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Cornell & Yale - Local Projects with Big Impact

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

 With a problem as large as Climate Change, how does one student, or even a group of students, take a stand and create change on a meaningful scale?

By utilizing the connections and leverage they have within their local communities and by finding ways to tap into larger movements. Members of the Roosevelt Institute | Campus Network at Cornell and Yale have been working with their communities - through their the city council and through their college’s administration - to advocate for real change. Both chapters embraced the RICN belief that local policies change can and will create the future we want to inherit.

Roosevelt at Cornell utilized the local city council of Ithaca, NY to protect our air.  Members of the Cornell Roosevelt Campus Network chapter had been interested in this issue since 2009, and were excited when they learned about the Center for Biological Diversity’s Clean Air Cities Campaign.   The Center for Biological Diversity has been lobbying cities around the country to pass legislation encouraging the EPA to use the power granted by the Clean Air Act to cap and reduce atmospheric CO2 concentration.  The campaign gives individual communities the power to effectively lobby for real environmental protection. James Underberg, a member of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network at Cornell writes about the process of bringing and passing this legislation to Ithaca. In particular, he highlights the lasting relationships formed between the Campus Network and city Officials; “Not only is it a relatively easy way to make a difference in policy, but so it an exemplary opportunity to build relationships with local elected officials.”. Through local advocacy work, the Cornell chapter has created the ideal environment to work on local policy change within a community they have a connection with.
In a similar vein, the Yale University Chapter of the Roosevelt Campus Network has partnered with to call for their college to stop investing its endowment with fossil fuel companies. Citing the college’s guide on ethical investing students involved with this project assert that fossil fuels present a “grave social injury” — the phrase used in the Ethical Investor as the standard for divestment.  If the administration is unwilling to divest, students are planning to engage the larger student body at Yale to demonstrate wide support for the proposal. The Yale chapter is using their connection with the local community of their college campus and administration to create a future that reflects their core values; as one student involved with the project says We want an endowment that represents our values and the values of the institution.” Similar efforts have cropped up on other college campus, including divestment efforts at Swarthmore College. 
Small projects can lead to big changes. Cornell’s project could lead to a movement driven by communities to protect our natural resources. Yale’s project could situate college students as environmental crusaders utilizing the power that comes with the wealth of their colleges’ endowments. The Roosevelt Campus Network encourages and supports our chapters as they work with their local communities to create real change. No dream is to big, and no project is to small.