Initiative calls for carbon neutrality and other major sustainability endeavors

by Colin Bennett

New Haven - After months of campaigning, the Environmental Futurists, the student-run environmental and social justice group at Southern Connecticut State University, have convinced Dr. Cheryl Norton, president of SCSU, to sign the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment. According to Colin Bennett, Outreach Coordinator for the Environmental Futurists and winner of the 2006 Connecticut Climate Change Leadership Award, "although only a first step for our campus in the fight against climate change, it's a giant first step. Thanks to the students of Southern, especially the members of the Environmental Futurists who led a grassroots initiative to get to this point, our university is beginning to show leadership at a time when leadership is desperately needed."

The Environmental Futurists employed many tactics to put pressure on Southern's administration to make the commitment to climate neutrality. Says Bennett, "We started with a press conference in late February to announce our goals. Since then close to 500 postcards, almost 1,000 photo petitions, dozens of letters, as well as countless phone calls have been made to Cheryl Norton to get her to do the right thing. We even enlisted the help of our elected officials, most notably from Joe Lieberman who wrote a letter to Cheryl to urge her to sign the climate commitment."

Moving forward, the Environmental Futurists plan to work with the administration to help the school reach its goal. "The commitment is only a first step," says Tenzin Namdol, Campaign Coordinator for the Environmental Futurists. "Getting to carbon neutrality is going to take a lot more work than just convincing the president to sign the commitment; part of this effort means convincing the entire SCSU community to realize that we are facing a crisis and that order to avert it everyone is going to need to take responsibility and take action."

"A year ago Southern was not a particularly environmentally friendly place. The Environmental Futurists decided to do something about it; we empowered ourselves and took steps to make change happen, and in the process we became leaders. I'm proud of what we've done and I'm confident with our leadership Southern will become truly environmentally sustainable," says Bennett.

Colin Bennett is Outreach Coordinator for the Environmental Futurists. He is also a Green Party candidate for State Senate, 33rd District.