On Friday, April 22, President Laurie Carter signed the United Nations Second Nature Climate Pledge, which commits higher education institutions to develop a Climate Action Plan within three years, and structures to develop the plan within two months of signing. The plan also commits Lawrence to track and evaluate progress on Lawrence’s climate action.
However, students from the LUCC Sustainability Committee expressed concerns and frustrations about this process and Lawrence’s commitment to sustainability.
Junior Adya Kadambari, co-chair of the LUCC Sustainability Committee, acknowledged that the signing of the climate pledge is a good step towards sustainability, but she wants to see more in order to ensure this pledge isn’t performative. She feels that Lawrence must acknowledge and facilitate the sustainability work that students do and open up a conducive dialogue moving forward to the future. Kadambari wants to see Lawrence commission an environmental impact study, to examine the actions that need to be taken to make the institution sustainable.
Kadambari emphasized the impact that one institution can have on the fight for sustainability, and the power that students have to make that happen. She encouraged students to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org if they have suggestions.
“There is an Environmental Project Fund that you as students contribute $15 a year to,” said Kadambari. “We highly encourage students to pursue their ideas by applying for this fund.”
Sophomore Anders Hanhan, the other co-chair of the LUCC Sustainability Committee, said that the committee came up with the idea to commit Lawrence to carbon neutrality at the beginning of the school year. This went to the Sustainability Steering Committee after clearing LUCC Sustainability, and according to Hanhan, the Sustainability Steering Committee asked Carter to sign the United Nations Second Nature Climate Pledge, which he said is a concrete commitment to climate action.
However, Hanhan took issue with the fact that the Lawrence Administration decided to wait until Earth Day and felt that waiting to sign it was a bad idea because Lawrence is behind on sustainability. Hanhan feels that Lawrence delayed the signing to get press for the school by signing it on a holiday and agreed with Kadambari that Lawrence takes credit for the work students do. He commented that he wasn’t invited to the event even though he played a large part in coming up with the idea.
“The concern is not that I’m not speaking at this event,” said Hanhan. “The concern is that there are multiple ways in which students at this school are doing a lot of hard work [to come up with ideas] and then the school will do those things without paying students and use them as marketing material.”
However, Hanhan commended Lawrence for keeping most of its endowment out of energy stocks and added that the new administration at Lawrence has made sustainability a priority in ways previous administrations haven’t. Hanhan and Kadambari both expressed a desire for Lawrence’s sustainability staff to have more support and funding.
Sustainability and Special Projects Fellow in the President’s Office Grace Subat praised the commitment to the Second Nature Pledge. She responded to Kadambari’s comment about an environmental impact study.
“Having some sort of study…is essentially what we are doing.” said Subat.
Subat added that conversations about students feeling burdened by sustainability work and staff needing more support have been part of discussions but said that she wasn’t necessarily the person who can do anything about this.
Christyn Abaray, Chief of Staff to the President, commented that the concerns listed by Hanhan and Kadambari have been discussed in meetings between students and staff on sustainability. She agreed that students should not be feeling the burden of sustainability work and wants students to know that they can contact the Sustainability Steering Committee for assistance on sustainability projects.
Abaray said that a lot of the sustainability work is done behind the scenes and is not easily visible to the community. She added that Lawrence was able to use a grant from the Cargill Foundation to fund sustainable projects on campus which were directly visible to the community. According to Abaray, that grant ended after the 2020-2021 school year. She feels that these projects were visible in the community and benefit students and added that the Sustainability Steering Committee understands the need for a new, efficient way to fund sustainability projects at Lawrence.
Abaray also feels that the signing of the Second Nature Climate Pledge is a university-wide initiative, which incorporates and credits students and staff alike.
“We celebrate that the university was able to take such a big step towards creating a more sustainable campus and a future for our planet,” said Abaray.