Sierra Club camps out
Students spend night in Amphitheater to stop coal usage on Grounds
As part of its Beyond Coal campaign, the Sierra Student Coalition camped out in the Ampitheater last night to raise awareness about the University's use of coal and display a show of strong support for coal use reduction in preparation for a meeting next Monday with Colette Sheehy, vice president for management and budget.
Protestors will meet with Sheehy to lobby for the closure of the Main Heat Plant near the University Hospital complex. The event featured a speech by John Cruickshank, chair of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, as well a screening of Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax," a children's story about the dangers of careless environmental practices.
"[I] find it rather ironic that [the University administrators] have this pollution, which causes cancer, blowing against the cancer center," Cruickshank said while addressing the crowd of Beyond Coal supporters.
Beyond Coal activists said they were inspired by the Occupy movements in Charlottesville and throughout the country.
"It is really inspiring that, in Charlottesville, people are taking action," said Beyond Coal Media Coordinator Rebecca Conway, who emphasized the need for "taking a stand in local areas."
Kenneth Hawes, president of the Sierra Student Coalition at the University, said the movement aims to urge the University to become an innovative force in clean energy.
"Coal is one of the worst things for the environment," Hawes said. "I really wanted my school to be a leader in clean, renewable energy."
The event is part of a national campaign called "100% Clean: 100 Actions for Clean Energy," said Chris Linsmayer, an organizer with the coalition.
"The idea is to have 100 different actions throughout the month of October," Linsmayer said. These events encourage "moving away from dirty energy," which is mostly coal, because "universities have always been a place of innovation."
Beyond Coal at the University has already had several positive meetings with administrators, including Energy and Utilities Director Cheryl Gomez and Chief Facilities Officer Donald Sundgren.\nSheehy, Gomez, and Sundgren did not return requests for comment for this story.
"[Administrators] are open to dialogue [and] to looking into alternatives," second-year College student Isabella Artiles said, characterizing the administration's response as "positive" and "open."
"This school prides itself on its sustainability initiatives," Linsmayer said. He noted the University's Delta Force initiative to upgrade energy efficiency in buildings.
Since 2007, every newly constructed building at the University has met Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards from the U.S. Green Building Council. Cruickshank recognized the University's commitment to clean energy, but he encouraged administrators to go further.
"I know their new buildings are LEED certified," Cruickshank said. "To put it in perspective, I understand U.Va. has invested a lot of money in that coal plant to make it more efficient, [but] I think they need to set a date [to stop burning coal]."
Cruickshank, a Charlottesville resident for 31 years, sees coal dependency as a community and University concern.
"I live in downtown Charlottesville," he said, "U.Va. is one of the preeminent public universities in the country ... As a leader, I think they have an obligation to set an example"