STEYER AND YI: The hottest date around

Karen Tian_Divestment_0208
Photo by Karen Tian.

When you’re in college, people love to talk to you about the hook-up culture. Your aunt will interrogate you about it over the Thanksgiving pies. Your older friends will knowingly shake their heads. Heck, your little brother probably knows about it.

And it’s true. We’re busy, and it’s hard to find time and energy for more than a casual fling sometimes. Even when you are consistently seeing someone, so little of your days overlap that sometimes the best you can get is a good GChat while both of you are in class, where you know every “LOL” and “LMAO” is even more of a lie than usual. Really, you’re “Rolling On the Floor Laughing” in a seminar?

Relationships with clubs and campaigns are often similarly difficult to sustain. When the issues are big and remote and upsetting, it can be even harder to remain focused on them because they elicit a lot of emotion and guilt. It’s exhausting to care for so long, and we opt instead to allow the stress of daily logistics and the worries about lesser efforts to blot out our larger fears.

So we joined Fossil Free Yale, the group working to convince the university to divest of its carbon portfolio, and it transcends our day-to-day exhaustion. Amongst the casual flings with other clubs, this campaign has been the one that has held our interest and received the majority of our efforts. We have made the commitment, and, given all the media campaigning we’ve been doing, it’s pretty much Facebook official. We’re dating.

Around the nation, universities and colleges are being pushed to ditch their dirty energy investments, following the logic that it’s unethical and hypocritical for our educational institutions to be supporting the greatest contributors to one of the leading threats of our time. Climate change is happening and happening fast (Shout out to you, Hurricane Sandy!), and the fossil fuel sector has been shown to be the biggest supplier of greenhouse gas emissions of any single industry. Our school has an obligation to retract its support from such companies when we have committed to being on the cutting edge of sustainability and a leader in the world of academic and societal change.

Thankfully, our university seems to recognize the threat of climate change. You can see it everywhere, in the micro wind turbines on top of Becton, the solar panels on Fisher and Kroon Hall, the buses that run on biodiesel and countless other new technologies that the university is implementing and investing in. To continue with investments that promote the development of technologies that allow us to drill deeper, burn cheaper or pollute faster is at odds with the efforts we are making all over campus and which we profess to hold as part of our core values.

But divestment is the one thing our university hasn’t done. And we need to.

As anyone who has attempted the “Twelve College Challenge” can attest, it can be difficult to continually muster emotion and energy in the face of a grand undertaking. So the campaign for divestment gives us a sense of purpose, and it also makes it easier to commit to the small lifestyle changes that the fight against global warming requires.  When we have the choice to bike or drive, unplug our computer chargers or leave them hanging, keep the heat blazing or find a snuggle buddy (or better yet, an individual snuggie — germ free!), we’ll need the momentum to make the right choices day after day. If we’re going to ask universities and companies to change the way they support our energy needs, we are also obliged to modify the way we use and conserve energy. It’s hypocritical not to do so.

We remain faithful to our campaign because we care about our friends and our future. Imminent as the dangers of climate change are, it can be hard to continually realize the threat of a famine continents away or the tragedy of islands lost under the rising waves when our daily demands seem so much more pressing. But we don’t need to look across the ocean or 50 years into the future to find inspiration to change our behavior today. We just need to look across the table.

Evi Steyer and Eugene Yi are sophomores in Timothy Dwight College. Contact them at evi.steyer@yale.edu and eugene.yi@yale.edu .

This column is part of the News’ Friday Forum. Click here to continue.

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