Grassroots organization finds fertile soil
Bill McKibben’s lecture created hope for chapter creation of his coalition, 350.org.
Bill McKibben’s recent visit to UVU spurred a collective enthusiasm about current environmental issues, and Associate Professor in Philosophy and Humanities Michael Minch thinks UVU is the perfect place for a 350.org chapter to take root.
“When McKibben was here on March 8, people were very excited [about 350.org] and I thought, ‘Maybe we can build something off of this momentum,’” Minch said.
A prolific environmental journalist who is well regarded in climate change discussion circles, McKibben also founded 350.org, which derived its name from the idea of the amount of carbon dioxide that is permissible in the atmosphere to bypass severe climate change. The organization’s aims, according to its website, are to construct “a global grassroots movement to solve the climate crisis” via “online campaigns and mass public actions.” Thus far, the group claims to have succeeded in its pursuits by recruiting mostly college-age members in over 188 countries. 350.org engenders goals to educate, volunteer and protest in regard to climate change.
Minch, an Executive Committee member of the Peace and Justice Studies Program, hopes to ride McKibben’s wake to create a 350.org club chapter before the fall semester. He purported that a UVU chapter of the organization would be its own entity, not leaning on or taking direction from any other specific program.
“It won’t be some ancillary of the Peace and Justice Studies Program – it’s going to viable on its own” Minch said. “Students will have as important of a voice as anyone else in shaping the club.”
Minch got involved in the climate conversation in the 1980s, before such discussion was in vogue. He delivered a paper on environmental racism in 1984 at Johns Hopkins University where it was still “a very new idea.” Whereas UVU is not only a new university but also a fairly new institution in comparison with east coast schools, Minch thinks UVU is an ideal setting to propagate idealistic scholarly ideas, such as the ones held by 350.org.
“There’s something interesting about teaching at a school where kids don’t feel entitled,” Minch said, referring to UVU students’ open, accessible minds in contrast to some of those at higher-ranking schools where students arrive carrying well-steeled opinions.
Minch also articulated students’ ability to make the club as large and impactful as they wanted, citing UVU’s facilitation of an “entrepreneurial culture that’s growing and very inviting.”
While no blatant opposition to the existence of such a club has yet been exercised, the most powerful deterrent to its creation would be apathy. Utah County is not famous as a hotbed for proponents of a turnaround in environmental policy, yet Minch is hoping similar club activities at the University of Utah and Southern Utah University will be catalysts for the ignition of an animated club at UVU.