As a transfer student to UC Davis I was unsure of what to expect of the environmental movement here on campus. Unsure of where to look for campus environmentalists, I was sure the Environment Club was a good place to start.
However, it was CALPIRG that really snatched me in off the street and got me excited about their “Million Clean Cars Campaign,” which has received a lot of attention from Gov. Jerry Brown as well as other campaigns such as their campaign against “Citizens United.” This important Supreme Court decision has allowed unprecedented amounts of corporate monetary contributions to enter our political system, undermining public and environmental protection efforts.
The CALPIRG “Anti-fracking” campaign is part of the brand new UC Davis Chapter of the Students Against Fracking, a statewide coalition with the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), joining student organizations statewide in support of a moratorium on fracking in California. Many cities, such as San Francisco and L.A. have said no to fracking, which pollutes groundwater and our oceans with carcinogenic chemicals and has been shown to release harmful greenhouse gases and cause earthquakes. In an effort to reach out to other environmental groups on campus to gain more support for the statewide ban, I decided to attend my first Environmental Club meeting last quarter.
I quickly began to understand why I had heard a less than flattering reputation of the club, although it is an active part of the campus community and a valuable organization. There were not any environmental issues addressed during the first half of the one hour meeting, which consisted of a laundry list of activities that did not include environmentally conscious agendas or information. Although very fun activities such as ice skating, snowboarding and skiing were addressed, to my disappointment, issues such as the inevitable carbon footprint resulting from such activities and concerns for the current devastating drought in California were not.
A guest speaker spoke of the recycling services offered in the City of Davis, which was very informational (although the services offered here on campus recycle a larger variety of items). However, my complaint is that no time was reserved for public comment on environmental issues, and the only environmental issue raised was cut off — the meeting had run past 8 p.m. A member had mentioned BPAs in recycled receipts and other materials; however, unfortunately neither the guest speaker nor any club members had heard about the issue and it was largely dismissed, despite the speaker’s efforts to explain the issue.
The Aggie opinion piece “Guest Opinion Re: Recycling” discusses this important issue, in which recycled products are often released without proper public health hazard risk assessments for the toxic chemicals that are retained within paper, plastics and other materials used and reintroduced into the market.
Concerned about the lack of involvement with the club in campus environmental issues, I decided to approach the club personally. I was able to speak with the president of the club, Patil Karkazian, about the fracking campaign in hopes of gaining the club’s interest. I was quickly deferred to a Google document on which any environmental concerns could be uploaded for students to look at when they felt like periodically checking the Google form. My request for any face time at club meetings was not even slightly entertained.
I tried to convey my concerns for a lack of representation from the club of the environmental concerns on campus to the club president, and she simply responded to me with a blank expression: “This is more of…a social club,” explaining to me that these were just the things that people want to do.
Looking at the Google form later, I found another student who had asked to attend that very same meeting, and had offered to bring all the materials needed for the club to make Valentines for Congress urging them to support a statewide fracking ban. When I emailed the club president about my interest in several activities on the form I received no response. My interests included fracking and a GRID solar opportunity, which would require great leadership and organization, but would create incredible benefits for our students and communities if implemented.
Fracking has been shown by Cornell University to be as much of a greenhouse polluter as Big Coal, and has been shown by a Colorado study to contaminate groundwater supplies. The EPA has closed investigations on groundwater contamination in several states despite findings from their own scientists suggesting causal links between fracking and drinking water contamination. Surprisingly enough, 9 billion gallons of waste water containing these carcinogens are legally dumped off the California coast each year, and millions of fresh water that should be used in Californian communities and agriculture are wasted each time a fracking operation begins.
If you believe as I do that we live in a time when our world needs to hear the valid concerns of environmentalists, please consider joining Environmental Voices, a non-profit organization in Davis committed to environmental advocacy and research. I met the founder of Environmental Voices at an environmental advocacy rally — the group focuses on public involvement as a vehicle for change, and internship positions are available. Please contact me if you are interested in an “Environmental Voices” club on campus for the advocacy of current environmental issues. You can find us on Facebook and online at environmentalvoices.org. You can also visit UC Davis CALPIRG and Students Against Fracking on Facebook and online as well.
Third-year transfer, environmental toxicology major