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UMBC Powers Forward March “marches” into environmental awareness

UMBC aims to be a carbon neutral, to attain a net-zero carbon footprint, by 2075. In 2007, President Hrabowski signed the Climate Leadership Commitment which includes “a target date for achieving carbon neutrality as soon as possible.” UMBC’s Environmental Task Force held the Powers Forward March with the purpose of alerting administration that students are not satisfied with the university’s climate action plan.

The Environmental Task Force came up with a petition detailing their mission for UMBC, which includes points such as cutting our greenhouse gas pollution by purchasing 100 percent renewable energy by 2020, and committing to carbon neutrality by 2040, investing in renewable energy technology on campus, prioritizing energy and resource conservation when making decisions regarding maintenance and update of existing buildings and design of any new buildings and ensuring all students have a basic education on climate change and sustainability.

According to the group, 20 percent of the energy UMBC currently purchases comes from renewable sources off-site. The Environmental Task Force wants to push the administration to create renewable energy on campus by installing solar panels on residential halls, wind towers on The Commons and support research into geothermal, biofuel and hydroelectric sources in our labs so that we can achieve 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2020.

Prior to the event, individuals in charge invited people to the march and asked them to help make signs. Participants did yoga on the quad right before marching. They collectively walked through the Commons, up to the library, then down Academic Row, ending at the Administration Building. They chanted “”No more coal, no more oil! Keep our carbon in our soil!,” and “What do we want? Carbon neutrality! When do we want it? Now!”

When they got to the Administration Building, they stood outside and shouted their requests through a megaphone. At one point, a man walking by yelled “get a job” at the students. After participants finished, a couple went inside the Administration Building and posted flyers that had the same info as the petition.

Samina Musa, sophomore, said, “The UMBC Powers Forward march was empowering. It was stressful to organize but it’s obvious that a lot of students and faculty care about UMBC’s role in fighting climate change and being a pioneer and role model in sustainability education, research and implementation. Climate chaos is real and everyone in the world will be affected by it sooner or later. Whether it’s through climate refugees, biodiversity loss, food shortage, water scarcity. I hope the administration takes our concerns very seriously and that this march opens up dialogue begins between administration, students and faculty about the university’s carbon footprint. Our job is not finished. It has just started. If other schools are becoming carbon neutral in the next five to ten years, what about us? We can do so much better.”

Chrissy Chang, sophomore, stated, “At the admin building we stayed there for a while, one man who worked there named David stopped to discuss renewable energy with us. He asked us if we were willing to pay more for tuition if we demand UMBC to be carbon neutral by 2030 or 2040 instead of by 2075.”

Zach Grzywacz, sophomore a president of the Environmental Task Force, helped to plan the march and put it together.

“We didn’t have quite the turnout I was hoping for, but it’s a good first step. The fight isn’t over, and we need to put pressure on the administration to take immediate action in combating climate change.”