just burning in Brazil. According to DW News, they’re burning everywhere—from Indonesia to Siberia to Greece.
This means holding our university accountable to its environmental values when it fails to meet them. This means getting active in our democracy by writing and calling to your congressperson to encourage pressuring the Brazilian government to end the burning of the Amazon. This means actually becoming a greener school, fighting for the environment every chance we get.
This is the opinion of Cristobal Spielmann, a sophomore environmental science major from Brentwood, Tennessee. Tweet comments @LALoyolan or email email@example.com.