The Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club, the Tarrant Coalition for Environmental Awareness, and others are asking the Fort Worth school district to form a “sustainability committee,” referring to the concept of protecting the Earth’s ecosystems and preserving them for future generations.
The committee would develop goals, plans, and deadlines for how the district can “support sustainability as an economic, environmental, and social priority,” according to a school district document. The school board was scheduled to consider a vote on the committee Tuesday, after our deadline for publication. We will update the story on the web Wednesday.
Talks about the committee have been ongoing for about 18 months, said John MacFarlane, chair of the Greater Fort Worth Sierra Club. MacFarlane said he and several other people concerned about the environment initiated the plan.
To start, the committee would help the district examine its water and electricity usage and consider alternative energy sources such as solar and wind. Other issues may include having more “green spaces” in school landscaping and improving emission levels from the district’s bus fleet. Other plans call for reaching out to students about the importance of preserving the environment.
School district spokesperson Clint Bond said that since 2015, the district has taken steps to significantly cut its energy costs, including its use of electricity.
Under existing policies, the district can form special committees whose leverage is controlled by the school board. A sustainability committee supports the district’s goal of improving its operational effectiveness and efficiency, the board’s agenda states.
But activists hope to take their effort even further.
“Another goal is to create a sustainability office or division with a director to align all of the goals of the different offices at FWISD,” MacFarlane said. “They are all taking actions, but they are not all aligned under one office.”
The cost of the position would be more than offset by the energy savings, he added.
But why is the school district so important in the push for sustainability? For starters, it’s a major employer and consumes a lot of resources simply because the district is so large, MacFarlane said. Fort Worth has more than 84,000 students across 82 elementary schools, 24 middle schools and 6th grade centers, 21 high schools, and 16 other campuses, according to the school district’s website.
“We’ve focused on the school district first because in many ways it has the greatest impact on the environment and it is the largest school district in the county,” said Lon Burnam, a Democrat and former Texas state representative for District 90. He is also the former executive director of the Dallas Peace Center, a nonprofit concerned with peace, nonviolence, human and civil rights, justice for everyone, and ecological and climate justice, according to its website.
Although sustainability may not be on the minds of everyone, there are good reasons to bring it to the forefront, Burnam said.
“For the general public, this makes a lot of sense, especially from the standpoint of saving money,” Burnam said.
MacFarlane and Burnam acknowledged that there are so-called global warming deniers who see the sustainability movement as a conspiratorial plot or a fad. Government agencies and scientific associations, however, maintain that global warming is real and people are the reason it’s happening.
NASA’s website, for example, points to “publishing climate scientists” who agree that “climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”
Activists see that and other evidence as proof that we must change how we use and abuse the environment.
“It’s hard to change, but it’s going to have to happen, or people will not want to live in this world 20 years from now.” MacFarlane said.
And while he believes climate change is real, he poses an interesting question to those who don’t.
“Even if it wasn’t real, even if it’s just trying to reduce emissions and pollution in general, it will lead to a better world,” MacFarlane said.