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Students rally for clean energy on campus

November 17, 2010

Susan Harley, Michigan policy director for Clean Water Action, speaks in front of protesters from MSU Beyond Coal on Wednesday behind Wells Hall. The group planted more than 500 paper pinwheels in the ground behind Wells Hall to encourage more environmentally-friendly energy.

About 500 small paper pinwheels were mounted on the tops of pencils and scattered in the grass behind Wells Hall and the International Center on Wednesday afternoon.

The display was part of a rally by MSU Beyond Coal to urge MSU administrators to commit to a clean energy future for the campus, MSU Beyond Coal president Talya Tavor said.

Several other Big Ten schools already have committed to moving toward alternative energy, including University of Illinois and Penn State University, she said.

“(Penn State’s) in Pennsylvania, coal country, so if they can do it we sure as hell should be able to,” Tavor said.

The event was part of a national day of action with 45 other universities nationwide holding similar pinwheel events, said Eric Price, spokesman for MSU Beyond Coal. At the end of the week, the groups plan to send all the pinwheels to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC.

“The windmill is kind of the easiest representation of clean energy,” Price said. “Five hundred of these pinwheels will … push for what we want to do — push for clean energy.”

Jennifer Battle, assistant director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, said she recently met with students from the Sierra Club and renewable energy is “definitely” in MSU’s future.

“We’re looking to incorporate it in lots of renovation projects and that will continue,” Battle said.

Battle said the office also recently submitted a grant for funding to incorporate wind and solar energy into campus construction projects including the Plant and Soil Sciences Building addition and a project at Wilson Hall.

“Even though some of the technology is not 100 percent mature, we’re continuing to try them,” she said.

Packaging senior Scott Huddas said he made about 10 pinwheels for the event. Huddas always has been interested in alternative energy and wants to put a solar panel on his house when he has one of his own, he said.

“I figure if I want to do that for my own house, we should do it for the campus,” he said. “There’s lots of space for wind power and plenty of roof space for solar energy.”

The event brought out about 50 students from Beyond Coal, ECO, Greenpeace, Campus Interfaith Council and other groups who carried signs to ask the university to focus on its “green” roots, Tavor said.

“It’s not just an environmental cause — it’s a public cause, an MSU cause,” she said.

Kenneth Rosenman, chief of the MSU Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, spoke at the event and said coal emissions contribute to heart disease, respiratory problems and asthma attacks, as well as factors related to global warming.

“Quality of life depends on clean air,” he said.

Susan Harley, Michigan policy director for Clean Water Action, also spoke at the rally. She said she would like to see MSU transition to natural gas until renewable energy is a viable option for campus. She also hopes the university will begin to use more energy efficient and conservation-friendly technology, including power strips and timers on lights.

“I think MSU has a long tradition of environmental curriculum both in natural resources and ecology … but that can’t be the only option,” she said. “We are burning coal and we know what the environmental and health consequences of burning coal are.”

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