Help Is on the Way

Students at U.C. Davis research how to maximize waste reduction from campus buildings. | Photo courtesy of Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis

The tear-jerking finale to my daughter's elementary school graduation earlier this year was the fresh-faced, motley gang of 11-year-olds belting out the Script's "Hall of Fame":

You could be the greatest
You can be the best
You can be the king kong banging
on your chest

We want so much of our children, and we need more from them. They're going to have to learn from our mistakes, succeed where we failed, and clean up the mess we've made.

You could go the distance
You could run the mile
You could walk straight through hell
with a smile

To do so, our kids are going to need an awesome education—the sort they'll get at the colleges ranked in Sierra's annual "Cool Schools" issue. This year, in addition to tallying LEED certificates, low-flow toilets, and composting rates to find our top 10 (congrats, Huskies!), we take a broader look at environmental education: how all that carbon-neutral, locally sourced eco-literacy is making a difference in the world ("The Measure of an Education").

One place that it is having an effect is on the schools' stock portfolios. Led by the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) and Bill McKibben's, students are taking lessons about climate disruption to heart and demanding that schools divest their endowments of coal and other fossil fuel holdings ("Filthy Lucre").

At the University of North Carolina, administrators tried to argue that this wasn't an "extraordinary circumstance" like the antiapartheid divestment movement of the 1980s. "If climate change isn't an extraordinary circumstance," asks SSC member Jasmine Ruddy, "what is?"

Do it for your people
Do it for your pride
Never gonna know if you never even try

What's to prevent this new generation from becoming, in a few years, as jaded as those UNC administrators? Sometimes, reports former Sierra intern Natalya Savka ("Students' Aha Moments"), your life can be changed by an inspirational professor, an intriguing class, or even a PowerPoint presentation.

In the end, however, no one knows what book, what experience, what school will put our kids into the environmental Hall of Fame. The best we can do is show them the world, show them the tools, and get out of the way.

Don't wait for luck
You can be a champion
Dedicate yourself and you can find yourself
Standing in the hall of fame

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