Students ‘die’ to protest energy policy changes

In response to several energy policy changes, students will lie on the ground as part of a “die-in” protest sponsored by the Student Environmental Association (SEA).

SEA President Lyndsey Scofield said the protesters would represent deaths resulting from coal and nuclear energy.

A bill in the Florida Senate, which passed in committee, includes a Clean Energy Portfolio Standard (CEPS) and calls for clean coal and nuclear energy.

“The Clean Energy Portfolio Standard requires 20 percent of Florida utility companies to meet energy needs with renewable energy by 2051,” Scofield said.

SEA member Michelle Cook said the organization does not want clean coal and nuclear energy included in the bill because, she said, “clean coal” is only a term, while coal isn’t actually clean. Nuclear power is considered clean because its pollution is less direct, as its waste can be stored.

SEA wants to install policies that will allow USF to transition to renewable energy use,
Cook said.

The goal of the protest is to reach out to and educate students. Scofield said SEA wants students to be made aware that the path the bill would take Florida in is unsustainable.  She also said she wants students to get involved in fighting for renewable energy options.

Scofield said SEA would ask students to volunteer 5-10 minutes of their time by lying down on the ground.

“Once their shift is over, they can switch off with another person,” Scofield said. “We want 20 to 25 people on the ground at all times.”

Susan MacManus, a political analyst and USF professor, said it is not uncommon for protestors to use death as a symbol during demonstrations.  For example, she said, students at Loyola University recently held a protest using similar symbolism.

“A pro-life group had planted crosses (representing) people who died from abortions,” she said.

Cook said the SEA plans to have someone speak intermittently throughout the protest, in addition to members who will talk to passersby.

During the event, SEA members will hold up signs with statistics on USF’s energy usage and the impact of coal and nuclear energy on the surrounding communities and

The signs will also include a positive message about “green” jobs.

MacManus said that though change might not come as fast as protestors would like,
protesting does draw attention.

“Administrators treat student protests seriously because the younger generation is active in politics,” she said.

Cook said SEA wants the protest to be “organic” and not seem staged.

“(SEA) wants to turn it into an inclusive movement, not something that’s political and divisive,” she said.

The event will take place on the lawns between the Marshall Student Center (MSC) and MLK Plaza, she said. SEA planned the event before realizing it would coincide with the MSC dedication.

Scofield said SEA has not informed MSC of the protest but doesn’t think that will be a problem since the group will be protesting peacefully.

The inspiration for the demonstration came from the group’s trip in February to the Power Shift conference in Washington D.C., Cook said.

“Other schools have held rallies on their campuses and have gotten change,” Scofield said. “Some schools are powered by 100 percent renewable energy.”