Many thanks to Indy writer Joe Schwartz for digging into the nature of UNC's coal habit ("Fact-checking UNC's coal claims," Feb. 17). UNC's choice to continue burning such great quantities of coal has negative effects on the health of the environment and upon each one of us. The university can do better. For example, it could become a nationwide leader in reducing its coal use. And with so much at stake, shouldn't it?
Earlier this month, the highly esteemed climate scientist James Hansen spoke at UNC following an invitation from university officials. During his time in Chapel Hill, Hansen also took the opportunity to rally in front of the university's coal-burning plant with members of the Sierra Club and other concerned citizens who are encouraging responsible energy practices at UNC. I was there in support of these efforts, and I can tell you that Hansen's sense of urgency was absolutely clear as he stated that coal's proper place is in the ground where it has formed—not in power plants—and that UNC should speed up its transition to forms of energy that are more life-friendly than coal.
The university faces real challenges, financial and otherwise, on the path to a future powered by more sustainable forms of energy. But UNC is also very fortunate to have a growing number of talented individuals who are committed to creating this positive change. Among these are many students, professors and administrators (including Chancellor Holden Thorp) and the members of the university's new Energy Task Force. As for the rest of us, let us do what we can to assist them in this work that means so much to the well being of us all.