On June 5, Amy Gutmann slapped her signature on an official statement reaffirming commitment to progress on climate change in response to . Penn joined 11 other major universities (the "Ivy Plus" group) in signing the agreement, acknowledging that climate change is a result of human activity and that we must continue on the path to a low carbon, sustainable future.
That’s great. I’m not saying it’s not. But it’s not enough.
Following Trump’s extremely controversial announcement to disaffiliate the United States with the Paris climate accord, a group of multiple cities, states and businesses have pledged their allegiance to the agreement, negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside other nations. Among these institutions, to support more renewable energy and ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Amy Gutmann was not one of them.
Time and time again, Penn has shown that it will not go the extra mile when it comes to actively protecting the environment and counteracting climate change. Throughout hosted by Fossil Free Penn and supported by other green groups on campus, Penn’s silence has been deafening. This silence, rather than some weak, face-saving statement, truly shows where Penn stands on the cusp of environmental destruction.
By choosing to do nothing and failing to take tangible action to support climate action, we have chosen the side of apathy. The side against progress. The side against our future and world.
By not strongly condemning Trump’s actions against environmental progress, we are siding with it and letting it pass. As his alma mater, we are in an especially sensitive and scrutinized situation — we can either establish ourselves as a leader of environmental justice, or we can become bystanders to our future destruction. If we do not have a strong reaction against Trump’s blatant disregard for the environment, then what kind of message are we sending to our country and the world?
This year, in late March, the Fossil Free Penn organization on campus hosted a sit-in in College Hall, demanding that Penn divest any fossil fuel holdings from its endowment. The results of the sit-in were rather open-ended — though both administration and students understand it’s an extremely important issue,
However, divestment is not an entirely unreasonable strategy to employ. Peer institutions, like Stanford and Columbia, have already made moves to use their endowment for beneficial, sustainable environmental progress. In May 2014, , and more recently in March 2017, from companies that derive more than 35 percent of their revenue from thermal coal production.
Fossil free movements just like Penn’s have worked tirelessly across university campuses, and as a result, real progress has been made. Steps have been taken to reduce college carbon footprints and pave the way for a sustainable future. It is time for Penn to listen, rise up and take actual steps toward climate action.
It’s astounding to me that in 2016, our president can still treat environmental issues so casually and incorrectly. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was his decision, but it doesn’t have to be ours — we, as college students, as members of Penn, can decide to take matters into our own hands and take control of the future of our planet.
I stand with Fossil Free Penn, and I stand with environmental sustainability. Let’s hope Penn’s administration — with Amy Gutmann’s signature — can do the same.
JESSICA LI is a rising College sophomore from Livingston, N.J., studying English and psychology.
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