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Sunday, August 01, 2021

Fiona Gain was a club hopper.

A UF-environmental-club hopper.

Fiona Gain


The 21-year-old UF environmental science senior wanted to find a club that advocated for wide-scale environmental policies, but after 10 clubs, she found that they focused on sustainability at a local scale. Gain decided to take matters into her own hands.

In Fall, she’ll debut a UF chapter of Citizens' Climate Lobby, an organization focused on policy dealing with the reduction of carbon emissions.

"As I realized I was getting to my final year at UF, I wanted to spend my final year trying to fill this gap in UF organizations that I had struggled with my entire time in college," Gain said.

Although she believes UF’s Office of Sustainability motivates students to lead more environmentally conscious lives, Gain said she has yet to see much action that would lead to UF’s promise to be carbon neutral by 2025.

Matthew Williams, director of the Office of Sustainability, said it is possible for UF to reach its target, but they probably do not have the funds needed.

However, UF launched the Neutral UF Coalition in April 2016 to reduce its carbon footprint. New practices include requiring all new construction to meet LEED standards.

Between the baseline year of 2005 and 2017, UF reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent, which is on track with the first version of the Climate Action Plan in 2009. Williams said they are looking at the possibility of using more solar power on campus.

The Office of Sustainability has spoken with the Gainesville chapter for Citizens' Climate Lobby through community and on-campus events. Williams is excited to work with the new UF chapter.

"I think it’s a place where more student engagement in that particular organization’s purpose is going to be really valuable," Williams said.

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Gain, president of the club, began organizing the chapter in March and is undergoing certification to be officially associated with the international organization. She will become a Citizens’ Climate Lobby Campus Leader after three months of training, which involve biweekly conference calls with other student leaders and presentations about climate lobbying.

“I’m learning how to make the dialogue about climate a nonpartisan issue and how to connect individuals to their civic power by using their voice to get local support for climate solutions,” she said.

Gain will be certified by Fall.

Students have expressed interest in joining, but Gain said the club is still recruiting and forming the official executive board. Members will be trained to effectively campaign for environmental policy and will be able to attend state, regional and national conferences such as the Citizens’ Climate International Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C.

The club will focus on national policy, Gain said. Tabling events will inform the public of research and policies such as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program Gain would like to see Florida join.

Gain said she also wants to meet with local leaders like UF President Kent Fuchs and Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe to gain support.

Bob Tancig, the 66-year-old co-leader of the Gainesville chapter for Citizens' Climate Lobby, is excited to see the organization expand to the campus.

Tancig said the organization encourages anyone who’s worried about the effects climate change may have on their future to get involved.

"What we are doing [as a society] is adding carbon emissions to our atmosphere that will upset that stability and lead to all sorts of problems for us in the future," Tancig said.

The Gainesville chapter does presentations for interested groups and tables at local festivals and public events, Tancig said. They also show educational documentaries and hold panel discussions afterwards on climate change, alternative energy sources and other topics.

He said chapter members regularly reach out to media and government officials such as Rep. Ted Yoho.

"We try to get the message out and to make people aware of what we are doing and to encourage them to join with us to have their voice,” Tancig said.

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