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?
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