Florida A&M’s Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference ended with a march expressing a national need for renewable energy.
The weekend-long conference was a collaborative effort of the Southern Energy Network, the FAMU Green Coalition, Simens and Sodexo.
The purpose of the march was “to tell the Florida legislature that Floridians want solar power instead of nuclear power,” said activist Jessica Murphy.
“It’s the sunshine state,” said Ana Reboredo-Segovia, activist and senior ecology and evolutionary biology student. “They should be using solar resources, which is cleaner. There are not as many risks involved. It’s just not something you would want in your community.
About 150 students from various universities in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina and Louisiana organized with the mission of changing the current cultural response to environmental issues.
FAMU is the first HBCU to host SSREC and the only HBCU in Florida to work toward instituting a Student Green Energy Fund.
“We noticed a lot in the community that some of the environmental issues in place affect some of the most vulnerable people, which are African-Americans,” said Anthony Ward, president of the FAMU Green Coalition. “We wanted to show as an HBCU that we want representation and to show that we care about the various issues.”
SSREC was purposed to connect students with those who share the common goal to “Clean Up the Dirty South.”
Friday’s opening plenary topic was “Shifting the Political Power: Calling for Clean, Just Energy Solutions in the 2012 Elections.”
The keynote speakers were Michelle Vasilinda, Florida State Representative of District 9, and Whit Jones, campaigns director of the Energy Action Coalition.
“Big polluters are trying to hijack our democracy,” Vasilinda said speaking of the effects big oil has on our elected officials. Vasilinda’s overall message was “the future is renewable energy.”
Saturday began with various training and informational workshops to inspire students to organize. Topics ranged from divestment, selling an asset for financial or social goods, to the transition movement.
“I came here hoping to spread the knowledge about our movement,” said Kim Ross, organizer of Transition Town.
Speaker Eriqah Forman-Williams, Southeast coordinator of the National Wildlife Federation, spoke about the power vote movement and piquing the interests of students in the Southeast in climate change. She also urged students to review a report published by the NWF she considers “the student’s guide to dirty money.”
“It gets me pumped up to go back to campus and get more involved,” said Taylor Wolfenbarger, a junior horticulture student from University of Tennessee Knoxville.
FAMU’s Interim President Larry Robinson keynoted the weekend’s final session on providing leadership in a green energy future. He spoke of the milestones the university has reached with its mission of sustainability and the responsibility of students to pave the way toward a self-supportable future.
“It’s very likely that the communities FAMU students originate from are going to be most adversely impacted if we don’t do things properly to the environment,” said Robinson. “So it’s very important that FAMU students get involved, inform their communities and then get the skills and knowledge needed to identify solutions to the problem.”
Following Sunday’s plenary was another round of workshops and a rally on the Quad to close the weekend. First time SSREC attender and University of South Florida freshman Petra Valle said, “It was really interesting because you get to see different perspectives and plans of students in the Southeast region.”
FAMU’s Green Coalition is working diligently on the passage of SGEF, which will go before the FAMU Board of Trustees this November.