The Wesleyan Climate Ambassadors and Outhouse held a discussion titled “Post-Election Climate Dialogue” on Wednesday, Nov. 16 in Exley 150. The mission of the talk was to strategize ways that Wesleyan’s environmental groups can take immediate action and start to make tangible strides toward greener Wesleyan and Middletown communities.
Wesleyan Climate Ambassador Matt Pelton ’17 started the discussion by dissecting how President-elect Donald Trump’s policies will potentially affect climate change. Due to Republican control of federal funding, Pelton called for more action on both state and local levels.
“For those of you who are unaware, we now face a Republican House, Senate, President, and potentially Supreme Court,” Pelton said. “Historically, the Republican Party has continuously opposed carbon emissions reductions policies as well as other sustainability policies and thus we expect to lose a lot of ground in these areas on a national level….So we want to focus more on the state and local levels on climate policies and other sustainability policies.”
The three specific areas that the group wants to work on are lobbying state, local and national politicians, getting more involved directly with Middletown, and promoting conservation and environmental practices at Wesleyan. He also described some of the groups that the network were looking to interact with locally.
“[We are] looking into things we are interested in, getting more involved with the collective impact network, ECOIN, who serves as an umbrella organization to coordinating efforts between other groups and works out of the Jonah Center for the Earth and Art,” Pelton said. “Other groups that are local include the clean energy task force, which [Sustainability Director] Jen [Kleindienst] leads. It [The Clean Energy Task Force] works to get more sustainable energies within this immediate community and actually has positions on it open specifically for college students in this area that are currently unused. There’s also the Recycling Advisory Commission and the North End Action Team, which are Middletown groups that we are considering reaching out to and working with.”
After Pelton spoke, the Ambassadors opened the floor up for discussion. Formatted as an open forum, people in the audience largely discussed upcoming Wesleyan environmental events, Middletown initiatives, and statewide and legislative initiatives. Key events and ideas included working with high schools in Middletown, engaging with Environmental Collective Impact Network, and connecting with other Connecticut colleges about the climate.
“We are also interested in fostering a greater communication between other Connecticut colleges as well as United States colleges,” Pelton said.
Kleindienst, from the Clean Energy Task Force, attended the discussion as well and explained how the group is working now on a solar campaign for the city.
“The Clean Energy Task Force in Middletown is a city commissioned force and it started out as focusing on mainly the municipal energy issues and efficiency,” Kleindienst said.“Since I’ve become co-chair, we’ve been trying to increase outreach. Right now we are working on a solar panel campaign for the city.”
Speaking on behalf of the Jonah Center for the Earth and Art, Vice President and Associate Professor of Philosophy and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Elise Springer described how important it will be going forward to make people love the environment and connect them to nature.
“The Jonah Center hasn’t been specifically involved with Middletown [activism] as much as getting people really committed to this place so that we can begin from a position of loving the place and thinking about what makes their lives meaningful,” Springer said. “So we do a lot of work connecting people to the environment that we live in.”
Other initiatives student brought to the table included the Wesleyan Real Food Challenge, which is a national organization that has connections to other schools; SAGES, the Wesleyan Sustainability Committee consisting of students, faculty and staff; and potential carpooling ideas to reduce use of cars around campus.
“It definitely seems like that’s one of the things we’re trying to promote: a dialogue between environmentally focused groups on campus,” Adam Mirkine ’17 said. “Even trying to put together this meeting, it really felt like there wasn’t anything to work off of. So I definitely think something we’ve been trying to push and that would be good for the campus community is for us to have more things like this where people can come together and put their heads together.”