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The National Wildlife Federation has a vision - a healthy world where everyone has access to clean air and clean water and a diverse array of forests and wildlife are protected. We see college students and the higher education sector as key allies in achieving this vision.
Mission for program in Texas:
To unite, inspire and train young Texans in the art of transformative environmental change leadership.
Since 1989 NWF has had a dedicated program, the Campus Ecology program, to work with students and the higher education sector. Since 2007, NWF has worked specifically to inspire, train and mentor a first-ever generation of student leaders to advance carbon pollution solutions in Texas. In this time, NWF has engaged students from over 50 campuses in the state, including several of the largest majority Hispanic and non-White schools in Texas. NWF has also played a crucial role in establishing the ReEnergize Texas student network and is now lead organizer for the network. Early efforts in Texas included working strategically with students to lead campus carbon reduction campaigns such as securing climate commitments from university presidents, setting up greenhouse gas measurement mechanisms and garnering support for campus sustainability positions. Emphasis was also placed between 2007 and 2011 on mobilizing the student base to advance state and federal carbon solutions. In 2008, 9500 Texas youth from 13 different colleges and universities pledged to vote with climate and energy as a priority factor. Throughout 2009 and 2010, campus groups met regularly with their elected representatives to advance the vision of a renewable energy economy. In addition to two large statewide ReEnergize Texas Summits in 2008 and 2009, Texas youth have also been a powerful presence at all of the Power Shift national youth climate conferences. Through our targeted recruitment efforts to majority non-white campuses, the Texas delegations have consistently been amongst the most diverse delegations at Power Shift representing also at the same time communities on the frontlines of many environmental justice issues in Texas.
In 2009 the ReEnergize Texas state student network also initiated one of the most successful green fund campaigns in the nation. The network worked with Texas state legislators in 2009 to pass House (and Senate) Bill 3353 to allow public higher education institutions to collect a sustainability fee from students. Following the passage, through a coordinated statewide plan Texas youth successfully campaigned in 2009, 2010 and 2011 to have the measure approved by the student voting populations at seven large universities. Collectively the fee is already bringing in more than $1 million each year for sustainability initiatives approved by student-majority committees.
Texas is at an interesting crossroads. In the last five years, Texas has emerged as the leading producer of wind energy in the country and also one of the leading trainers of the wind, solar, and green building workforce. A new National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Jul 2012) report shows that Texas has the largest technical potential for urban utility-scale photovoltaic, rural utility-scale photovoltaic, concentrating solar, onshore wind power and enhanced geothermal in the country, enough to meet current US electricity demand several times over. At the same time however, Texas remains the no.1 polluter state in the country, as the leading producer of oil and gas for the country. The discovery of the Eagle Ford Shale in central to south Texas and the resulting boom in natural gas and oil fracking has also created a significant new long-term source of greenhouse gas pollution for the US, as well as air and water pollution for the overwhelmingly Hispanic local population.
Texas hasn’t often been a popular state for engagement in the mindsets of environmental funders due to its domination by the polluting energy industry and political conservatism but there is no doubt that Texas is on the frontlines of the carbon pollution crisis, in terms of the sources of the crisis, the solutions to the crisis and the impacts of the crisis. Texas college students have been one of the groups in Texas willing to consistently organize and press for solutions in the heavily fossil fuel dominated state. NWF sees the work of cultivating and building a generation of young effective advocates in Texas as a long term investment. In 2012-2013, NWF continues to build this student movement providing training, guidance and organizational support.
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