The importance of MPIRG

Interested in saving the planet? Good— me too, and we’re at the right school to help make it happen. There are many great student organizations at Macalester that focus on environmental issues. These groups work together to create a broad framework for sustainability at Macalester, and MPIRG is an essential part of that framework.

One of the best parts of Macalester is our diverse campus life. For students with a passion for journalism, the school offers publications like The Mac Weekly and The Hegemonocle. Students interested in comedy have Fresh Concepts and Bad Comedy, both of which put on excellent programming throughout the year. Besides our school’s 11 varsity teams, we can also choose from seven club sports and a host of intramurals.

The same diversity is offered for students passionate about the environment. MacCARES (Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society) works to raise student awareness about sustainability issues on campus. Currently, they are partnering with student workers in the Sustainability Office to increase visibility of Macalester’s sustainability goals in our Strategic Plan. MULCH (Macalester Urban Land and Community Health) runs the on-campus community garden and chicken coop, promoting sustainable agriculture practices across campus. Similarly, Fossil Free Mac continues to advocate for the divestment of our school’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry. These organizations do great things to make our campus a healthier, more sustainable place for all. However, most sustainability organizations host their programming just at Macalester, and there are many important issues to tackle that extend beyond our campus.

This is where MPIRG comes in. Our chapter at Macalester continues to work in coalition with these student organizations and others. Through the Sustainability Student Network, we advise and participate in each other’s events, building power across campus. In addition, as one of seven member schools across Minnesota, Macalester’s MPIRG chapter connects students interested in environmental issues to a vast network of resources that promote far-reaching sustainability goals. During statewide events like the MPIRG Fall Retreat, Macalester students develop campaign strategies with sustainability-conscious students from as far away as Duluth and Morris. At our spring Lobby Days, MPIRG students work directly with state legislators to push environmental policy initiatives like the Clean Energy & Jobs Bill.

MPIRG’s unique fee structure is what makes our participation in these events possible. As a nonprofit, MPIRG needs funding stability from year to year in order to organize programs like those mentioned above. Without this stability, our chapter at Macalester would quickly fold. Our fee does more than just fund MPIRG’s operations, though. Macalester students who direct their $6 per semester to MPIRG get an individual vote at our annual Issues & Actions convention, where the statewide organization decides which campaigns to address in the short-and-long-term. Regardless of their participation in (or even their opinion of) our chapter on campus, any Macalester student can attend this event, write a campaign proposal and potentially change the direction of the entire organization. This actually happened last year: a handful of Macalester students drafted, voted on and ultimately decided several of MPIRG’s current statewide one- and-three-year campaigns— pipeline resistance and environmental justice, respectively.

This is to say nothing of the amazing work done by other task forces at Macalester. The Economic Justice, Democracy and Health, Gender & Sexuality task forces have all accomplished remarkable campaign goals over the past few years. Regardless, the level of access that MPIRG affords Macalester students in Minnesota’s environmental policy process is second to none at our school. Macalester prides itself on its rich civic engagement tradition; as such, our student sustainability network should support both on-campus environmental initiatives and a broader vision for a more sustainable Minnesota. MPIRG is proud to work with other environmental groups on campus to achieve both of these goals, and our chapter is an essential component of Macalester’s holistic approach to sustainability. On Monday, vote yes on the MPIRG referendum to ensure these opportunities remain open to all Macalester students in the future.

Henry Kellison MPIRG Environmental Justice Task Force