WUWT readers may know of the famous zombietime.com where an anonymous photographer captures some of the bizarre things that happen at protests in SFO and Berkeley. Today on the campus of Chico State University, a protest of sorts was held, I went there to take photos to document it. It was much more down to earth than some “zombietime” offerings, but it was still a bit strange and full of mixed messages. The main message: stop a parking structure (with solar panels on it even!) and others, the secondary message was something about climate, but it isn’t clear what.
I first noticed this protest when I saw this image on Facebook advertising it:
I sent an email to organizer Dr. Mark Stemen of CSUC stating my concerns over the imagery and what it represents to some people in the community and he agreed to pass it on to the students. I’m happy to report that I didn’t see any masked faces at the event today.
That was followed by another sign on Facebook, one far more normal and inviting:
The stated objective from their Facebook page reads:
Critical Mass, Climate Action Protest
1. Two more parking structures are scheduled in the CSU, Chico Master Plan after this one is complete. We say, Never Again. Revoke both of these projects immediately.
2. Zingg [president of the CSUC campus], we offer you the stage for a public discussion about what “Campus Climate Neutrality” looks like off of paper, revoke your signature or redefine your perception of sustainability– We won’t stand for greenwashing.
* An apology for calling your students ‘uninformed voters’ would also be appropriate during this time; for democracy… & science.
3. Stop selling parking permits to students within one mile of campus. Getting these students to campus without a car will free spots for individuals that commute and need a space.
In the 2011 CSU, Chico AS Elections, 76% of students voted in OPPOSITION to this University proposed plan. The structure will cost $14,000,000 and incur 30 years of debt that will be paid for by an increase in student fees. With this semester’s tuition increased by more than 32%, this plan does not represent the interests of the students and the student vote is evidence of this realization.
The University has gone along ignoring its President’s commitment to “Campus Climate Neutrality” as well as the overwhelming student dissent and will begin construction early this August. This project supports an infrastructure that is not responding to the demands and needs for sustainable transportation. At a campus where 80% of students live within two miles, the students believe they can do better, much better.
Here’s what the event looked like as I approached on foot in downtown Chico. Click all images below to enlarge them.
I annotated the image above to show that the protest was held next to the parking structure under construction. Some background is helpful.
For years, downtown merchants have been asking the City Council to do something about the parking situation. On certain days and hours, finding parking downtown is an exercise in futility, and you can find yourself driving in circles for several minutes trying to find an open parking space. A newspaper article in 2005 by the alternate weekly highlights the problem.
Plans were made for a new parking structure by the city, but anti-growth people launched a referendum to vote it down. Chico State decided to forge ahead on their own to solve the problem and recently got approval from the CSU trustees to build the parking structure, even though Stemen’s class had a vote and sent the trustees a letter arguing against it. The local daily newspaper praised the decision to go forward in an editorial on May 12th:
Our view: The CSU trustees were able to focus on the obvious — that Chico State University needs more parking for its students.
In Chico, where things such as election dates, disc golf and bridges over irrigation ditches become full-blown controversies, no decision is easy. That’s why it was a relief that the decision over Chico State University’s planned parking structure was made by a board in Long Beach.
The also printed a comment from CSU trustees who were surprised to get a complaint about adding more parking saying usually such plans are met with open arms by the students. But, as the newspaper editorial points out, this is Chico were getting things done that are considered normal by most of the rest of the USA turn into full-blown controversies. In this case, Professor Mark Stemen and a handful of students (who won’t be around in a few years to live with issues they protest) are driving this controversy.
If it was just a parking garage, then maybe, one might be able to argue that such protests might have a basis. But there’s a bizarre twist to this. This parking structure is part office space and part sustainability shrine, with a 15 kilowatt solar power array (expandable) and with LEED certification.
Here’s the architectural drawing from the CSUC web page on the structure, annotations mine:
- 15kW photovoltaic array with trellis and infrastructure to expand
- 10 electrical vehicle charging stations
- Heating and cooling system 15% more efficient than required
- Water efficient fixtures
- Drought tolerant plants
- Low e-windows
- Occupant sensored energy efficient lighting system
- White interior walls and ceiling (in parking structure)
- Open/Full capacity sign at structure entrance
- Recycled materials used in concrete
- Designed to LEED Silver equivalent
And here’s a video made by students highlighting some of the features:
Here we have a parking structure with solar panels, a combined office with LEED certification, and made with recycled materials. What’s not to like? Automobiles, that’s their issue. It seems that with Eco-zealots, it is never enough.
Oh, and who’s the LEED certifcation and sustainability guru at CSUC? Why CSUC’s Dr. Mark Stemen of course, the same guy organizing opposition to the LEED certified parking structure and today’s protest.
So here’s the pictures of the protest today against this structure, others like it to follow, and somewhere in all that some protest about climate and using bicycles is mixed in. Click images to enlarge them.
Later in the day, one of the protesters put this photo up on the Facebook page for the event:
A couple of closing images. First, from Dr. Mark Stemen’s Facebook page. I never thought of parking and eating being linked. I guess I just don’t have my mind right…yeah, that’s it, “Cool Hand Mark” has it all figured out:
In the face of such logic, I suppose it would be pointless to point out that parked cars don’t produce CO2 (as opposed to the ones still driving around looking for a parking space) and that increased CO2 actually benefits agricultural production worldwide. As NASA says, The biosphere is booming thanks to increased CO2 [insert electrical short circuiting sounds here].
Nature’s wind today had other ideas though, and turned one of the signs posted up on the construction fence a block away into litter, only to be trampled by one of the hideous CO2 belching beasts:
Of course I’m sure some of the protestors will say I staged that photo, what with me being a “denier” and all that. But no, that’s exactly how I happened upon it. In fact, it was the first hint I was getting close to the protest, as it was the first sign I saw today one block west of the protest.
In closing, the protest was pretty mild, the students didn’t wear face masks as the poster advertised they might, protestors got to socialize, listen to some pedal powered tunes, free speech was upheld, and I had a good chuckle from it all. I hope you did too.