The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Dishonorable energy?

Irresponsible, filthy, obsolete, negligent, short-sighted - probably not words we would want to use to describe ourselves. We nevertheless insist on running our lives on a power source that is all of the above. Coal is born into the world of energy-production by the unholy act of mountaintop removal - the utter demolition of mountains to extract the coal within. At the point of combustion, emission of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide exacerbates acid rain which defaces local structures, aggravates asthma and spoils the water supply. Burning coal poisons the entire planet by emitting greenhouse gases and hydrocarbons that have cataclysmic cumulative global effects.

Despite all this, we allow the University to remain actively engaged in the system of ecological degradation that coal represents by operating a coal-fired power plant on Grounds. In addition to being intuitively nasty, I think that this can also be seen as an honor violation. We lie to ourselves whenever we pat ourselves on the back for being responsible global citizens while hypocritically perpetuating an energy life cycle whose effects at every level are the antithesis of responsibility. We cheat the future when we believe we can inflict long-term enviro-social damage with temporary impunity. Finally, we steal by proxy when we make it profitable for the coal dealers who act in the name of carbon addicts everywhere to exploit and pillage our environment to secure our next energy fix.

We need to move beyond coal if we want to remain functional within a global community of trust. To do that, each of us needs to participate in positive change, whether that means writing a letter to President Teresa A. Sullivan, signing a petition, joining the "UVa Beyond Coal" Facebook group or speaking out about what you see.

Just like the honor system, environmental justice requires us all to be intolerant of violations on the microscale, or the macroscale system will fall apart. The global impacts of challenges we face are nothing short of catastrophic. If we continue on our current energy path, we have every right to expect planet Earth to give us the most permanent kind of single sanction.

Joshua Fass\nCLAS I