Iowa State student activists fighting coal on campus!

by David Pinsky

November 5, 2009

This semester, I’ve worked with student activists who have coal plants on campus — you know, those antiquated, decades-old, polluting machines that fill the air with toxins like mercury, arsenic, and millions of tons of global warming pollution. At Iowa State University, a monster coal plant looms in the center of campus. The plant consumes over 150,000 tons of coal a year — that’s one half the weight of the Empire State Building!

Iowa State had been dumping fly ash from the coal plant into unlined storage ponds, which is incredibly dangerous due to the risk of contaminating ground water supplies (our drinking water) with numerous deadly toxins. Upon learning about this, Greenpeace campus coordinator Graham Jordison organized a protest on the first day of school. The protest generated several media hits and started a conversation on campus about the plant. A nervous university administration quickly issued a public statement vowing to address the issue.

Weeks later, all 3 of the main public universities in Iowa, including Iowa State, announced that they would begin a ground-water monitoring program for the fly ash disposal. Talk about power of the people!

One week after this announcement, Graham and his team met with the university president to thank him, and ask him to shut down the coal plant and replace it with clean, renewable sources like wind power. Although the students didn’t get a commitment to close the plant, the President and his administration are definitely listening as the students continue to demand clean energy on campus. Graham said it best when quoted in a newspaper article: “We’re not afraid to step it up, get our activists together and do some non-violent actions. Whatever it takes to get the school to wake up and realize students want this to change.”

Photo: Iowa State student activists protesting at the campus coal plant.

The story is unfinished at Iowa State or at your school, but there is only one ending in which we all win. This ending has 100% clean, renewable energy, where coal is no longer part of our vocabulary. To make this happen, we need leaders to fight for the environment. Join Graham, Iowa State, and the Student Network as we fight for the only planet we’ve got.

Let’s make sure President Obama transitions our country to clean, renewable energy. Send a message to President Obama right now!

For more information about the Student Network, visit our website and friend us on Facebook!

Send me an email right now and I’ll get you started organizing for climate action at your school.

For the climate,


David Pinsky

By David Pinsky

David authors Greenpeace USA’s annual seafood sustainability report for the nation’s largest supermarkets, holding major companies accountable and shifting seafood practices that have global impacts on our oceans.

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