Collective Effort

Santa Clara University reached the first of its carbon-neutral goals. But things are about to get harder.

Collective Effort
SCU’s carbon goals will become more challenging. By 2029, the University aims for complete carbon neutrality, including transportation emissions. / Lower illustration by Michelle Lagasca

Sometimes, we must work together to restore something precious. So it is with the planet and efforts to reduce the human-made carbon emissions responsible for changing our climate—to an unlivable degree if we aren’t careful.

Mark 2020 as the first time SCU became carbon-neutral in its use of natural gas and electricity. Maintaining such a win will take effort.

Pick a line, any line, in the image above, and it will tell you about a year in California. It will tell you how hot or how cold it was. Did undergraduates bundle up a little extra in the winter of 1949, represented by a bold blue slash?

Surely you notice that as the lines march toward the present day, they become increasingly deeper red, signifying heat as the planet experiences some of the hottest years ever recorded.

Scu Heatmap V3

It is the result of years of progress: combustion engines, gas-fueled cars, coal-powered electricity, shipping and receiving, traveling ever faster. But that progress has a cost that is coming due: wildfires, drought, extinctions, massive storms, and more and more heat.

Santa Clara University is committed to doing what it can to reduce the cost of climate change and its impact on communities. In 2020, the University achieved its goal of carbon neutrality for natural gas and electricity, perhaps the only goal helped by the pandemic that reduced the number of people on campus.

In the fall, the tUrn biannual week of action brought speakers to the community—via web conference—for seven days of discussion on climate change denial, solutions, indigenous people’s experiences, and more. The week, as always, included a reading of Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change, Laudato si’.

In it, he writes, “Many things have to change course, but it is we human beings above all who need to change. We lack an awareness of our common origin, of our mutual belonging, and of a future to be shared with everyone.”

Perhaps together, listening, learning, and working, we can restore something beautiful.

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