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GUEST COLUMN: System Change, Not Climate Change

The recent editorial by the Western Front, “Don’t Hate on the Hippies” produces a concept of "sustainability" that is at odds with defeating the current unprecedented climate crisis and mass loss of biodiversity on this earth.

Western Front’s editorial board wants you to start throwing your Red Bull cans in the recycling. They want to you to buy a reusable shopping bag and attend an idea lab on how to make Western more "sustainable." These actions are okay, but do not go nearly far enough. We need to focus on pursuing sweeping systemic change.

In a similar vein, claiming that Western’s campus is "green" while teaching economic theory that encourages a model of endless growth is misleading and undermines the efforts of those who are genuinely seeking change. We must go further and drastically reduce consumption and challenge capitalism’s inherent and insatiable desire for growth.

We need to stop all new fossil fuel infrastructure (#keepitintheground). We need to break the pattern of the institutional funding of companies like Exxon and Shell (#divest). We need to build new systems of interacting with each other and the planet that are not only "green" but also just and equitable.

The people that are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis — indigenous peoples, communities of color and immigrants — who face rising ocean levels and the highest rates of pollution need to be the first in line to benefit from this transition.

Most students aren’t naive. I think most students and the populous in general understands that capitalism is depleting resources at an extraordinary rate. I think they understand that to truly be sustainable we need massive systemic change in our cultural, environmental and economic spheres. The question is: what can we as individuals do?

The answer is to stop acting as individuals. A good start would be joining with others to defeat North America’s largest proposed coal export terminal and support the Lummi Nation as they defend their sovereignty and treaty rights. The Whatcom County Council plays a key role in permitting this project, so part of this fight is engaging with electoral politics and voting.

Beyond the coal terminal, there are exploding oil trains to stop, and front-line land defenders to support. Another world is possible. Demand it.

Galen Herz

To learn more about local environmental and social justice struggles, attend the monthly Bellingham Clean Energy Activist Meeting (search for Power Past Coal Whatcom on Facebook), check out Community to Community at, or attend a Students for Renewable Energy Meeting on Tuesdays from 6-7 p.m. in HUM 108.

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