Response to ‘Slow down, green movement’

Roy Cloutier

As a member of both Campus Beyond Coal and the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, I have been able to observe firsthand the two-sided nature of the environmental movement âÄî something that Nora Leinen has clearly neither noticed nor researched, as her Thursday column in The Minnesota Daily shows. In âÄúSlow down, green movement,âÄù Leinen argues that âÄúenvironmentalists have been slow to provide solutions.âÄù This critique is ultimately mistaken for several reasons. In the case of Beyond Coal, Leinen is mistaking an activist organization for a technical organization, each of which has and should have its own unique responsibilities. Simply put, we donâÄôt ask the canary how to clear gas from the mine. In the words of author and former Greenpeace National Speaker Christopher Childs, âÄúThe first role of activists in our culture, from Paul Revere to Frederick Douglass to John Muir to Rachel Carson and beyond, is to say, âÄòHouston, we have a problem,âÄô not, âÄòHouston, we have a problem, and although we are not technical experts, we are detailing the following steps to safely return the capsule to Earth.âÄô Getting the metaphorical capsule back home is ultimately the rightful province of the specialist, and to suggest otherwise is naïve at best and deliberately distractive at worst.âÄù That said, environmentalists are not, and never have been, short on practical solutions to the issues they raise. Take, for example, the United States Green Building Council, whose LEED standards utterly remade the design and construction industry. Another potent example is the Earth Policy InstituteâÄôs yearly publication of a comprehensive plan containing hundreds of pages of practical solutions to counter environmental problems we face. Or try the Rocky Mountain Institute, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Solar Energy Society (of which MRES is a chapter), the Union of Concerned Scientists and the remainder of an extensive list of other specialists actively engaged in researching, designing and creating the solutions that their partner activist organizations, such as Beyond Coal, seek and advocate for. Even minimal research will turn up a multitude of other organizations from all areas of focus providing a plethora of solutions to these pressing problems. Beyond Coal merely advocates that the University acknowledge that there is a significant problem with our continued use of coal and sign a public commitment to seek out these myriad alternatives and choose the one that makes the most economic and practical sense for the University. We donâÄôt want to limit the University by prescribing something that, for whatever reasons unforeseen to us, may be impractical. We simply ask that the administration acknowledge the problem and turn to specialists for the most âÄúreliable and feasibleâÄù solution. Roy Cloutier, University undergraduate student, Campus Beyond Coal, Minnesota Renewable Energy Society