Letter to the Editor

By Brendan Rogers

The idea of “going green” is a complex one and one which has contested meanings. For many people in the U.S. and around the world, hearing cries to “reduce” is simply a new version of an old game; during times of crisis, it is the most poor that shoulder the greatest burden (For instance, see the continuing cries from the politicians that UAW workers at the Big Three should give up their hard-earned income to “save the country.”) This regressive version of environmentalism is sometimes difficult to notice and separate from the vision of a progressive green economy which can both save the earth and help working people. It is this former version of environmentalism that I found in Alex Park’s opinion piece last week. Whether he intends it or not, Park suggests that those who need to purchase subsidized bus passes should shoulder the burden for a multimillion dollar non-profit corporation in a time of economic hardship. While using the language of environmentalism, he misses the fact that for some, these bus passes have nothing to do with going green and everything to do with saving green. Last summer and fall semester, I lived in the Midway neighborhood. I used a subsidized bus pass to get to and from school and work after it got cold or if I simply wanted a break from biking. I did not do this because I thought I was saving the environment. I did it because I do not have a car and my parents cannot afford to buy me one. I cannot afford to use a taxi to get around town. I lived further away from campus in the first place because the rent was cheaper in Midway. A bus pass is not a luxury, but an important way of helping students, particularly those of us on financial aid, to get around. The discourse of environmentalism figures heavily in Park’s letter, and I think he’s got some really good ideas. Building another turbine and more green roofs should be just the start of a Macalester that’s radically committed to sustainability. But I don’t think that working class students, always the ones who are expected to scrimp and save, should be solely responsible for a greener Macalester. Why not reduce executive salaries at our allegedly non-profit institution? With the death of Need Blind admissions now barely remembered by the student body, we must remain vigilant against cuts in programs that most benefit lower income students, particularly if it comes cloaked in ostensibly progressive language. During this crisis, we must make sure that the sacrifices that we may need to make do not come from the pockets of those who are already being affected hardest by the economy: working class students, staff, and faculty.