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WVU students host ‘Climate Solutions Fair’

While large marches through the streets of major cities caught global attention, Morgantown took its own approach to the global, youth-led climate strike on Friday. Mountaineers attended a “Climate Solutions Fair” at Woodburn Circle as part of the international call for political leaders to take action on climate change.

While conscious of the global connection, attention at the fair was squarely placed on local issues and local solutions. Visitors to the fair walked between tables where groups like the Office of Sustainability signed people up for a campus tree planting project. At another table, the Science Public Outreach Team used hands-on experiments to show the effects on the environment of rising carbon dioxide levels.

The Sierra Student Coalition organized the Climate Solution Fair with the Student Government Association.

“We’re the generation that’s going to be hit the hardest by climate change,” said Sierra Student Coalition President Abby Minihan. “If we want the university to have carbon accounting, or solar panels or better recycling, we’re paying the money for it so we deserve to be heard and we have more power than we might think.”

The Sierra Student Coalition is collaborating with the Student Government Association to push for more climate impact transparency from the university.

“We would like the university to start a carbon accounting program for the 2020-21 school year,” Minihan said. “We can’t cut our emissions if we don’t even know what they are.”

The steady flow of students walking through Woodburn Circle to get to class made it difficult to definitively determine the number of attendants, but there were those who stayed to make a point.

“We want government action on climate change,” said graduate geography student Martin Aucoin. He and several of his classmates from the geography program skipped class to attend the fair.

“The majority of students in our department take personal actions every day to mitigate our impact … but we really need larger scale governance to make decisions towards a future based on renewable energy,” he said.

Nearby, professor of geography Amy Hessl encouraged fair attendants to call their representatives.

“We’re a pretty small state so our voices matter, maybe more here than in other places,” she said.

Hessl provided concerned citizens with the numbers of state representatives, such as Senator Shelley Moore Capito, as well as scripts to help them get their point across.

“It’s fascinating that we’re like a lynchpin state,” she said. “We can be the excuse for hanging on to dirty fossil fuel sources because we have this history of coal mining, or we can be part of the solution by really engaging with industries that are focused on renewable energy.”

Climate change has been a problem for decades. The Union of Concerned Scientists issued a “Warning to Humanity” in 1992 calling for immediate action to curb climate change, but years of inaction have brought the issue to an urgent head for the world’s youth.

“It really is scary to be someone our age looking ahead and reading the reports coming from the U.N. that if we don’t do something in the next 10 years it might be too late,” said sophomore SGA member Sarah Ihlenfeld. “It’s really important for our generation to take action.”