Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bill McKibben and Democracy Matters!

I can't believe it's been an entire week!

Since my last post, Bill McKibben has come to campus and left (but not before we got a picture with him), the rest of the week flew by in a whirlwind, I went to a conference in Albany, had an interview on Monday, and am now using today to do all my homework, write blog posts, and get some sleep :p

Bill McKibben: on Fossil Fuel, Divestment, and the Future
Bill McKibben is one of my heroes. I learned of him for the first time my fall semester freshman year, and since then have continued to be inspired by his work. 
For those unfamiliar, Bill McKibben is a Middlebury professor and founder of 350.org. He's a prominent figure in the movement to counter climate change, and has written quite a bit on the subject.

Before his talk, a handful of students, mostly Green Up kids, and some faculty got to have dinner with him. I was lucky enough to be one of those students, and it was a really nice event! Some of us were (I was) starstruck, but he was very easy to talk to, and really humble (anyone who's ever interacted with him has said that, though). Basically, on top of the fact that he's a globally-known figure at the front of the movement against climate change, he's still a cool guy (probably has something to do with the fact that he's a Vermonter ;p).

Part of the crowd in McCarthy.
After dinner, we made our way to McCarthy hall, where Bill gave his talk. As one might have guessed from the title of his talk, he spoke substantially on the divestment movement (which sprung from 350's fall 2012 "Do the Math" tour). This talk came at an exciting time for Saint Mike's, since students here have just begun to pursue divestment on our own campus! If you don't know, divestment is a term being used right now to describe the movement of taking one's money out of fossil fuel companies and their constituents, in favor of investing in companies with more environmentally sustainable practices, and a lot of college campuses have begun this process. A list of the main companies from which universities are trying to divest can be found here.

The talk was well-received, and the audience was able to ask some good questions afterwards. I know that I came away from the talk feeling re-invigorated, and I think a lot of others in attendance felt the same way.

Democracy Matters: Getting Private Money Out of Elections

At the end of a busy few days last week, I then got to attend a conference with my boyfriend and other fellow SMC-ers in Albany, NY. The conference was hosted by Democracy Matters, a national student organization that campaigns for publicly-funded elections in lieu of all the private donations that often fund political campaigns. (Democracy Matters has an unofficial chapter at Saint Mike's, but we've begun taking steps towards being recognized as an official club.)

This was also a whirlwind: there were workshops Friday night, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning. We learned how to lobby, effective ways to utilize social media, and heard from speakers close to the issue. Gary Holder-Winfield, a publicly-funded politician from Connecticut, spoke about his experience running for office, having participated in the "clean elections" system. Obviously, he was a strong supporter of the work that Democracy Matters does, and it was valuable to be able to hear from someone who had actually elected to participate in a publicly funded elections.

So it was a great and politically-saturated week for me, and needless to say I'm pretty tired. But I had a great time, I learned a lot, and hopefully there are many hours of sleep in store for me tonight :p

Thanks for reading!

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