The Dernogalizer

December 14, 2009

Diamondback Article Recognizes Green Activists Collaboration

In a look back on the semester, the Diamondback’s Dana Cetrone has an article out about how green groups on campus have worked together this semester to achieve common goals.  She mentions my group, UMD for Clean Energy, there’s a picture of our big march to the polls,  and I even got quoted on Copenhagen at the end, which is good.

A (green) team effort

By Dana Cetrone

Whether rallying for alternative energy, fighting to save a nearby forest or mobilizing students to vote in city elections, university environmental groups have been able to rely on one thing this semester: each other.

Working on local, national and international levels, university activist groups have relied on networking with on- and off- campus groups to advocate their causes and achieve their goals.

“I think it’s good to work with other groups where you have common ground,” said UMD for Clean Energy’s campaign coordinator Matt Dernoga, a Diamondback columnist. “When issues intersect, it’s always good to combine resources and people to try and get things done.”

This semester, UMD for Clean Energy focused its efforts toward lobbying the College Park City Council to adopt an Energy Loan Fund that would lend money to residents who make sustainable upgrades in their homes. The campaign, which culminated with an 80-student rally in front of City Hall, was successful, Dernoga said, despite having only a few months to educate students on the issue.

But Dernoga said the challenge was made easier by working with other groups with an on-campus presence, such as MaryPIRG.

“It’s always easier to work with others: There are more resources, and you’re reaching out to more people,” said Brian Lentz, the global warming solutions coordinator for MaryPIRG.
Other groups teamed with more established national organizations to gather additional resources. VegTerps, an animal rights group for vegetarians and vegans, teamed with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in its McCruelty campaign aimed at ousting McDonald’s from the Stamp Student Union.

“I definitely think working with PETA and peta2 helped us out tremendously,” VegTerps President Michelle Carr said. “Before no one knew who we were or about the campaign. It was good to have a mother organization to look after us, and they really helped us out by providing literature, stickers and materials.”

Although the campaign has yet to banish the fast-food giant, Carr’s efforts earned her a spot on the Stamp Student Advisory Board. Carr said she believes the campaign was successful because it made students aware of McDonald’s slaughter practices.

“I hope our campaign makes people realize that people have the power and by doing protests and rallies that power is with the students and that they have power to change the campus,” Carr said.

Joanna Calabrese, chair of the Student Sustainability Committee, said she sought a similar university-wide change with her campaign to save the Wooded Hillock from destruction.

The university had sought to bulldoze this 22.4 acre forest to make way for relocated East Campus buildings. But the University Senate last week voted to save the hillock, a victory for students and faculty activists, who Calabrese said worked with students to create a petition to send the senate.

“It’s a major turning point for us and our advocacy,” Calabrese said.  “Mote has only gone against the senate once, and I think there’s evidence there’s been a lot of pressure, and not by just students but environmental activists and local officials.”

Activists hope the cooperation that has occurred at the university this semester will carry over to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, where many of the groups sent petitions with national officials to the conference.

“We want there to be a strong climate treaty that can be reached,” Dernoga said. “What we advocate for is to have countries together commit to the strongest targets possible.”

cetrone at umdbk dot com

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