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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Turn off the light and make a big change

<emember sitting in the 3rd Goodhue lounge freshman year during study break when an energetic, hippie-looking girl walked in and started talking to us about Green Wars (previously called Dorm Wars). Her enthusiasm was a little much for a Sunday night but we listened and attempted to take in some of her energy. It sounded fun, competing against the other dorms to save energy during the month of February and possibly getting a pizza party or something out of it. She made all the right jokes about showering together and doing it in the dark, etc. Over the next few days, we went through and plugged everything into surge protectors, got some CFLs, and hung out in the dark. The energetic energy girl kept coming to study breaks throughout the month and we kept it up the best we could. We were excited and energetic freshman and this type of competition was fun.

But as a sophomore, I saw the inevitable Carleton rationality settling in among my friends and peers. And I admit, I struggle with it myself. So what if a small liberal arts college in Northfield, Minnesota saves energy? Does that really mean or do anything? Will that save Bangladesh from going under rising sea levels?

Of course, but that was never the point. Allow me to strike an idealistic path, which luckily is more permissible now with the election of President Obama. Obama has allowed us to believe in big change and yet, when he candidly spoke to his staff the day after the inauguration, his emphasis was on small change. He urged his staff to go back to their homes and bring the spirit and idealism of his campaign to every community and fight for the reforms that are presently so needed. His campaign set a precedent for the way movements can snow ball and how excitement can jump from person to person, state to state, and even country to country (remember Berlin?).

The change that we make at Carleton has done the same. Green wars (also known as the Minnesota Campus Energy Challenge) started here at Carleton with one enthusiastic green-loving girl and then spread to a competition with St. Olaf. From there, the competition went the state level, where we now compete with 14 other schools in Minnesota. Now there are efforts to expand the energy competition to the national level. Last year saw many of the schools cutting energy usage 15-20%. Multiply that by 14 and the impact of the energy challenge becomes clear.

Yet beyond the numbers, there is a message. A message to our leaders and the world that we, as educated college students, understand how privileged we are to have continuous energy. We understand how unfair it is that the carbon emitted from our nation will have dire effects on the poorest of the world. We understand that we have a responsibility to change the way we live and inspire that change in others. And lastly we understand that right now, before we can go off and really change the world, turning off that light and taking a shorter shower is our part in a greater movement.

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