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Miami’s transition to sustainable energy is looking promising

Miami University has plenty of beautiful buildings all across campus, including academic buildings, residence halls and even dining halls. But one that sticks out like a sore thumb is the steam power plant directly behind Peabody Hall. 

I live quite close to it, being in Stonebridge Hall, so normally I don’t pay much attention to this eyesore of a building. A few weeks ago, as I was going on a run, I noticed it more than normal; then, a few minutes later, I also ran past the geothermal plant, which is also on Western Campus but is significantly more aesthetically pleasing.

My mind always tends to wander while I run, and that day I began to think about the multitude of ways in which humans go about producing energy. 

One of the biggest ways in which we have perpetuated unnatural climate change is through the usage of fossil fuels in energy production. However, the good news is that pretty much everybody knows that this is extremely harmful, and the push toward more sustainable energy sources has become a massive movement across the world.

As I kept running, I remembered an article that I wrote last semester in which I spoke about how Miami has signed the Presidents' Climate Leadership Commitment, which commits to “carbon neutrality and resilience.” It is a promising and hopeful goal that we can be glad our university is committed to.

Yet, as I also mentioned in that article, many institutions — such as world governments — sadly fail to keep their word on promises such as these. 

But what about Miami specifically? How are we doing in keeping our promises of working towards a more sustainable and healthier future for our planet? The Oxford campus alone is big, plus there are multiple regional campuses, and I can only imagine the immense amount of energy that is used each day to keep everything up and running.

In a story written in November of 2019, University News Writer and Editor Susan Meikle revealed the work that Miami had done in moving the university away from steam-powered energy, which is extremely carbon-intensive, and toward more sustainable methods — such as the previously mentioned geothermal plant. 

Also described is the 1.6-million-gallon thermal energy storage tank at the South Chiller plan. There are also LEED Certified buildings that dot the campus, such as Armstrong Student Center, the Farmer School of Business and my home of Stonebridge Hall.

The most up-to-date report we have of Miami’s progress was submitted to President Crawford last July, and I encourage you to read it. In this report, our Sustainability Committee stated that, “...the University has met or made significant progress toward the 2016 SCAG [Sustainability Commitments and Goals].” 

In fact, the committee even requested that Miami move forward with new goals, as it felt that the previous ones had been met. 

I would not consider myself pessimistic, but, especially when it comes to those in power making promises about the climate, I try to be critical and find the whole truth. 

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Now, I am not an extremely knowledgeable and professional environmental scientist (although I hope to be in the future), but I can see that Miami is doing a good job in keeping its promises and doing its part to slow the effects of climate change. 

Committing to carbon neutrality is a big commitment, one that requires lots of change in infrastructure and lots of investments into new technologies. We do not know yet if Miami will actually achieve this, but from the research I have done, it seems that it is a very likely possibility. The cleaner energy sources, “greener” buildings point towards, and completion of the 2016 SCAG indicate that there is progress occurring at a good pace.

As students, faculty, staff or anyone reading this article, it is important for us all to stay informed and always push for meaningful change. Miami has a sustainability webpage, and I hope that another report will be submitted by the Sustainability Committee this summer as well, updating the campus on the progress it’s hopefully making right now. 

With a lot of daunting data and doomsday scenarios being floated around in regards to the climate in today’s society, it is easy to become overwhelmed and disheartened. Because of this, it is incredibly important to recognize all the little victories that are made — because even little victories can lead to big change. 

Being part of an institution that clearly recognizes its duty toward the environment gives me a good feeling about the future, and I deeply hope that Miami can keep moving in the right direction.

nortonsm@miamioh.edu

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