Letters to the editor

Cardinal and Gold needs more green

It’s every Trojan’s nightmare: USC is losing to UCLA.  Not in football, nor academics, but something that affects every student, professor, and employee of USC: our campus’ sustainability.  In an annual list of Eco-Enlightened U.S. Universities, USC is ranked 124 out of 162.  And we aren’t losing by just a few places: USC is 97 spots behind UCLA.

We’re the 23rd-best university in the United States according to U.S. News & World Report, and we’re the single largest private power buyer in Los Angeles. We have power here (figuratively, of course), and plenty of it. And although it is fantastic to be recognized by the World Health Organization as a healthy university, and the Viterbi School of Engineering is doing an incredible job of building eco-friendly buildings, USC could be leading the fight to get greener faster.

President Nikias, you have an awesome opportunity to make USC a nationwide leader in clean energy while you’re president.  As the creator of Visions and Voices, you should understand this: When I attended a kickoff meeting of the Beyond Coal campaign on campus, I learned that USC students share a vision of a totally green university. Whenever we turn on the lights at the Coliseum to illuminate our winning team, we don’t want to feel bad for our opponent or our environment.

This is our campus.  This is our vision.  This is our voice. Because if losing to the Bruins isn’t enough to inspire us to make a 100 percent switch to clean energy, what will?

Sarah Bedo

Sophomore, theatre

Coal endangers health, environment

By now, in light of recent news regarding climate change and air pollution, most Americans are aware of the dangers of using coal-fired power plants. But why would the average Californian, Angeleno or, in my case, USC Trojan care about this issue?

Coal is simply not an industry with a great presence in the Golden State. Yet I was astounded to discover the magnitude in which coal still plays a role in supplying California’s energy. Los Angeles receives at least 40 percent of its energy from out-of-state coal use, and as the largest private purchaser of energy in L.A., it is USC’s responsibility to stand as a sustainable example: with upcoming Los Angeles Department of Water and Power negotiations, USC has the opportunity to become an example and leader in renewable and efficient energy use.

Some might argue the monetary impact of such change, but I argue that the health impacts of coal are a much greater cost. Burning coal worsens asthma, causes lung cancer and other respiratory issues. Tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year can be attributed to coal. Coal plants are also one of the largest sources of mercury pollution in the U.S., which threatens our health through our food supplies.

Although many have hesitated to embrace such technologies as solar and wind power, this is what will ultimately secure a healthier future for America. Students at USC have already begun to emphatically embrace this change — the campus’s Beyond Coal campaign this year has more members, support, and ambitious goals than ever before. We can’t do this alone — this is an issue that affects the community, and needs the support of the community.

President Nikias, help your students and neighbors breathe easy and move the University of Southern California beyond coal.

Sarah Wescott, Rosie Murphy, Gaby Roffe, Derek Lazo

Beyond Coal Campaign

8 replies
  1. Bill Baldwin, Jr.
    Bill Baldwin, Jr. says:

    Sarah, I thought you presented a reasonable argument for a gradual change, but the question at the heart of the matter seems to be largely untouched. What energy source would you use to replace USC’s current out of state coal usage ? Ethanol.?….Natural Gas.?……..Hamsters.?…..if properly harnessed, dairy farms are thought to be capable of generating massive bio gas. THe problem is nobody wants to live next to this kind of power producer…if you’re unsure as to what I’m referring, do a quick drive by sometime and take a big, deep breath through your nose and …..Moooooo, er Eeeuuwwww, but I digress.

    Nuclear power might someday be the key power source removing coal from the equation. IT’s certainly highly cost efficient and eco- sort of friendly, but the United States hasn’t built a new Nuclear Power plant since the 1970’s. The Obama administration is backing a loan program in Georgia to build two nuclear reactors, but whether the president has any political muscle left after November, muscle and resolve he’ll need to to fend off the Gore / Bono environmental groups.

    Of course , taking a hint from the cows, we could generate all the power USC would need just by capturing the tons of hot air floating up from the Washington D.C. 24/7

    I graduated from USC in 1967, meaning I lived in LA when air pollution was virtually a daily issue. We had one third less people, but cars and industry spewed so much junk skyward, there were days when it was unsafe to be outside doing any physical work.

    Bill Baldwin, Jr.
    USC 1967

  2. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Funny. I am actually the author of the first story and not once did I demand anything to be done right away. I love my university enough to try and state my opinion, just as I am allowed to do. To assume that I am not educated in this subject matter is judgmental and, frankly, hurtful. I never say that I am perfect. I am NOT a student that spends their time “waiving a green flag”, nor do I spend time picking up and recycling things on the row. Because, as strange of a concept as it may be to some of you, I actually am here to get an education, not spend my time picking up trash as, I assume, you believe people who think clean energy is a good idea should do.

    If you didn’t take the time to read what page this is on, it is an OPINION page. This is my opinion, and I applaud myself for stating it. I am glad that people took the time to read it, whether they think I am presumptuous or not.

    I know who I am. I am a loving, kind, caring young woman who cares about her university and her lungs. President Nikias is all about trying new things. I am not, nor have I ever, demanded anything form him immediately. In fact, I didn’t demand anything EVER. I just simply stated my opinion.

    And my angle with UCLA is not knocking them for being a public school. I have grown up in Los Angeles my entire life, and my mother works for the school system. I know how hard it is for the school and their student. I work three jobs to pay my way through school.

