Hurricane Sandy, Climate Change Come to Bowdoin College

Below is a version of the blog originally posted on on N0vember 3rd, 2012 in response to the havoc wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

It wasn’t difficult to find the first Sandy-downed tree the morning after the storm—and Maine got off easy. It was just one tree, already stumped by the grounds crew; a poor analog, maybe, to the flooding and power outages and food shortages the rest of the Northeast faces, but proof nevertheless of the devastation Sandy left in its wake.

Sometimes it takes the largest hurricane on record to uproot our trees and knock down our power lines to remind us: everyday, we make choices that affect our climate’s future, our future. Sometimes those choices culminate in a mild frost in early October; other times they culminate in up to $50 billion in damages. Point is, it’s all connected. Burning fossil fuels led to Hurricane Sandy. We are all complicit in climate change.

But we don’t have to be. We can take a stand against business as usual and let our leaders know that, actually, a greenwashed agenda of fracking for natural gas and an all-of-the-above energy policy just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Divest fossil fuels.

Climate activists at Bowdoin showing the connection between investing in the fossil fuel industry and climate catastrophe

So that’s what we did. Climate activists at Bowdoin College found that uprooted tree, that physical proof of climate change altering the face of the earth, and we took a picture to send to our newspaper. “Divest disaster,” our banner declared, because while our money continues to fund dirty energy and ever increasing storms-of-the-century, it won’t just be the polar bears that are at risk. (Though as the Bowdoin Polar Bears, we’re concerned about that, too.)

Sometimes, you take one picture and it becomes something bigger. It becomes a full-page color spread in the newspaper, reminding the entire school that it is an accomplice to the harrowing Hurricane Sandy. It becomes a front-page article challenging the College’s dedication to reaching carbon neutrality by 2020. It becomes an editorial endorsing the campaign to divest fossil fuels and transition to 100% clean energy. It becomes the president of student government asking how she can help to winthat campaign.

And sometimes a letter to the editor calling for responsible handling of the College’s endowment and the closure of its natural gas plant leads to agitated phone calls that the administration has to handle all day. Sometimes it leads to a reprimanding. Because, sometimes, you rock the boat. Sometimes you welcome a hurricane’s storm swells as they help you rock it. Sometimes, you want the boat to capsize and flip everybody’s mind around with it—convincing them, finally, that climate change is a problem, and that you can make a difference. All the time.


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