Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: Protesting Students Should Get off the Grid

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

McClellan: Protesting Students Should Get off the Grid

Article excerpt

Some students at Washington University are complaining about the coal industry. More precisely, they are complaining about the university's ties with Peabody Energy.

The students cite several problems with the company. The first is that coal contributes to global carbon emissions. The others have to do with allegations that Peabody is a heartless company.

Hard to argue with that. I remember when Peabody created Patriot Coal and put all sorts of legacy costs, including pensions, on Patriot, which later went into bankruptcy. On the other hand, I remember when Monsanto spun off Solutia, and put all sorts of legacy costs, including pensions, on Solutia, which later went into bankruptcy. The head of Monsanto is also on the university board.

Here is some sad truth for the students. If corporations are really people, they're not nice people. They're bullies. Just about all of them. It makes little sense to pick on Peabody. Carbon emissions are a different thing. That is something worth a protest. But as long as clean, renewable energy remains a pipe dream, what can we do?

This is where the students could take the lead. They could demand that the university get off the grid. No more electricity. That would also go for off-campus housing. No fair living in an apartment with electricity. To be pure about it, the students could refrain from patronizing establishments that are on the grid.

That would mean they'd be growing their own food. They could do that on the green space that would be created on campus where the parking lots currently are. After all, coal isn't the only pollutant. Automobiles throw a lot of carbon into the atmosphere. If anybody could live without cars, it ought to be students.

Initially, this might seem like a huge sacrifice. No more techie gadgets, because you can't recharge anything.

Then again, people used to get along quite nicely without computers and smartphones and iPods.

For that matter, electricity is relatively new. Thomas Edison didn't get his patent until 1879. That's only 135 years ago. People have been around for thousands of years.

Summer school might be a hardship. St. Louis summers can be brutal. But unless we do something, summers are only going to get worse. …

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