I’ve been planning to write something about the unique character of Clemson students to change the world. Glad I never got around to it, because student Lisa Watkins did a much better job at it than I ever could in her recent column in The Tiger News. Lisa is a senior majoring in environmental engineering and yes, she “engineers” as well as she writes.
The Power is yours, by Lisa Watkins
My freshman year, I was told past Clemson students were too polite to take sides in politicized debates, too gentlemanly or ladylike to join in the demonstrations of the ‘60s and ‘70s and too comfortable in the Clemson bubble to act on the motivating truths they learned in their classes. I know now none of it was true, for it was a tall tale meant to be inflammatory and push me to be an active voice in the community, I guess. It certainly worked. It made me mad, but it also made me far more perceptive to how active a Clemson student really is. I can say for certain the Clemson student is the model of intrinsic curiosity and world community participation.
Of the seemingly endless ways the Clemson student body reaches out to contribute to the masses, one I’m particularly proud of is Clemson’s involvement in the grassroots environmentalism movement. At a school set in the Southeast, tucked away in the foothills on our stunning campus, it would be easy for Clemson students to sit passively by to watch other universities act against environmental degradation, denying that climate change, water scarcity and resource depletion would ever directly affect them. Happily, this is not the case at Clemson. Through organizations like Solid Green, Students for Environmental Action, Eco-Reps, Slow Food, LEAF and others students are refusing to stand by, and instead, they are stepping up to educate and act in order to make Clemson and the world a better greener place.
A single example among the multitude, Students for Environmental Action (SEA) is a particularly vocal group committed to acting and urging others to act in local and global ways that will leave a healthy environment for generations to come. Among their many campaigns, they’ve identified a worthy cause in opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, which will transport Tar Sands, an energy-intensive and water-intensive source of oil to the gulf from the fragile Boreal Forest, where it’s largely mined to the Gulf.
To follow through on this inspiration, they supported a caravan of around 25 Clemson students in a trip last February to join tens of thousands in the Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C., the largest climate rally in the nation’s history. This really urged President Obama to follow through with his new rhetoric by taking action to address climate change, like opposing Tar Sand extraction by denying the pipeline.
I was a part of that caravan to the capitol, and I can say for certain that the positive energy surrounding the event was unparalleled. It was not, however, unique to an environmental rally or movement. It is present in every form of activism. There are few things more powerful than a group of passionate individuals joining voices to speak up for what they believe in.
At a university like Clemson, we are surrounded by more knowledge and support than at any other time in our lives. This is the time to use our passions to change hearts, to capitalize on the energies of others, inform ourselves and then go out and change the world. As William James, a wise and famed thinker, aptly said, “Act as though what you do makes a difference. It does.”
To that I would say: find a cause; join a club; add your voice. Make a difference.