Hayden’s Hopes: Green Fee and the Climate Action Plan

This column originally appeared in the Davidsonian in the fall of 2011.

Hayden’s Hopes: Ideas for Davidson’s Future

4. Reaffirm the Climate Action Plan with a Green Fee

In 2007, President Tom Ross signed the President’s Climate Commitment, a visionary document that institutionalizes Davidson’s dedication to sustainability. It promises that the College will pursue carbon neutrality and make environmental awareness a priority. To lay out a course of action, the college developed the Climate Action Plan, a document that describes the steps that must be taken towards sustainability.

The Climate Action Plan should be a priority for several reasons. If Davidson wants to be a place that develops students for lives of leadership and service, it should itself look to lead in the service of others, by standing with the vanguard of other colleges that have dedicated themselves to a clean environment for future students. If Davidson wants to be governed by an Honor Code that disavows lying, cheating, and stealing, it should stand up and do what it can to make sure that this generation does not steal from future generations by ruining the environment. This is a place of learning and privilege, both of which should be used to better the world.

President Quillen has a well-earned reputation as a progressive thinker who holds social responsibility as a priority. This reputation could be cemented if the President were to visibly re-affirm the College’s dedication pursuant to the Climate Action Plan with a public statement of her own personal support for it. (Note: she does not need to re-sign the Commitment for it to remain in effect.)

Of course responsibility does not lie solely, or even primarily, with the administration. Instead, I challenge the student body to investigate the viability of a student Green Fee, which would be collected yearly for the express use of moving the College towards carbon neutrality. The amount of the Green Fee and the manner of its collection would be contingent on student preference. Nationwide, Green Fees are collected and administrated with student oversight at more than fifty colleges, including Harvard, Cal, Sewanee, William and Mary, and UNC-Chapel Hill. The Fee would have to be proposed and passed by the student body, and could go towards a number of projects, including the production of on-campus renewable energy (the Climate Action Plan calls for the provision of 10% of our electricity from such sources).

The Climate Action Plan includes a provision on the establishment of a Green Fee, and I foresee a Green Fee as one of the most expedient ways that this campus can prove its dedication to social responsibility, make a difference in the world, and cement its reputation amongst peers.

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