At the kickoff event for the College of Literature, Science and the Arts’s “Energy Futures” theme semester yesterday, a keynote speaker pushed students to take sustainability issues into their own hands.
Robert Musil, a former CEO for Physicians for Social Responsibility, told an audience of about 200 at the Rackham Graduate School auditorium that grassroots mobilization and individual action will be necessary if people hope to curb global climate change.
Musil’s lecture, titled “Hope for a Heated Planet,” was the first event of this fall’s theme semester, which aims to focus University programs and initiatives on efforts to find solutions for pressing energy issues.
Past University theme semesters have focused on places like China and the Middle East and also on abstract topics like citizenship and evolution.
Noting that environmental activism “doesn’t necessarily make the big national media,” Musil encouraged grassroots student campaigns, claiming activism will eventually make its way up the ranks to powerful legislators.
He said students should pressure University President Mary Sue Coleman to sign the Presidents Climate Commitment, a national coalition of 540 college and university president who have pledged to make their campuses carbon-neutral.
“That’s the kind of thing that should be a goal here at Michigan,” he said.
He also encouraged students to pressure the governor and state legislators to support environmentally-friendly legislation.
He urged students to take sustainability to their dorms, faith groups and other organizations. Even small actions like replacing incandescent light bulbs to more environmentally friendly compact fluorescents could help, he said.
“Multiply everything you might do that sounds pretty simple by 100 million or so,” he said. “There’s a lot that can be done at the personal level.”
Musil said the upcoming election is a venue for citizens to push for change that can impact the world. While citizens can make individual changes to their lifestyles, the government must also make a bigger commitment to global sustainability, he said.
“We need global solutions that will require international treaties, that will require politicians and presidents and a senate,” he said.
LSA freshman Chris Reece, who was in attendance, said the lecture taught him more about how to live a green lifestyle.
“I didn’t really know that much about energy conservation or about how much energy is wasted, especially in colleges like this,” he said.
John Monaghan, vice president of LSA Student Government, said he hoped students walked away from the lecture with the desire to come together for environmental change on campus.
“We as students need to effectively organize together if we want to make the changes in Michigan — as the University of Michigan, and as a state,” he said.
The event was co-sponsored by LSA Student Government, the Center of Study for Complex Systems, the Health Science Scholars Program, LSA Honors College and Michigan Community Scholars Program.
Musil will remain on campus for two days, going to classes and meeting with students.