College Students For Change

College Students for Change is a student-led group seeking to eradicate the pollution of common resources. The pollution of common resources extends mainly to that of air and water (Meyer). This is an increasingly pressing issue in America, especially without the support of the current administration (Meyer). In the United States, the environment must be protected through Congressional statutes and Environmental Protection Agency regulations because the Constitution does not directly protect the environment (Meyer).

As a result, the protections of the environment vary from administration to administration. The Trump administration has already repealed many of the laws protecting our common resources from pollution that were put in place by the Obama administration (Meyer). This is extremely dangerous for the future of the environment. To resolve this problem, the College Students for Change must look to the practices of Gandhi, King, and Mandela.

Gandhi formulated the practice of satyagraha, or truth force (Smith), which influenced both Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. This practice surrounds itself around the idea of using love and compassion as power over hatred (On Satyagraha 87). Gandhi argues that this philosophy is far superior to a philosophy that uses violence as its central pillar (On Satyagraha 87). If a plan based on hate is used to retaliate against the lack of anti-pollution laws in the Trump administration, then the College Students for Change will only succeed in further dividing the sides. Hatred builds up walls and creates distinct division between groups. Dr. King addresses this issue when he states about violence, “It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible…It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers” (Gandhi’s Satyagraha 3). By committing to use love and compassion, the student group is choosing to respect both those who support anti-pollution laws and those who support the retraction of anti-pollution laws.

To use violence to force out those who are against the protection of our common resources would only be a temporary solution to the problem. Gandhi philosophizes, “The means may be likened to a seed, the end to a tree: and there is just the same inviolable connection between the means and the end as there is between the seed and the tree” (Indian Home Rule 69). When we use force as our means, we ourselves become the oppressors; the very thing meant to be driven out has once again emerged. In our scenario, the issue is that the government is oppressing the citizens of the United States by allowing the pollution to enter the shared ecosystem. If the College Students for Change did the same as the government and stripped away their decision in the matter, it would not be just, whether the group is in the right or not. There must be a change of mindset. If force is used, then there has not been a change of mind, but merely a change of location. Those supporting the current administration will only continue to repeat the process that is occurring now once they have another resurgence of power. When satyagraha is applied, the cycle will end because you have won over the opposition (On Satyagraha 86). As put by Mandela, “…the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed… The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity” (115). The College Students for Change must listen to Mandela and not seek only to save the environment and our common resources but to save those who do not see the value in what the group is trying to save. In this way, the environment will be protected long after the members of the group are gone. King also addresses this phenomena when he states, “A second basic fact that characterizes nonviolence is that it does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding” (“My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” 91). In this scenario, it is not the man that is defeated but the idea. Although the government is the one repealing the environmental protection laws, they are not the antagonist of the student group’s nonviolent campaign; instead, the idea that it is okay to neglect the environment at the cost of the resources of our fellow humans is what is targeted.

The way the College Students for Change can use love over hatred to change the minds of those in power is through discipline and commitment to their nonviolent campaign. In the Indian fight for independence from England, the followers of satyagraha gave an ultimatum to the British government (Indian Home Rule 71). They challenged that a government cannot exist without loyal subjects to abide by its laws and that, if their demands are not met, they refuse to act as such (Indian Home Rule 71). By denouncing the leadership of the administration, they dared the government to attempt to stay productive without a large portion of law-abiding citizens. This only worked, however, because the protestors were disciplined and did not buckle under pressure. Mandela writes in regards to a crowd in Freedom Square of civil disobedient protestors, “No matter what the authorities did, the volunteers could not retaliate, otherwise they would undermine the value of the entire enterprise” (103). The theory of civil disobedience leans entirely on complete commitment to nonviolence. To act otherwise, even once, is to take an entirely different approach. Therefore, the nonviolent protestor must be prepared to lose everything to support their cause.

The College Students for Change can use this approach by boycotting the products affected by the retraction of anti-pollution laws. For example, Donald Trump recently reversed the Clean Power Plan that was enacted during the Obama administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency is currently working on a far-more lenient replacement (Friedman and Plumer). As a result, the emissions of coal plants will be regulated to a much lesser degree than before to suit the coal industry (Friedman and Plumer). The student group can perform acts of civil disobedience by boycotting the products of the coal industry. This would be done by boycotting the products of states that have coal plants. The action of boycotting “polluted products” seems to be the most effective form of civil disobedience under the United States’ current administration, which has had a major focus on promoting American-made products (Paul). When a large portion of American made products cease to be purchased, the government will be forced to take action and resolve the issue of pollution to common resources for which the College Students for Change is advocating.

11 February 2020
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