One year ago, Matthew Goodrich ’15 felt unfulfilled. Searching for a way to affect real environmental change, he stumbled onto Greenpeace’s website and discovered an opportunity for college students called Greenpeace Semester.
“It opened my eyes that there are people as idealistic as me and way more inspiring than me,” said Goodrich. “They’re doing bad-ass stuff like chaining themselves to mountaintops and climbing smokestacks to drop banners over them. I’ve met other people who can no longer go about their daily lives thinking everything will be okay. I’ve decided I’m not going to do that anymore: I’m going to make a difference.”
Greenpeace Semester teaches students to organize and run their own initiatives on environmental issues. Goodrich enrolled in the five-week program last summer, and wanted to stay involved with the organization upon returning to campus.
He applied for a position on Greenpeace’s Student Board and now helps run various campaigns and manages Greenpeace’s wide-ranging Student Network.
“It’s weird to think that this time last year I was feeling really down, like I couldn’t do anything, and in the span of a few months, I’ve become a national organizer,” said Goodrich. “Life comes at you fast.”
Goodrich juggles a number of responsibilities as a member of Greenpeace’s Student Board. He is one of the Greenpeace Semester Alumni Coordinators, helping to put alumni in contact potential candidates for the Greenpeace Semester programs.
He also assists the Day of Action Coordinator and is the point person on anti-oppression training, which combines his interest in social and environmental justice.
The Student Board provides advice to Greenpeace’s national network about how to address current issues, such as political candidates’ stances on climate change.
“The Student Board pushed for Campus Coordinators to join the Energy Action Coalition to get people to vote for the environment,” said Goodrich. “We’re aiming for Obama and Romney to break their silence on climate change—climate change was not mentioned in the debates for the first time since 1988. We want to make sure the environment is an issue people vote for.”
Members of the Student Board are scattered across the country but Goodrich met with five of the six of them over Fall Break for a retreat in North Carolina.
“By the end of it, we realized that we are the future of the environmental movement,” said Goodrich. “Six leaders in a log cabin are guiding the planet’s future. We’re pushing for a focus on green energy in politics and for colleges to start considering their carbon footprints.”
In addition to his position on the Student Board, Goodrich is also the Greenpeace Campus Coordinator at Bowdoin, one of 40 representatives at colleges across the country. Bowdoin is the first NESCAC school to participate.
Goodrich is also a regular music columnist for the Orient.
“I thought it would be hard to be both Campus Coordinator and a member of the Student Board, but it hasn’t been,” he said. “Being a campus coordinator, you get more tangible results—instead of administrating, you’re doing,” he said.
Goodrich has been working with Green Bowdoin to encourage the college to transition away from fossil fuels and toward total renewable energy.
Most recently, he made news with his petition to get the College to shut down its natural gas-powered heating plant in order to stick to its stated goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.
Bowdoin’s carbon neutrality promise was one reason Goodrich chose to come to Bowdoin. As a first year, he immediately joined Green Bowdoin and became an Eco-Rep.
Goodrich said that a trip to Cincinnati with Greenpeace convinced him that Bowdoin should wean itself off of natural gas.
“We saw how bad fracking (hydrofracturing) was to local communities; we talked to lots of activists who had dedicated their entire lists to fighting fracking because it was destroying their livelihood,” said Goodrich.
“I thought, that doesn’t make sense—why does Bowdoin still run a natural gas plant on this campus? Surely there must be a contingency plan, but Bowdoin has no plans to shut down the plant by the year 2020. I just don’t think that’s responsible or honest.”
Goodrich is hopeful that Bowdoin can successfully operate without resorting to the use of fossil fuels, even in the dead of winter.
Goodrich spends about eight hours a week on his Greenpeace responsibilities but says he has had to slightly curb his campaigning and petitioning due to his demanding course schedule.
A potential history and environmental studies major, Goodrich takes a demanding course load of five classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“It hasn’t been unmanageable, but it has been a struggle,” admitted Goodrich. “Sometimes I have a crisis about which is more important—academics or saving the world?”