We are UCAN: University of Chicago’s Climate Action Network. Welcome to our blog! I am Sandy, your resident blogmaster. Don’t worry I won’t be writing all the posts! You will get to hear from many different people!

We began in October 2010 as an offshoot of Massachusetts’s Students for a Just and Stable Future, and as a subsidiary of UChicago’s Green Campus Initiative (GCI, http://gci-uchicago.blogspot.com). We are a student climate activism group here on UChicago’s beautiful campus and we work with other organizations in the Chicago area on climate issues.

The main thing we have been working on is the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. This ordinance, currently going through city council, would require the two coal plants in Chicago, Fisk and Crawford, to either clean up or shut down. Fisk, in Pilsen, was constructed in 1903; and Crawford, in Little Village, in 1924. When the Federal Clean Air Act was passed in 1963, the government assumed that these two old plants would shut down relatively soon and thus it would be too expensive for them to follow the new guidelines. In reality, however, Fisk and Crawford, now owned and operated by Midwest Generation, have continued to produce energy with no legal requirement forcing them to follow current regulations. There was a public hearing on April 21st, and sadly the ordinance was not put to a vote. We are waiting for the next administration to take office and then hopefully we can help get this ordinance passed! For a summary of the ordinance: http://cleanpowerchicago.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Ordinance-Summary.pdf

This past March we voted to change our name. We are now UCAN! In our work to help end the use of fossil fuels, we seek to be inclusive. All of our meetings, and the events we attend, whether they are rallies, hearings, phone bankings, or something else entirely, are open to everyone. We do our best to advertise across campus and have been rather successful at bring out students! Please feel free to stop by at a meeting: Weekly on Wednesdays, 7pm, Harper 145. Or shoot one of us an email (check out the contacts page).

Here’s some stuff we have done throughout the year to help publicize or gain support for the ordinance and other environmental issues, as well as to educate ourselves:

April 15-18, 2011: POWERSHIFT 2011

I might just make a separate tab for this amazing event. There will be more blog posts to follow on this, but here are the basics:

Powershift 2011 was a massive environmental conference held in DC by Energy Action Coalition. This conference included community organizing training, sessions on different environmental issues, keynote speakers, and actual direct action (lobbying and protests!). We got to hear from Al Gore, Bill McKibben (founder of 350.org), Lisa Jackson (Director of the EPA), and Van Jones (Green for All)!

February 19, 2011: Nonviolent Direct Action Training, with Jeff Lucas from Rainforest Action Network

Jeff Lucas came down to University of Chicago one Saturday and gave a great workshop on Direct Action. We opened this event up to all university students and had roughly 10 people. For those of you who don’t know what Direct Action is (which is fine—heck, I didn’t know until this year!) here’s a definition (courtesy of Wikipedia): “Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. Direct action can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participant.” Jeff’s workshop allowed us all to think about the effectiveness of different types of action, and to understand that direct action is the “last tool in our belt”. It is what we use when our other approaches fail to be as successful as desired.

January 14-17, 2011: Youth Climate Activism Retreat, Hosted by UCAN at the Woodlawn Collaborative.

This was an amazing weekend, which would not have been possible without the planning and preparation done by Caroline Wooten of the University of Chicago and Peter Hoy from Loyola University Chicago, as well as many others. Students from Loyola University Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, De Paul, Columbia, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and, of course, University of Chicago gathered to discuss community organizing and building the climate movement here in our great city of Chicago. We also got to hear from Christine Nannicelli from the Sierra Club and Jeff Lucas from Rainforest Action Network (RAN). They were both extremely instrumental in teaching us about environmental action! One wonderful thing that came out of this retreat was the formation of the Chicago Youth Climate Coalition. This is a youth based organization, formed this February that works to unite students and youth from across Chicago. (Please see the contacts page for more information!). From this retreat, UCAN has been able to form connections with other students and other organizations in Chicago, which has proven instrumental in our efforts to build our own group and to work on environmental issues across the Chicago area.

November 1, 2010, Day of the Dead Rally in Pilsen. By Paul Kim.

On Monday, November 1st, the Day of the Dead, a group of about 75 individuals marched from the UIC quad to Alivio Medical Center in Pilsen in support of the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. Among the activists were students from UChicago, Loyola, and UIC. The ordinance, which had the support of 17 out of 50 aldermen as of November 5th, would ‘clean up’ or shut down the Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants in Chicago. The plants cause 66 premature deaths, 104 heart attacks, and thousands of asthma attacks per year, all while making a very small monetary profit.

The rally began at 4:30 at UIC with speeches from a number of organizations including Greenpeace, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), and Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), which emphasized the threats that the coal plants pose both to the health of the neighborhood and the climate stability of the world. From there, demonstrators in skeleton-masks and holding signs marched through the chilly evening, chanting and distributing fliers, past the still-smoking coal plant to the Alivio Medical Center. The medical center had been the site of a previous rally against the coal plants on the Global Day of Climate Action 10/10/10. Here, members of various groups represented at the march took the time to get to know each other to strengthen the inter-organizational network throughout Chicago. At 8:00, “Mountain Top Removal” was screened at the Decima Musa Theater, sponsored by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, or LVEJO.

October 26 2010, Coal Panel, UChicago, 7pm. Co-sponsored by GCI, Students for a Democratic Society, Southside Solidarity Network, and SJSF.

Students for a Democratic Society gave a presentation and hosted a discussion, which we co-sponsored, on the University of Chicago’s investment policy, particularly with regards to the environment. The University does not make investment decisions based on politics, and thus chooses to support companies which do not have a particularly healthy relationship with the environment. For instance, the University invests in Arch Coal. Inc, which implements open mining practices, AKA Mountain Top Removal. This method of coal mining destroys not only beautiful landscapes of mountains and valleys, but it also negatively influences the health of workers and simple residents. This event was a way to inform some in the UChicago community of the University’s policies.

Throughout the Year: Lobbying our Aldermen

Several of our members have had the chance to lobby city aldermen with regards to the Clean Power Ordinance. While it is often hard to wrestle strong commitments out of politicians, this has proven to be a great learning experience. It has also helped show our support for the Ordinance!