Just yesterday, the SGA passed a student fee increase at the University of Maryland. The new legislation creates an additional student fee increase of 4 dollars in 2010, and later more or less depending on the market in the future. This “could potentially purchase 100 percent of student consumption in clean, renewable energy,” according to the act itself. The money will go to developing clean energy technologies on campus, integrating sustainability education in the classroom, and making the campus run more efficiently.
What is remarkable to me at least about this referendum is that it was completely created by students for the university. Two years ago, myself, Joanna Calabrese, and Davey Rogner started Clean Energy for UMD in order to put this referendum on the ballot. It was in favor by 91% of the voting students, more then any other bill in previous history at the University of Maryland. However, this is a nonbinding agreement and there was no gaurantee that it would materialize into anything real until it had reached SGA, which finally happened yesterday.
Often, as an organizer, I get bogged down with the amount of red tape needed to penetrate “The Government”. Even on a campus level, sometimes it seems that no matter how hard someone tries they go unheard, or shut down for bureaucratic concerns. It’s hard to know if everything we are doing will end up in actual change or not. But so much has changed in two years. Two years ago, we were all still talking about the IPCC report and their finding that global warming is in fact very real. Now we have hurricanes hitting Texas, the U.S. government marking territory in northern seas in light of glacier melt, and (most) republicans admitting that global warming does exist. Gas prices have soared beyond anything in the history of America, and the average citizen has somehow taken heed of the future of our planet and our resources. Two years ago it seemed fringe to talk about the power of clean energy, and now we have a twelve year old who created a 3-d solar cell. Technology, it seems, will continue to develop beyond our wildest imaginations. And people too, are subsequently taking part in one of the biggest and fastest paradigm shifts to ever take place.
It means a lot to me that the students of UMD and even the ones that hold power are willing to pay out of their pockets for clean energy. Being one of the largest schools near the District of Columbia, our willingness to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels restores a little bit of my faith in humanity. Nationally, the stage is set for a clean energy revolution: an economy in the depths of a second Great Depression, a war over resources we shouldn’t even need anymore, and the technological advancements that are changing how see everything. People are starting to take notice. The change is just above the horizon, I’m happy to say that I know we really are going to save the world.