The Fight against Climate Change Storms UWB

By: Simran Brar, Merry Dunn, Seong Nam, Josh Sanborn and Kubi Shek

Pictured above: Tony Guerrero, UWB Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities and Campus Operations and Alexa Russo, UWB Sustainability Coordinator stand in front of UWB’s solar panels.  Since 2003, Guerrero, along with his team, have led the way to ensure that UWB is actively working toward energy efficiency. A sustainability action plan was written last year, looking for ways throughout the campus to reduce and reuse.

University of Washington Bothell students and faculty are responding to the global issue of climate change through various means right here on campus. Each of these groups have different approaches towards addressing climate change. Like a rolling snowball gaining in size, when more people rally around addressing climate change the more power the movement will have.

UWB is committed to conserving resources and supporting sustainable energy sources such as solar panels. Associate Vice Chancellor of Facilities and Campus Operations, Tony Guerrero, leads the way in finding ways for UWB to pursue excellence in its sustainability goals.  UWB was rated next to its peers in 2017 and 2018 in terms of energy consumption and Guerrero said, “We are very, very low on our utilization of electricity and natural gas.” 

The solar panels on the roof of the north and south garages, are capturing the entire amount of energy needed to power those structures, including vehicle charging stations, elevators, lights, etc. Panels on the roof of LB2 are supplying one-quarter of all the power needed to maintain that building. Guerrero said that according to their plan, “By 2021, all of our purchased energy will be solar or wind.”

Graphic By: Josh Sanborn The looming issue of climate change is hovering over UWB. It is being met head on by multiple groups on campus that want to see the university minimize its footprint.

Of the 5,989 students enrolled at the University of Washington Bothell Campus, four group members attended the Sustainability Club meeting on Monday, October 28. “Groups have power,” club member Bee Elliot said during the meeting. She said that more students should be getting involved with sustainability efforts on campus. The Sustainability Club is in place to be the student voice for sustainability, and to address climate change by creating public awareness of school policies, peaceful demonstrations, and events.

Coming up, the group has multiple events that are open to the public, and they encourage people to come out and show their support for protecting the environment which we all share.  All of the information about future events, along with group information and the University’s sustainability action plan, can be found by visiting the UWB homepage and searching for “sustainability”. Joining a group, such as the Sustainability Club here at UWB, is one way that students can get involved with fighting climate change.

Individual students have also taken actions against climate change, where some actions don’t seem immediate and obvious against the climate change. Madison Rose Bristol, a UW senior majoring in Environmental Science and Terrestrial Resource Management and Dance, researched and established a clear connection between environmental movement and dancing in her undergrad journal titled Environmental Dance in the Spring 2019 issue of Fieldnotes. 

“This research is personal to me-I myself am a lifelong dancer, born and raised in the Seattle area, and am passionate about environmental science, justice and policy. For the past four years of my undergraduate experience a question has been lingering in the back of my mind: How do my passions for dance and the environment collide in a meaningful way? It has taken me years to combat the doubt associated with answering this question. Interdisciplinary work of this nature is on the fringe of both the science and the dance communities, and pursuing this research meant running the risk of ostracization. But from where I stand now, I see hope in the open-mindedness of both communities being willing and excited to work together to fight change with change” said Bristol in her journal.

She reached out and interviewed the members of Seattle dance community, to hear their perspective of how dance currently contributes to the environmental movement. She describes how these dancers have engaged in environmental themed art-science projects, performing dances with an environmental theme, participating in outdoor dance activities, and joining and learning respectfully from indigenous dances. “Addressing our present climate crisis will be wrought with challenges but being open to creative ways of dismantling systems of oppression and transforming grief into action could help re-engineer our collective fate” Bristol concluded.

When asked how students can combat climate change, Professor Robert Turner suggests, “We need to foster an education at UWB, and UWS, and UWT, etc., etc. that instills some minimal climate science literacy for everybody, that’s at least available to everybody regardless of their major. We want to infuse learning around these things, and not just the natural sciences, the problems that have to be addressed are in the social sciences and the humanities, politics, economics. The scientists can do a bang up job of tracking all the ways that earth systems are changing and run models to predict what we are going to do in the future, but what influences those models are the choices that people make, the policies that we support. What we spend our money on and how we allocate it. It’s a transdisciplinary topic and we need everyone engaged.” Professor Turner said that being active in politics is the best thing someone can do to fight climate change.

In the 2017 Carbon Majors Report Dr. Paul Griffin writes, “Fossil fuels are the largest source of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The fossil fuel industry and its products accounted for 91% of global industrial GHGs in 2015, and about 70% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions.” Turner later explains that the big companies that are doing most of the major polluting, benefit when they can blame the changing climate on the actions of humans on the smaller scale. Getting students active in clubs and politics is the only way to solve this issue and ensure that later generations of humans can survive.

Faculty, who are part of environmental science, have also taken action against climate change. Jennifer Atkinson, a Professor of Environmental Humanities at the University of Washington Bothell, took an interest in the emotional toll that climate change was taken from the students. “They were having second thoughts about majoring in an environmental field because it was too depressing to deal with the political inaction and public apathy, or because they didn’t know if they could cope with the grief of studying disappearing wildlife or the death of our oceans and forests,” said Atkinson.

She created the course in 2017 titled, Environmental Anxiety and Climate Grief: Building Resilience in the Age of Consequences.  It is now titled, BIS 293 Eco-Grief and Climate Anxiety. “This seminar explores the complex emotional and psychological issues of our climate crisis, and draws on the humanities (literature, philosophy and film), creative writing, and outdoor experience to help students develop the inner capacities to stay engaged in climate solutions without becoming overwhelmed.” Atkinson went on to say, “Directly facing our anxiety and grief over environmental loss, is a necessary part of building the resilience to navigate climate issues ahead.” The seminar goes over literature works of authors and scholars whom have had personal and painful experience of losing something or someone valuable to them and how they have coped. “We have to build resilience to stay engaged over the long run, and to do that, people need to face their emotional responses head-on.” said Atkinson.

Administration, students and faculty are all taking steps to get involved with the issue of climate change. The methods in this article are just a few examples of the many ways that people have chosen. The snowball is rolling here at UWB and continuing to grow. More and more people are choosing to become a part of the movement. The fight against climate change is storming UWB, where will it make waves next?

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