Profiles In Sustainability – Kol Chaiken

calpirg2.jpgKol Chaiken | Class of 2018 | Environmental Systems – Policy

Could you explain the problem with the way we currently get our energy, and how renewable energy can solve these problems?

The majority of our current energy use comes from fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane into our atmosphere which are the primary cause of climate change. Climate change is a huge threat that will continue to get worse in the coming years, and we’re already starting to see some of the impacts including the fires and mudslides in Santa Barbara as well as the hurricanes that devastated the East Coast and Puerto Rico. In addition to climate change, carbon dioxide causes ocean acidification which kills ecologically important marine species like coral. Other impacts of fossil fuels include air and water pollution.The impact of the pollution usually falls on poor communities of color who experience higher rates of pollution-related diseases like asthma.

Switching to Renewable Energy like solar and wind means that fewer greenhouse gases and pollutants will be emitted, helping to curb the impact of climate change and improve overall health.

What is the 100% renewable energy campaign?

The 100% Renewable Energy Campaign is a national campaign run by the Student PIRGs in partnership with Environment California to get campuses to commit to procuring 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030 and all energy (including vehicles and heating) by the year 2050. We believe that college campuses as progressive and innovative institutions should lead the way to a renewable energy future. It’s completely doable and it will create a better future for all of us, so why not?

CALPIRG’s Renewable Energy campaign is in a unique position because we have the opportunity right now to advocate for the state of California to commit to 100% renewable electricity by 2045. Last March a bill called SB 100 that would commit California to 100% renewable electricity was introduced in the state senate. I went with 12 other students from UCSD and 60 others from other UCs to Sacramento to advocate for this bill and it passed through the Senate in July! Right now the bill is making it’s way through California Assembly. This bill would be a HUGE step for renewable energy because California is a very influential state and when we make changes the world pays attention. Unfortunately, there are dirty energy lobbyist working to kill this bill so we need all the support we can get.

Our strategy to pass this bill is to convince our CA Assemblymembers that by voting yes on this bill they are helping to create a greener, healthier more meaningful future for young people across California. UCSD students can help out by doing things as simple as stopping to sign a petition with a CALPIRG volunteer, or making a phone call to their Assemblymember. And, if they’re interested in helping even further they can join CALPIRG and come with us to Sacramento to deliver petitions to our representative.

In your opinion, why is sustainability important?

To me sustainability means helping to create a better world than the one you were given by preserving natural resources and creating a healthier environment. As an Environmental Policy major and campaign coordinator for CALPIRG, my role in sustainability is to help implement laws and regulations that break unsustainable norms. CALPIRG’s last big win was passing Prop 67 the plastic bag ban which makes California grocery stores more sustainable by providing incentives for people to bring their own reusable bags. This is important because often times based on the ways our laws, culture and infrastructure is now it’s hard to make sustainable choices, but it’s our job to make sustainability easier for everyone. I like to do little sustainable things each day like separating my compost and bringing it to Roger’s garden at the end of each week.

What other sustainability initiatives are you involved in? 

I’m working on a project with Dr. Jane Teranes from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the head of the Environmental Systems department to assess UCSD students’ understanding of climate change.

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