If Trinity is serious about environmental sustainability, it has a funny way of showing it.
The inclusion of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment to the Bicentennial Plan is a commendable gesture, but it’s precisely that: a gesture.
Issues relating to climate change are far more pressing than such a commitment suggests. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 and a 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2021 is insufficient, considering the pace of climate change; according to studies from NASA, in the last 15 years, global temperatures have increased at a faster rate than earlier models predicted. Even if Trinity manages to completely eliminate its carbon footprint in the next 23 years, environmental ramifications will be significant, if not catastrophic.
Compounding the issue of Trinity’s environmental footprint are its investments. Trinity remains invested in fossil fuel companies, producing demand for an outdated, environmentally destructive destructive product provided by a morally bankrupt industry. By enabling fossil fuel companies to continue its profit-driven evisceration of the natural world, Trinity’s footprint only gets larger and more difficult to erase.
Trinity’s acquisition of a fuel cell is another insufficient step. It constitutes only a marginal step toward carbon neutrality, notwithstanding the fact that Trinity is a decade behind its peer institutions in purchasing one.
Equally telling is the conspicuous absence of a campaign to have the college divest from fossil fuel-based investments.
None of these efforts, a commitment to carbon neutrality or a fuel cell, are necessarily wrong. They’re inadequate. The scientific community is near-unanimous in its dire warnings about climate change, and at a time when our nation’s political leadership has adopted a stance of bellicosity and feigned ignorance on what leaders across the planet recognize as a defining issue of our time, the onus falls to the academy to inform a discussion and take proactive steps to substantively address climate change.
Trinity’s anxiety in recent years about its place in US News and World Report’s rankings could serve as a catalyst for productive change in regards to environmental issues. Divestment from fossil fuels and more concerted effort on the part of students would do much to bolster the college’s image. Widespread environmental activism and meaningful administrative initiatives would attract motivated student and demonstrate Trinity’s commitment to larger causes and values.
Further, Trinity has an obligation to take a more active role in the fight against climate change by virtue of its clientele. The majority of Trinity students will not be the first to be impacted by climate change; the first to suffer will be those who, for whatever reason, cannot afford access to its vaulted gates. To subject the most vulnerable in society to the ravages of climate apocalypse, further entrenching the privileged in their wealth and power is a moral stain that generations will not erase.