By Kat Groshens and Brandon Long
Now that composting at St. Kate’s has become a reality, some reflection is in order. As a signatory to the Presidential Climate Commitment (PCC) since 2008, St. Kate’s president Sister Andrea “committed St. Kate’s to eliminat(ing) net greenhouse gas emissions from specified campus operations, and promot(ing) research and educational efforts to re-stabilize the earth’s climate” (Child, 2010).
It would take another six years before a handful of students would start asking serious questions about the environmental commitments St. Kate’s had agreed to. Student Caitlin Gray was a major player in the push for the university to sign the PCC in 2008, and it’s no surprise that she had this to say about the future of sustainability on campus:
“I hope that students continue to keep leading this effort. Students are a very powerful force for change. That’s an important campus dynamic. Environmental initiatives to date have been driven by students” (Child, 2010).
Composting is now becoming a reality at St. Kate’s, not because the school signed a pledge to do so, but because students relentlessly pursued this goal. It took three student groups, determined student leaders (Kat Groshens, Brandon Long, etc.), and 500 signatures before the administration started paying attention. There was even a semi-serious suggestion of camping out in the facilities office just to speak with someone about the issue.
We applaud the administration for taking this important step forward and honoring the Catholic Social Teachings call to be good stewards who protect all resources on our planet. We are, however, concerned for the future of sustainability at St. Kate’s.
What will it take for the university to take its environmental commitments (spiritually, ethically, and socially) more seriously? Let us not forget it took students who were not engaged in the usual channels of institutional university power (administration, faculty, student senate, etc.) to challenge the status quo.
There were no radical demands, only a reasonable request to for the university to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. We hope this serves as a reminder that here at St. Kate’s, as is true in the wider social and political world, it often takes individuals who are willing to pay attention, challenge authority, and walk a different path.
And let this serve as a call to action–we are heading towards an environmental and climate crisis that may end our existence on this planet. It is time to fight for serious action, not wait around to be handed scraps. Challenge your university, your community, and your fellow human beings to demand change today, not 20 years from now. Our future depends on it.
Brandon Long & Kat Groshens
St. Kate’s 2014