By Megan Anderson, IU Senior
Ask anyone why they love IU and love the Hoosier state. They usually mention the beautiful scenery, the neighborly spirit and our incredible work ethic. These make our state great and create a legacy we want to continue.
There’s a coal plant on the IU-Bloomington campus and consequently, students, staff and residents have been subject to the affects of its pollution for many decades. Coal is part of the legacy of our state, yet, with developments in technology, it’s disappointing that Indiana University, one of the leading educational institutions in the country, has no plans for a clean energy future.
Coal plants put us all at risk: Indiana has high rates of asthma and our waterways are contaminated with mercury. In short, the affects of pollution are costing Hoosiers money. Energy efficiency and renewable energy is practical, necessary and cost effective.
During my internship with the United States Marine Corps Environmental Program, I developed strategic sustainability plans and performance metrics for military bases to reduce waste, water and energy consumption. The USMC realized that their reliance on fuel, batteries, water, and other resources was impacting the lives of marines on base, and leaving marines in deployment vulnerable to attack. Most of the casualties happening were related to the shipment of these resources to troops during combat. The team tasked with addressing this issue utilized solar panels, and other sustainable systems to bypass the need for convoys all together. The USMC utilizes renewable energy as a method of reducing convey-related causalities and lightening the load for Marines during deployments, as well as reducing costs and their carbon footprints on base.
I gained knowledge of the practical and beneficial application of renewable energy for Marines and their families, as well as local communities and businesses, and learned how essential it is to establish collaboration between these stakeholders in order to successfully launch these projects. The military recognizes that the growing feuds over resources like water and oil threaten the lives of many, and are correspondingly making strides in the development of sustainability.
In my sophomore year of college I went on a service trip to Honduras where we completed a gravity water system. Community members worked alongside volunteers like me, creating access to clean water and teaching them how to maintain the system. They got free, clean water, but so much more: The village women and sometimes their children previously had walked miles to get water, leaving them little time to fulfill other chores. Building the system allowed these women to gain a new level of independence, opening up time for them and their children to pursue education during the day.
For the community as a whole it built neighborliness and instilled a sense of pride in all of the residents.
This is the power of sustainable development. This model is being mimicked in cities across our country, and proving to truly raise the economic tides of declining communities. Low interest loans (i.e. micro financing) and training are equipping communities with the skills they need to purchase and install solar panels to homes. This reduces the need for government aid and gives people marketable skills to gain employment. The nonprofit sector can play a major role in the reshaping, spurring these solutions — and I hope to be a part of this.
I firmly believe Indiana has the potential to be revitalized by a clean energy revolution, and that this is paramount to the health of Hoosiers.
Right now renewable energy and energy efficiency projects have been one of the most rapidly growing job sectors since the recession. As the price of renewable energy becomes more competitive, Hoosiers will gain jobs in manufacturing, installation and construction. Our state is becoming a magnet for innovation through accomplishments such as the geothermal project at Ball State.
This is driving activism from youth to advocate for clean energy solutions. The youth of our nation understand the unparalleled challenges we will face in trying to maintain our resources, adapt to a changing climate, and foster a growing population. The urgency is clear.
A sustainability revolution is being expedited because we cannot wait, we must all be activists in our own capacity in the fight to sustain ourselves and preserve the resources and freedoms we are privileged to have. Being a Hoosier is really about being a good citizen, here and globally.
Megan Anderson is a senior at Indiana University majoring in Public Affairs, Nonprofit Management. She is a life-long resident of Bloomington. She hopes to pursue a career involving public service, advocacy, and sustainability domestically or internationally.