My name is Carlyn Hill and I am senior studying Industrial Engineering at Iowa State University. Taking a stance on climate action has become a large part of my life for reasons that transcend family and time. Fighting for clean energy just makes sense understanding the inevitable burden carbon pollution places on future generations. Clean energy is a true passion of mine, especially when it comes to wind generation and my home state of Iowa.
In June of 2008, my hometown of Cedar Rapids, IA would change forever when the Cedar River crested at 31 feet, which is 19 feet above flood stage. I remember the non-stop broadcasts as the newscasters would go live from my childhood landmarks submerged by the rising waters. The words “500-year floodplain” were instantly engraved into everyone’s vernacular. This was also the first time I heard the term global warming openly discussed with complete and utter sincerity. Even though my family lives in a surrounding area which was relatively untouched, I still learned far more about my community and the Iowan spirit.
After that summer I grew increasingly curious over what global warming was, how it related to the flood and in the process, I became fascinated with learning how to solve it. I had known that I wanted to study engineering long before that summer, but it wasn’t until my pre-engineering and physics courses exposed me to clean energy technologies that I dreamed of pursuing a career in renewables. I first unlocked my inner activist by joining the ISF College Advisory Board in 2015 writing articles, aiding social media and submitting blog posts. I was so excited to join a cohesive and global team of students activated in a variety of issues, including clean energy!
Later that year, CAB members were given the opportunity to partner with The Climate Reality Project and participate in Know Tomorrow campaigns on their own campuses. I quickly joined the ISU team as an events coordinator monitoring logistics and assisting field organizers plan the National Day of Action. On October 2, 2015, we had a dozen volunteers along with the help of other sustainable campus organizations engage over 300 students while collecting petitions, handing out cookies, and playing yard games in support of the COP21 Paris Climate Negotiations.
Following Know Tomorrow, our team was approached by The Climate Reality Project gauging interest in launching a permanent student organization at Iowa State as part of The Climate Reality Project Campus Corps. Our team would soon join a network of over 21 schools in a brand-new campaign advocating for a commitment on each campus to switch to 100% clean electricity by 2030. This semester we have been galvanizing students through collecting petition signatures, meeting with other student organizations and planning various events. Some events we’ve hosted this semester include tie dyeing, activist training, pumpkin carving, participating in National Campus Sustainability Day and hosting a screening of “Years of Living Dangerously”. By collating with other environmental clubs, we have co-hosted events expanding the visibility and missions of both organizations.
As president of the ISU chapter, installing a new campus organization has entailed composing a chapter constitution, attending officer training, and securing a faculty advisor. In addition to technical responsibilities I’ve also been organizing volunteers, collaborating with student leaders, and meeting with university faculty building campaign support. Our magnificent team of student interns have taken campus by storm petitioning in their free time sparking conversations among their peers further expanding our campus reach.
Our term concluded in meeting with the President of Iowa State University and the Vice President of University Services discussing clean energy applications. In this meeting, all parties reiterated the influence of renewable energy systems and begun initial analysis on a campus level. A follow up meeting also included the Director of Sustainability and the Utilities Director conceptualizing means of increasing energy efficiency, including incentivizing students’ energy consciousness. The opportunity to share solutions from many different angles not only drastically increases chances of success, but also solidifies the connection between faculty and students on campus.
The highlight of my day is listening to fellow students share their stories on how climate change motivates and inspires them, each with their own unique reason and perspective. Regardless of your story, it is an honor to listen and explore solutions through earnest conversation. With each conversation, I can feel climate action moving forward with the dialogue needed to heal our environment. Understanding our work as activists will likely never cease, I have witnessed in each small victory a well-deserved chance to celebrate. Shaking up the world is certainly no easy task, but it will take all hands-on deck to embark on this great crusade which will define our generation.
Written by Carlyn Hill