Since the cynical, know-nothing announcement from the Trump Administration that it was withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Accord on Climate Change, many people across the country have reaffirmed their commitment to take action to reduce the pernicious effects we have been having on our environment. Here at Wesleyan, we have been taking a public stand to fight climate change. I am among over a hundred university presidents who, together with mayors, governors and business leaders, are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets outlined in the Paris climate accord. This early story in The New York Times describes the effort. Wesleyan has reported on this and other efforts here.
Gary Yohe, Huffington Professor of Economics and Environmental Science, has been working for decades to understand more deeply and to mitigate more effectively the effects of climate change. Prof. Yohe has underscored the importance for institutions at various levels of civil society and for individuals to do their part to meet the goals set forth in the Paris Accord. Along these lines, just yesterday colleagues from MIT sent the following message:
We are writing to invite you to join academics across America in signing a new statement on climate change that is going live right now: http://academiaunited.org/. This statement enables the faculty, staff, and students of American universities and colleges to join groups of mayors, business leaders, and university/college presidents who are announcing that even though the federal government is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, we will do our parts to fight climate change. Please consider signing the statement, and forwarding this invitation to any colleagues at any American university or college who you think might be interested.
The silver lining in all this, I suppose, is that citizens are becoming more engaged in working for sensible environmental policies. As I’ve said to the press, it’s extraordinary that supporting a basic commitment to lessen a source of pollution in the world is seen as a particularly strong civic or political act. It is nonetheless crucial at a time when the White House is promoting an anti-scientific assault on public policy and research, that universities defend the values that are necessary for us to be institutions of learning. The economic nationalism promoted by the administration is in great tension with our mission as educational institutions, if only because inquiry and pedagogy take place across borders. The environmental nationalism currently embraced by the White House is an exercise in lunacy. What’s next….Americans will be told that we can smoke without fear of lung disease, or that we no longer have to wash our hands after using the bathroom? Is this what “America First” will mean?
Protecting the environment is not a partisan issue. It is a vital responsibility for our time. Wesleyan will continue to explore ways to do our part.