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Four Years On, UK Greenthumb Continues Climate Action Push

Josh James

More than 80 University of Kentucky students used an Earth Day rally Friday to press school administrators on their plans for combating climate change.

Donning UK Greenthumb's aptly colored shirt, organizer Danielle Empson says that her group has been knocking on school officials' doors for years now with a climate action plan in hand. But a signature on the dotted line has been elusive.

"The university says they're moving in the right direction, but they're really dragging their feet," she says.

And while UK Greenthumb wants action now, they’re thinking long term – urging the administration to commit to a 25 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2025 and 50 percent cut by 2035.

University spokesman Jay Blanton applauded the student activists’ dedication and assured them officials share their concerns on what he agreed is a "pressing issue."

"We are working with Greenthumb on how we develop a plan that's specific to UK," he says. "What we don't believe in though is a one-size-fits-all approach, and I would add that the University of Kentucky is not alone in taking that stance."

Empson acknowledges that budget constraints and other unknowns necessarily affect the pace of discussions, but she feels uncertain if their work will translate into real world results. 

"They've met with us this year. We've talked to them several times and we have a co-committee to form an action plan where they have accepted our goals... but whether or not that's actually going forward we don't know," she reports.

Blanton points to progress already made: energy and conservation efforts he says have saved more than $4 million in annual utility costs and a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from campus steam production. Still, students say there’s momentum building for bigger changes and they’ve gathered more than 1,300 petition signatures in favor of their climate action plan.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.