Approximately 20 students from the Harvard chapter of the Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF), a student collective that campaigns against the threat of global warming, hosted an Earth Day lobbying event on Friday to further the standing of two bills that the organization drafted and proposed to the Massachusetts legislature earlier this year.
Each Friday since the beginning of the spring semester, representatives from SJSF have been visiting the State House to meet with legislators in an attempt to advance the organization’s causes, which are outlined in two separate bills. One bill calls for the phasing out of coal use in Massachusetts by 2015. The other bill calls for the creation of a task force that would develop a plan for generating solely clean electricity in the state by 2020.
In honor of Earth Day, the Harvard chapter of SJSF, along with several students from Wheaton College, Brandeis University, the University of Vermont, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute—the four other universities represented in the volunteer collective—decided to make a concerted effort to advance the status of the bills within the House on Friday.
“A lot of the students who made it this Friday were actual Massachusetts residents [unlike most Harvard students], so when we were talking to their senators or representatives, it made a difference because they were their actual constituents,” said Serena Y. Zhao ’12, the SJSF Harvard chapter organizational level coordinator. “[Earth Day] was also a nice time because it is a time when people are thinking of their effects on the environment. It was just a way to get people excited.”
Although the Undergraduate Council voted against a bill earlier this month supporting SJSF’s Earth Day lobbying event, the number of Harvard students present was sufficient to accomplish the organization’s goals for the day, according to John E. Beatty ’11, a founder of the Harvard chapter.
“We had a lot of success,” Beatty said. “This is a very important cause for the Harvard branch. We have a lot of co-sponsors in the State House, most of them representatives, and we’re just hoping this will help build more momentum for the bills.”
Because Earth Day also coincided with Good Friday, much of the State House staff was absent, and students were only able to meet with a total of 15 legislative aides. However, students left packets of materials including copies of the bills, formal letters to committee chairs, and letters of support from constituents in the offices of seven legislators specifically targeted by the group.
Members of the SJSF said they hope the bills earn a hearing in the House as early as this fall.
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Camp Out, Save WorldThree Harvard students huddle outside a tent in the middle of a deserted Harvard Yard facing the statue of John Harvard at midnight last semester.
A Green EconomyHumanity has the tools to maintain a high-quality of life and live within ecological limits.
Group Calls for Greener FundThis fall student activists launched the Harvard chapter of Divest for Our Future, a campaign intended to pressure Harvard Management Company, the body that oversees Harvard’s endowment, to divest from any companies involved in the fossil fuel industry and to move its investments into socially and environmentally responsible funds.
A Bad Climate for DivestmentCalling for universities like Harvard to divest in companies involved in the extraction or processing fossil fuels goes too far. Harvard has divested only a few times in the past, and has done so predominantly in instances of human rights abuses being linked to their investments.