A week after International Fair focused on going green, Illinois Congressman Phil Hare talked to Knox students via videoconference about the work happening in Congress to make the nation more sustainable. Designed as a round-table discussion, students were invited to SMC A-107 to ask questions to the congressman about changes made since the beginning of the Obama administration and questions about climate change in general.
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman and Lecturer in Educational Studies Vicky Romano helped organize the videoconference on Feb. 4, and Schwartzman announced to the students before the discussion began, “[Phil Hare] is only meeting us. I believe 35 other schools are doing this as well with their own representatives.” Schwartzman continued to stress the importance of the voices of students, saying, “This is an opportunity for students. We want the students to ask. You’re a part of this nation and he’s a representative of Congress, so if you’d like to share, this is your opportunity.”
Hare began his discussion saying, “If I don’t have the answer, I won’t make it up,” and opening up the room to questions. Junior Randy Culbertson asked the first question: “There’s a lot of wind farms being constructed around here; how soon will [that energy] be accessible to people in Galesburg?” Hare replied, “It’s gonna take some time. The stimulus we just passed has a lot of money in it for alternative energy. I believe it’s going to happen sooner rather than later. I don’t have any set time table on it.”
Sophomore Tim Douglas asked several questions throughout the videoconference, one of them regarding cap and trade policies to regulate carbon emissions and whether or not those policies should be instated since their effectiveness has been questioned since 2003. Hare said, “I think [that] is a good way to start doing it. I have said many times that we need to consider everything that could lessen the severity of this problem. We need to have everything on the table. We need to give it a shot.”
Hare also touched on the idea that creating more green jobs could be an easy way to reinforce any green technology that might soon be put into use. “[There’s] a lot of green technology in this bill. We have to be focused on getting people to work and getting help to the environment,” Hare said.
Sophomore Tim Lovett said, “You talk about how we have to do all these things, but where is the government follow-through? Where’s the accountability?” Hare’s response was scrambled by static. Through technical difficulties and static occurring via the video connection, only some of the questions of the students were answered in their entirety.
Junior and Former Sustainability Chair Abby Pardick, did not have time to ask her own question to Hare, but she participated in the discussion afterwards. She said, “There’s this unclear sense of what’s environmental and the government doesn’t seem to take into account the health of society and what happens to the people around that system. I don’t think clean coal exists and I get really frustrated as a citizen because they seem to be giving us fake alternatives.”