A middbeat contributor weighs in on the People’s Climate March from a few weeks ago where more than 130 students travelled to New York to protest the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and speaks to the culture of environmentalism at Midd. Feel free to share your thoughts below and join in on the conversation.
“Shoulda, Coulda, Didn’t”, was the call to arms for the 400,000 other people marching across New York City in arms against the global climate change crisis at the People’s Climate March two Sundays ago. Mass demonstrations like the PCM are often points of conflict in our generation—radicals want to burn down all industrial institutions while the opposition continues to lobby in favor of fracking, fossil fuel excavation and emissions. Efforts to change the culture of our current energy investments and security are numerous and strong, but bureaucracy for change is slow and often painfully ineffective.
Middlebury College has branded itself as a big leader on the environment nestled away in an idyllic Green Mountain setting. The decorous history of our institution seems to speak for itself: in 1965 we were the first college to offer an environmental studies major, more recently in 2007 we pledged to go carbon neutral by 2016, and we were the cradle of the international climate change movement 350.org. At the PCM, 130 Midd students turned out to put pressure on the 2014 UN climate summit. The issue of global warming isn’t a new item on Middlebury’s agenda. A few weeks ago Middlebury scholar and leading environmentalist Bill McKibben, Middlebury Physics Professor Richard Wolfson, and student activists stood in front of a standing audience in St. Stephen’s chapel, exposing the dangers of rising temperatures: acidification of the seas, drier and more frequent droughts and the increased intensity of hurricanes—we all can think back to Hurricane Irene that swept chaos across Vermont in 2011.
Yet there is a kind of darkness that breeds a strong sense of discomfort in Middlebury’s current environmental agenda. The college’s support for the Vermont Gas Pipeline, which will be used to transport fracked gas across Vermont, having fossil fuel firms in our endowment portfolio, and the obstinate lack of transparency in the administrative rings exposes a destructive inconsistency between Middlebury and its green mission – or rather, its pseudo-green one. The Middlebury mission statement reads: