Because of the large influence of oil production, large-scale factories and coal burning corporations that have settled in the southern states, most specifically those bordering the coast, the environmental destruction is greater than any other region in the United States. Amazingly there is great potential for programs and policies that encourage environmental change and repair, within these states because of the interest of corporations into greening their image, as well as the cooperation of colleges and universities in taking a stance for future generations in initiating these great changes. Texas A&M University, despite preconceived notions of its largely conservative based student body, has made great strives toward environmental policies to help decrease its impact on its environment and create sustainable alternatives for the future. The success of the student groups, faculty and administration was achieved hand-in-hand with the idea of creating a way of sharing their processes with other universities so that they too can begin to create a more sustainable campus atmosphere.
Most of Texas A&M’s success has been achieved or exposed through the student groups, and so it is the students who wish to champion the idea of a conference for other student groups from neighboring states, to come together and actually build a plan for passing environmental policies on campus and creating programs for education and events. Texas A&M Student Government Association’s Environmental Issues Committee would like to plan and host the first conference in conjunction with other university groups from other colleges in the Gulf Coast region. The conference would consist of programs directly centered around which each university in attendance is interested in doing, with instructional teams put together from all the states. Research on particular schools would be done in advance to help facilitate a plan of action for those schools in attendance. Workshops offered would be led by schools who have had a successful program or initiative that they can share in order to inspire other campuses to do the same. For example: the University of Texas’s Environmental Center, Rice University’s purchasing of only sustainable paper products, Huston-Tilson’s Environmental Racism/Justice outreach program, and Texas A&M’s Center for Renewable Energy Trading, as well as many others. Also, in conjunction with workshops and planning/research time will be acclaimed speakers, including some from national non-governmental organizations and state and national representatives in Congress. Along with programming and speakers would be a fair for companies with job openings and internships, vendors of sustainable products, and so on. All housing and dining will be coordinated by Texas A&M, with stipends for travel costs suplemented for those students participating in the conference.
The proposal of the conference is very new in that there is not much funding available, so there is not much information specific to speakers and vendors available being that there is no available budget thus far.
This is a very big project, and one that may seem like has been done before. The unique quality of this conference would be the actual workshops and program planning specific to each university. In Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and other southern/gulf coast states, what works for one university will work for the rest because the same corporate and governmental interests affect each state the same. What is missing in the student-environmental movement is a strong, centralized voice from the southern states, most especially those on the Gulf Coast, because of the major business interests, but instead of seeing this as a handicap for environmental concerns, it is time to use it as a place of empowerment as we use the resources at hand to build a plan for environmental protection, repair, and sustainability specific to the needs and concerns of our environmental conditions.