    I have no problem with any of you stating your opinions about this matter, but don’t cast opinions about me. You don’t know me personally, nor do you know my background. Your words can be hurtful, and you never know how they will affect the person. Just please be mindful that some people are sensitive, especially when taking the step to express their opinion publicly. Thank you.

  3. Augustus Tittae
    Augustus Tittae says:

    I applaud the well intended student efforts, but I guess I have a problem with how this information is relayed. There is a sense in both articles these students believe that they know more about what is best for the school than President Nikias. As if this was his first day of school and he was fumbling with a lunch bag full of grandma’s cookies. He is well aware of the school, it’s policies and plans and I believe he has probably been considering them a lot longer then the students who wrote their pleas for change.

    I would say it is a little presumptuous to tell anyone how to do their job, especially in a way that challenges USC’s value when compared to UCLA. Those bruins are facing quite an economic problem, and this could in part be due to making hasty and expensive decisions about energy programs. If any student desires the UCLA program, their best bet is to leave and join that program. I’m sure they will welcome you with open arms. Who cares if they have overcrowded classrooms and that it may take 6 years to graduate? If you don’t, well, head on over.

    But perhaps I am mistaken. Perhaps USC students would prefer that their leaders act quickly and half hazardly, in a way that could raise tuition. Perhaps President Nikias needs to sit upon your knee as you explain how to run one of the largest private companies in Los Angeles?
    If so, bring some warm Chocolate Chip cookies. I’m sure he’ll be more apt to listen if you explain it with yum yums.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      Please let me know where I told President Nikias how to do his job. I only read me expressing my opinion and letting him know that he could help with becoming greener.

  4. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I think it is unreasonable to assume that “people like the author” use exorbitant amounts of energy. Energy efficiency is an important part of the changes that are to be made at this University, and this is something that has clearly been acknowledged by environmental campaigns on campus, as well as the Department of Sustainability and Matthew Oden. Indeed, I think you would find it more likely that the types of students taking activist roles in these efforts ARE the type of students to recycle, conserve water, curb electricity use, and participate in such things as Earth Hour. Greater education on environmentally conscientious living is essential for USC students (as well as the general population), many of whom do not realize the impact they make. Movements like this, which seek to draw attention to an issue and educate the public, are a collective step in the right direction: these letters don’t seem to place blame, but rather encourage progress instead.

  5. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    Rick and Augustus, no one is “pointing fingers” or trying to “publicly spout off about the failings of school authorities”. There was no one pointing fingers in either of these letters, and surely we all agree that we can DO BETTER. In fact, these letters were more of a call to action for the campus and the new president to step up and join the students who want to see USC take the lead on clean energy.

    Other schools ARE doing better, like Penn State, the University of North Carolina Tarheels, or Ball State in Indiana, who have all agreed to move off of coal due to student movements on their campuses within the last year. Other Universities are joining a call to move off of coal and be leaders on this.

    No matter which way we get it, coal is an incredibly dirty and polluting energy source. I’m sure many students are shocked to find out that we get so much power from coal. It is great to see students at USC working hard to raise awareness about the dangers of coal-fired power generation and the exciting prospects for clean energy right here on campus.

    The University of Southern California is an cutting edge research institution that has the opportunity to become a national leader in promoting clean energy in the 21st century. It’s time for our new President to join with students on campus who are calling for the University to take the lead in moving beyond coal and switching to cleaner energy.

  6. Augustus Tittae
    Augustus Tittae says:

    While I applaud the growing student interest in “going green” I think there needs to be more research from students before they publicly spout off about the failings of school authorities. If the process of transferring to a more green institution is taking a while, it is probably because USC has high standards and requires the time to test the value and efficiency of the new methods of energy use and recycling. The technology is changing so fast, that to spend a large amount of money and have the new technology become obsolete the next year would be foolish and not fiscally responsible.

    The green movement is also full of ambiguity and many hucksters and exploiters try to pass off sub-par products under the “green” label. There have been stories about food products that are supposedly grown with “organic” methods. When an investigator researched those methods, he found that the farmers were using their own human fecal matter to fertilize their crops. Needless to say, those $#itty products were no longer sold when the Food and Drug Administration found out. Many dangers like this exist in the new green marketplace, and this is why school officials must take their time. They are responsible for many people.

    Responsibility is a keyword here, and many student leaders have started and created recycling movements, but these programs usually get neglected by students tasked with maintaining them. While school officials work to make new buildings like the Ronald Tutor Center more energy efficient, student waving the green flag are failing to contribute to new programs like the students at UCLA are. Where are the bottle collecting sophmores when there are large parties on the row? Where are they on game day, when aluminum cans and bottles glitter in the sunlight waiting to be picked up? USC students don’t take the initiative, but the local residents do, happily scavenging what they can from student neglect.

    These words may sting, but student leaders need to feel this pain and think about their words before they talk about the misperceived failings of others. When you point a finger at someone else, three fingers point back…at you.
    In your case, there is also a thumb,
    and it is green.

  7. Rick
    Rick says:

    Funny how all the students on campus have the same rallying cry “GO GREEN” “SAVE THE PLANET” yet, I work for FMS and get calls to these students rooms and we enter these apartments and dorm rooms to find all the lights, TV’s and Radios with no one there. Students like the author need to start working on themselves and making sure they are turning things off behind themselves before they start pointing fingers and shouting from their soap boxes. The university has numerous plans for sustainability and so-called “GREEN ENERGY”. Leave the University and its loyal employees to take care of the University and people like the author can start working on themselves to practice what they preach.

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