Student environmental groups plan green revolution

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On the evening  of January 16 some 70 students attended UVic Environmental Round Table (UVERT) 3.0 , an annual activity put on by UVic environmental advocacy group Common Energy. These students generated some 18 issues that they wanted to discuss in six groups around the Upper Lounge in three sessions.

The event organizer was Miranda Maslany, a fourth year Environmental Studies student with a minor in Business and a volunteer coordinator with Common Energy. “We wanted there to be more communication between all the other environmental groups on campus. There are twenty-seven different groups on campus that are working towards goals related to the environment and sustainability. And there are more that are emerging each year.”

Maslany described the event as a growing push to coordinate the efforts of the growing number of environmental groups on campus.

“This is an attempt to see what everyone else is doing, to get a sense as to what projects are happening, where resources are needed and who has resources to make it happen. We want more communication to happen and more ideas to happen. The event is serving two purposes, networking and sharing resources, but also just providing more communication. Ideally we would want to have one of these once a semester.”

After an introduction to the event by Maslany and her colleague Matt Hammer, the attendees introduced eighteen topics they wanted to discuss to improve UVic. These included subjects ranging from removing all bottled water from UVic grounds (currently the ban only applies to the student union building), creating an annual TEDxYouth conference at UVic to include Camosun college and the local high schools, increasing non-car transport options for students to and from campus, having more compost bins around campus and creating a second community garden in the Gordon Head area.

Among the attendees was NDP MLA candidate Jessica Van der Veer, who is standing for the Oak Bay-Gordon Head riding currently held by B.C. Liberal Ida Chong, minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation. “I’ve been coming to UVic club days for years now and have seen how every year there are more environmental groups. It’s great to see students involved with social issues like this.”

Maslany sees UVERT going on as a continuing annual event on campus to try and increase volunteer support, which will continue conversations with all environmental and social groups on campus.

The event concluded with a raffle for vegan and environmentally friendly prizes (including vegan hot chocolate, travel mugs, and coupons for discounts on recycled bicycles) and the exchange of information between many of the different environmental groups represented. Afterwards Matt Hammer answered some questions about Common Energy’s long-term goals.

Common Energy and UVision

Hammer, a History and Biology student and volunteer with Common Energy, says Common Energy is working to try and raise awareness about environmental issues around the university and to get students to enact the changes themselves and to support initiatives.

“Long term there are a bunch of things that Common Energy is working on,” says Hammer. “Common Energy has members that work in a lot of different areas. Kelsey Mech is one of the directors of Common Energy and a director-at-large for the UVSS and is co-director of the environmental sustainability council, and so we have been working with her to push forward [a co-operative plan called UVision].“

“The idea of UVision is we bring students together to brainstorm, create, research, and write a comprehensive submission to the campus planning process on sustainability issues around three core principles.” Hammer describes those principles as follow: first, that sustainability needs to be the lens through which all issues are seen in the campus plan; second, that students, staff, faculty, and the community are brought into the campus planning process from the beginning and not just in the end as a validation; third, that climate change needs to be acknowledged as a foundational reality, and that adapting to mitigate climate change needs to be a foundational reality in the campus vetting process. “So based on those three principles we are going to be [conducting] open houses, workshops, and working groups over the long run to put together that sort of document.”

“That encompasses a lot of different things,” says Hammer, “and we are working with a lot of different environmental groups on campus on different issues. UVic and Spokes on bicycling infrastructure, the community garden on food production, UVic restoration club on the restoration of natural areas and the moratorium issues that are coming up for renewal in the near future.” In March Common Energy will be working on the divestment of UVic’s endowment fund from fossil fuels. Recently an environmental advocacy group called the Wilderness Committee called for UVic pensions to divest from Enbridge Inc. Common Energy would also like to see Uvic move forward quickly with a second bus loop and make sure it’s the most effective option for students to get in and out of campus as quickly as possible.

“The beauty of the UVision process,” says Hammer, “is that it gives us the ability to address all those things en mass with a student movement. So putting together the research proposal … is just the first part.  The second part is mobilizing massive student support for that submission through endorsements through clubs and course unions, through faculty, and [student signatures in the fall for the proposal].”

For further information about environmental initiatives on campus, email uvertleadership@gmail.com.

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