Have Agency, Take Action

One of my favorite daily notifications is the Words with Friends’ “Word of the Day.” Colgate, your word of the day is “CLUELESS.” Now, the first thing I think of when I hear that word is Alicia Silverstone in a yellow plaid skirt set saying, “As if!” The second thing I think of is sitting at the Student Activities Fair at a table covered in fun size candy bars behind a sign reading, “Students for Environmental Action!”

You might be thinking, “Okay, the first one was a funny pop culture reference, but the second one doesn’t make sense.” Allow me to explain. Students for Environmental Action (SEA) is the only student group at Colgate dedicated to addressing environmental and sustainability issues on campus. There are other groups related to the environment – Beekeeping Club, Green Earth Gang, Green Thumbs – but if you care about climate change and want to fight it, SEA is the only club that does that kind of environmental activism. Sitting at the Activities Fair, explaining this to people, you tend to get a lot of, “Oh yeah, I care about the environment, that sounds cool,” sign ups who will never show up to a single meeting. I have more respect for the people who take three Reese’s and keep walking. 

I came to Colgate thinking sustainability and environmentalism would be a big part of student life. I was naive to assume it, but it made sense to me considering Colgate was aiming to reach carbon neutrality by 2019. I figured, if it matters that much to the school, it must matter a lot to the students. Cute idea, right?

What I have found during my year and a half at Colgate is a lot of people who think the carbon neutrality thing is cool, try to recycle and take one

introductory Environmental Studies course. Some of them will sit in the Coop commenting on how horrifying all the takeout container waste is, saying that the school needs to change that. But most people who’ve commented on the excess of yogurt cup waste do just that, then move on with their days.

It is not enough just to say that you care and make simplistic critiques. If your passion and concern for an issue is genuine, it makes no sense why you wouldn’t involve and educate yourself. With this in mind, it confuses me why the membership of SEA does not include the majority of environmental majors at Colgate. I’ve been confused about this for a while. People dedicate their academic life to studying environmental challenges, implying that this is their passion and they wish to build a career around addressing these issues. They understand the severity of climate change’s consequences and the obstacles facing society in combating it. Yet, they choose to do nothing. I hope you could hear the frustrated voice crack as you read that.  

The lack of agency and involvement is not an issue unique to sustainability at Colgate, it’s simply the movement I have the most experience with. You’re wasting your time here if you’re not fully invested in your passions. This is the only chance we get in life to explore our intellect and interests for four years without the burden of real, adult responsibility. Don’t let life be a cycle of homework, parties and sleep. Don’t deprive yourself. Be the change you wish to see in the world, or, at the very least, have the decency not to pretend.

Contact Kate Hinsche at [email protected].