The Graduate and Professional Student Government’s first Climate Action Day will take place this Thursday. The event will feature an array of booths from Pitt’s various sustainability organizations, followed by two documentary screenings.
Climate Action Day is being organized by GPSG’s Climate Crisis Committee, which was formed in September by newly appointed Director of Environment Jimmy Doggerall.
“If you’re interested in getting involved in campus life, and especially in climate action and environmental protection, this is the best day for you to find out what your options are, to find out what’s going on. The university does or doesn’t,” he said.
The committee worked with the Graduate Student Government to host the day and several USG members are on the committee.
“There’s a lot we can do at UNC and I think it’s hard to know how to do it. But this committee makes it possible to be directly involved,” said Sydney Rehder, graduate student and member of the Climate Crisis Committee.
The first segment of Climate Action Day will feature a collection of information tables run by organizations working to raise awareness of the climate crisis. These include campus groups such as Edible Campus, Carolina Dining Services and the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling.
Off-campus organizations such as Sunrise Durham, a youth group dedicated to climate change mitigation, and PORCH, a local hunger relief program, will also participate in the project. Event organizers have also set up a recycling center for batteries, light bulbs and other special waste items.
“Every facet of life and every aspect of campus life has sustainable relevance. It’s valuable for students to think about these issues and come up with ideas for how to make our campus more sustainable,” Doggerl said.
As part of the second part of Climate Action Day, two documentaries addressing environmental issues will be screened in the Student Union in the evening. The first film, “Pushed Up the Mountain,” produced by UNC communications professor Julia Haslett, will discuss botanical conservation efforts in China and Scotland. Following the screening, a panel discussion with Haslett will take place.
The second film, “Into the Weeds,” follows the legal battles stemming from a series of lymphoma diagnoses related to the weed killer.
Members of the GPSG Climate Crisis Committee hope the event will spark student interest in campus organizations that help fight climate change.
The committee also hosted an Energy Transition Town Hall in January, which discussed reducing UNC’s reliance on environmentally harmful energy sources and transitioning to more renewable energy. Members hope that Climate Action Day will help stimulate conversation about university climate policy.
“We all have a responsibility to take care of our planet and make sure that wherever we have an impact — and in this case, we all have an impact on what the university does — then we should use that influence to make things better,” Doggerall said.
He hopes Climate Action Day will push universities to take more steps to reduce their carbon footprint. The committee is involved in ongoing efforts to improve UNC’s Climate Action Plan in conjunction with Sustainable Carolina.
Michael Piehler, UNC chief sustainability officer, acknowledged that there is room for improvement in the university’s sustainability efforts.
“It is well known that we have a co-generation plant – without which the university and the hospital cannot function – which is partly powered by coal,” he said. “We’ve made more progress in reducing coal in the last three years than we did in the previous ten years, so there are some positives.”
Sustainable Carolina hopes to release an update to the climate action plan soon, but Piehler said the document is under regular revision and welcomes input from student organizations.
Although this is the first event of its kind, organizers hope to make Climate Action Day an annual event.
“I think (climate change) is one of the biggest problems of our generation, and we really need to do something about it. So hopefully it will make students a little more excited and more engaged in general with what they’re doing at UNC,” Rehder said.
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