The Daily Gamecock

USC conference brings green activists together

PEAC meeting focuses on solving nuclear energy, coal, waste issues

When many college students think activism, they picture the protestors of the 1960s and 1970s.

But Tom Clements, South Carolina’s 2010 Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, wants today’s students to think of themselves as activists.

“Challenge authority and question authority,” Clements said. “We need you guys here in South Carolina to be involved on campus.”

Clements was the keynote speaker at the Environmental and Social Justice Activism in South Carolina conference that was held January 21-23 in the Green Quad Learning Center. The conference, organized by the Palmetto Environmental Action Coalition and Amnesty International, gave students from universities across the state an opportunity to discuss environmental issues such as nuclear energy, coal and waste issues and to create solutions for ending problems these issues cause.

Mary Olson, an employee of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Asheville, N.C., was another featured speaker at the conference. Her presentation focused on nuclear waste and nuclear power in South Carolina. Olson echoed Clements’s call for college activism.

“A good reason to engage in change is because it’s about the future,” Olson said.

Besides gaining local participants from USC-Columbia, the PEAC conference attracted students from Winthrop, Clemson and USC-Aiken.

Larissa Clarke, a second-year environmental and natural resources student from Clemson, learned about the conference from a PEAC representative who informed her student-run activism group. Clarke came to Columbia in November to participate in a student-organized anti-coal rally at the State House, but this was her first time attending a PEAC Summit.

Clarke’s favorite presentation of the conference was Olson’s talk about nuclear energy.

“I don’t really know my take on nuclear energy, so learning about it from these speakers has been interesting,” Clarke said.

The issue also hit close to home for Clarke because the Oconee Nuclear Station is located only eight miles north of Clemson.

Second-year anthropology and Spanish student Christine Burke was one of the students in attendance from USC-Columbia. Burke is a resident of the Green Learning Community, a member of Green Quad’s Hall Government and an undergraduate assistant at the Learning Center for Sustainable Futures.

“What makes PEAC such a neat organization is that it brings students from around the state together to discuss issues that they all feel passionately about,” Burke said. “Probably in no other setting would I have sat down with a Clemson student to discuss our shared frustration with fellow students’ disinterest in the state of our environment. The fact that I’m a Gamecock and they were Tigers meant little because we had such common concerns.”