Students looking through informational flyers made for the Reclaim Earth Day Rally April 22. The event was hosted by hosted by the Student Political Action Coalition, College Democrats and Epsilon Delta Pi. (Courtesy Cate Monaco)

Students rally for environmental action on campus


A Reclaim Earth Day Rally was held April 22 on the STEPS lawn, hosted by the Student Political Action Coalition, College Democrats and Epsilon Delta Pi, the environmental honor society.

The demonstration was part of a nationally coordinated effort among college students  during Earth Day.

In partnership with the Campus Climate Network and Reclaim Earth Day, walkouts and rallies were held on over 100 American college campuses.

During the rally, students addressed three main goals: divesting from fossil fuels, dissociating from the fossil fuel industry and decarbonizing campus.

Students demanded the university invest in environmental justice initiatives, build relationships with frontline communities and lead transformative climate solutions. 

Amelia Chandless, ‘26, an environmental studies major and the president of Epsilon Delta Pi, said one goal of the event was to reignite the environmental movement on campus.

A student makes their mark on a tapestry made during the Reclaim Earth Day Rally April 22. During the rally, students addressed divesting from fossil fuels, dissociating from the fossil fuel industry and decarbonizing campus. (Courtesy of Cate Monaco)

“Lehigh has released climate action plans, releasing some hope for changes in campus operations in relation to renewable energy and waste management but it hasn’t been going well,” Chandless said. “There are audits conducted by the school and overseen by the Office of Sustainability and they usually don’t do wonderfully on those, especially when it comes to where their investments are.”

STARS, a reporting tool used to gauge relative progress universities are making toward sustainability goals, is overseen by the Office of Sustainability.

Many students in the honor society are studying environmental science, but she said one of the main challenges is other students on campus don’t understand the severity of the issue.

“One of our goals is to explain why this issue is so important to everyone and why it will affect everyone no matter what they study, where they come from, how much money they have and where they live,” Chandless said. 

Arthur Pevzner, ‘27, president of the Lehigh University College Republicans, said he doesn’t think their demands are the right approach.

“I’m not against divesting,” Pevzner said. “But then where are you going to send that capital? The reason we’re invested is to get money back.”

Pevzner said he believes investment in nuclear energy will provide a greater payback than green fuels.

Lehigh implemented the Climate Action Strategy, a key component of the Sustainability Strategic Plan 2030 adopted in October 2020, to establish long-term visions for sustainability on campus.

The Strategic Plan 2030 is an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental effort built on the university’s past sustainability plans focusing on six areas: Climate Action, Campus Operations, Educational Experience, Culture and Engagement, Health and Wellness and Focused Leadership, according to Lehigh’s website. 

The 2022 Progress Report is available to track specific goals and target dates. 

The University has also committed to a “Pathway to Zero” emissions — net carbon neutrality — by 2040. This will save costs, reduce emissions and increase energy efficiency. 

In April 2023, the installation of solar panels began on the Murray H. Goodman Campus in partnership with EDF Renewables, an independent power producer and service provider.  

The project will supply 100% of the electrical power utilized in Goodman Campus and offset 8% of Lehigh’s grid electricity consumption. 

According to the Progress Report, the project was intended to be completed by fall, originally planned to offset 100% of Lehigh’s energy use. There are no current updates on the project.

Pamphlets and a Climate Change Petition were distributed at the rally, discussing a call to action from students, staff, faculty, alumni, community members, donors and parents who are “dismayed with Lehigh’s insufficient action to address the most pressing environmental and social challenges.”

Breena Holland, professor of political science and participating faculty for the Environmental Initiative at Lehigh, said it is important to have a group on campus that can effectively get Lehigh to take more significant action to divest, dissociate and decarbonize.

She said the groups hosting the Reclaim Earth Day rally are motivated and progressive students who she hopes will have success in their environmental goals in the future. 

“It’s not easy to move an institution and I don’t think that anybody has been that successful in getting significant commitments from the university,” Holland said. 

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