#PutAPriceOnIt: Students Bring Carbon Tax to Campus


Kyle J. Kilkenny on Feb. 1, 2017 at the #PutAPriceOnIt Fordham/NYC kickoff. (JILLIAN GALLAGHER/THE OBSERVER)


Climate change is an enduring global issue and millennials, the generation that will arguably be most affected by climate change, are at the forefront of the fight. At Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) two sophomores are making waves on campus with #PutAPriceOnIt, a climate change campaign that urges young people to raise awareness for and work towards a carbon tax. On Feb. 1, Samuel Blackwood and Kyle J. Kilkenny organized the first FCLC event, which featured a screening of Emmy-award winning documentary series Years of Living Dangerously, followed by a panel discussion. While Blackwood and Kilkenny have only just begun to make their mark on FCLC, #PutAPriceOnIt has an impactful future ahead.

#PutAPriceOnIt was created in 2016 by Our Climate in partnership with Years of Living Dangerously, and enables students like Blackwood and Kilkenny to bring attention to climate change on college campuses across the country. Blackwood became a field rep for #PutAPriceOnIt in August 2016, and was joined by Kilkenny in October. Additionally, as of December 2016, Blackwood and Kilkenny are both fellows for Our Climate. Blackwood, however, has been involved with the climate change movement for four years.

“My father started talking about climate change at the dinner table,” Blackwood explained, “and every night [there] was something new.” His father encouraged the idea that climate change is an enduring issue, and millennials, like Blackwood himself, would be responsible to mitigate its effects. “I’ve always wanted to have the biggest impact possible that I could on the world, and I think that I started formulating these ideas about climate change and how we can address them and I was like, ‘Climate change is the biggest issue facing humanity, and if I really want to have that impact, this is the issue to go about.’ And it’s not just about me. It is a huge issue that is facing the world.”

Blackwood decided that Kilkenny, a charismatic and active FCLC voice, would be an ideal partner, and persuaded him to join Our Climate and #PutAPriceOnIt. “We started meeting in September, and by the end of September, beginning of October, we had sent out an email to Father McShane, we were meeting with Dean Eldredge, we were meeting with Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Jeffrey Gray, we were meeting with Vice President for Facilities Management Marco A. Valera,” Kilkenny said. “What we’re looking to do is educate the Fordham community as to climate change … and in the climate that we are dealing with right now in Washington, we really want people to be holding their public servants accountable and by showing that this is something that millennials care about … we definitely want to work towards building a Fordham community that can not only identify the causes of climate change but also work towards solving them.”

Since the beginning of the Spring 2017 semester, Blackwood and Kilkenny’s team has grown. The two were joined by Ailey student Madeleine Kim, FCLC’18, and Isaac Bird, FCLC ’19, who are now official field reps for #PutAPriceOnIt. The team’s Feb. 1 event featured a panel discussion between Charles Komanoff, Director of the Carbon Tax Center, Elizabeth Yeampieree, Executive Director of UPROSE and Fordham University Alum, and Blackwood. The event had an impressive 75-person turnout, and Kilkenny emphasized the importance of including the community at large, not just students and faculty. “We don’t want to only educate Fordham [and] we recognize that there are a lot of people in this community. We are very fortunate to live in the Upper West Side and to live and breathe New York, but we also have to account for the air that we are breathing in and what that means,” he explained.

While #PutAPriceOnIt aims to educate the community, the group’s main goal for 2017 is to get Father McShane and the Fordham Administration to endorse the campaign and address the issue of carbon pricing. Kilkenny explained that Father McShane established a sustainability plan well over ten years ago, with a goal of reaching 30% sustainability. As of 2016, Fordham has reached about 18% of that goal. While Fordham is committed to this plan, Kilkenny said that students should be involved. “We really want students to be engaged in this process, as students are engaged in a lot of things at Fordham, be it dining issues, be it student affairs, be it race and bias incidents. This is an issue that affects the Fordham community at large… [and] this is something that we can work towards and we’re building off of initiatives that have already happened on campus,” Kilkenny noted.

Following the event, Blackwood and Kilkenny have already received positive feedback from a variety of students who hope to get involved with the campaign. “Going forward I think we’re going to have different teams and different committees, [all] working towards the ultimate goal of influencing our representatives and legislators and telling them that a carbon price is what the next generation, or the new generation, of voters care about,” Blackwood said. He added, “I think it’s just inevitable that one day we will have legislation that deals with it.”

Kilkenny concluded, “We’re hoping that after this event our team is going to grow and then we can utilize other people’s’ talents to address carbon pricing and really galvanize students to get involved in our movement.”

To get involved with #PutAPriceOnIt, contact Samuel Blackwood or Kyle J. Kilkenny.