Williams College students call for college to reduce its carbon 'hoof print'


Photo Gallery | Williams College students call for reduction in carbon 'hoof print'

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Carrying banners and black balloons, about 40 students stood outside a window of the Williams College president's office chanting slogans and calling for stricter emission reduction goals at the school.

Three of them then went into Hopkins Hall to meet with college president Adam Falk, and deliver a petition that had nearly 1,200 signatures garnered on a campus that houses roughly 1,500 students.

Williams College's current emission reduction goal calls for a 10 percent reduction of CO2 emissions from the 1991 levels by 2020. The petition seeks a goal of 80 percent reduction by 2050.

Williams senior Zoe Grueskin, one of the campaign organizers, said campus environmental group Thursday Night Grassroots decided to push for higher standards because the current goal is "very modest compared to the state of Massachusetts and many other schools," she said. "We hope this will spark a robust conversation on climate change campus-wide."

The students carried 80 inflated black balloons to symbolize the amount of CO2 emitted by the college per student every day.

James Kolesar, spokesman for the college, said the current goals already have been a topic of conversation.

"People have expected for some time that we would increase our goal and make it more challenging," he said.

According to figures provided by Amy Johns, director of the Williams College Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives Williams' emissions in 1991 were 23,188 metric tons of C02.

"In our most recent complete fiscal year [2013] our emissions were 22,707 metric tons of C02," she said via email. "In terms of goals, the current goal of 10 percent below 1991 levels is 20,870 metric tons of C02 -- 80 percent below 1991 levels would be 4,638 metric tons."

She said the school is "on track" to meet the current goal by 2020.

"Which may be why the students, myself and others are interested in setting goals beyond that," Johns said.

She said the 80 percent reduction goal is "achievable, but it's a real challenge. We would need to be very vigilant about conservation opportunities, look for new efficiencies and probably find a zero-emissions source of electricity like wind or solar. And by 2050, there may be technological opportunities we can't perceive right now."

Addressing the students during the demonstration, organizer Grueskin noted that this may be the last few days of the semester, "but we are here to show [Falk] that we are not done yet."

One of the students in the group, Kalila Booker-Cassano, said it is significant that "so many students were willing to take time out from finals week to seek higher emission reduction goals."

Bill Moomaw, the director of environmental studies for Williams until 1990, also was present for the rally.

"I really want to support the students and what they're doing today," he said. "They really care about this. It's what really has to be done."

Once the chanting was done, the students swarmed up the stairs of Hopkins Hall to the top floor outside the president's office.

After meeting with three students, Falk stepped out of his office and into the hallway of the administration building to address the group.

He said he appreciated their efforts, and agrees that higher goals should be discussed.

But he added that whatever goal is set should be achievable, and a good way to set new goals would be to assemble a group with expertise in the area to devise a plan for doing so.

His concern, he said, was that the school doesn't set goals that are so ambitious that they are not achievable, or set so far in the future that "we don't hold ourselves accountable."

Later in the day, Will Dudley, provost and professor of philosophy at Williams, spoke for the administration via email.

He noted that the school is "on track" to meet the current goals "several years ahead of schedule" due to investments in conservation, energy efficiency and cleaner fuels.

"As we get close to our current goal, the time is right to look forward and set a target for continued improvement," he added. "The Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives and the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee are working together to identify opportunities for additional emission reductions through the use of renewable energy, conservation measures, retrofits of existing facilities, and green building practices. On the basis of this analytical work we'll establish meaningful short-, medium-, and long-term aspirations for progressive emission reduction."

To reach Scott Stafford:
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On Twitter: @BE_SStafford


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