When students first get up on their feet and face the world, it can be a daunting task. When success or failure as a student hinges on the ability to trust a higher authority, it can be easy to lie down and accept the decisions of those in power, and trust that they know what’s best. Such is not the case in reality. There are cases of bottom-line politics and ruthless exploitation in today’s world, and often for no other reason than that people don’t know where to start in changing things.
This is what the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG) seeks to correct and displayed on Feb. 6 at their kickoff meeting in Maloney Hall.
In this meeting, newcomers and staff alike came together to help spread awareness of issues in today’s world. This strategy has worked for MassPIRG just last fall, when they helped register over 3,500 students register to vote in UMass Lowell.
This year, MassPIRG’s Statewide Board of Directors made the decision to push the importance of renewable energy. Climate change is a disturbingly certain reality. MassPIRG has worked hard in spreading awareness and pushing for conversion to renewable energy to great success. Of some of the nation-wide changes that MassPIRG has helped influence, UMass Lowell is dedicated toward reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. Such backing comes from the help of volunteers, including UML students, calling lawmakers and making their voices heard over the suppressing din of politics.
That is not all that MassPIRG wishes to work towards though. Education is a vital part of tomorrow’s generation, and yet it faces adversary. The textbook industry is not a topic that is brought up often but makes a very large impact. Exploitative business practices by manufacturers have made the process of buying books a ludicrously expensive procedure, all paid out of pocket. A recent study estimating that textbooks cost students an additional $1,200 on average every year.
MassPIRG has made an effort to reduce the strain on student’s wallets, by pushing for the use of online, open-source textbooks that can be accessed for free or purchased in print for a drastically reduced cost. This is just part of what MassPIRG envisions as an alternative to an inflated market for textbooks, as part of the push for the inclusion of all sorts of online educational resources.
The needs of the students are not the only concern of MassPIRG. An important but often overlooked part of agriculture is the pollination of crops, and there is no tool a farmer has that can match the honeybee in its ability to spread pollen. But as of late, this buzzing busybody has found itself in a precarious position. The use of pesticides in agriculture has a very large advantage– it keeps insects away. The downside is it keeps insects away.
The toxic effects that modern pesticides have on bees has crippled its population; some hives have disappeared without a trace. A recent study has shown an alarming decrease in honeybee populations across the nation, averaging 33 percent per year. MassPIRG wishes to protect these critical companions from any further harm by helping pass laws that protect hives from pesticide, as well as push for the limitation of pesticides as a whole.
However important the security of tomorrow’s food is, it is not just the bees who are in trouble. Despite the abundance of available food in today’s world, there are still people, including students, who may not have a stable supply of food. This is a problem that tens of millions of Americans face, and a problem that needs to be addressed. MassPIRG seeks to ease this strain with their Zero Hunger campaign, which purpose is to help move this surplus of food to where it needs to go: the mouths of the hungry.
For any student wishing to get involved MassPIRG has positions open for interns and volunteers, and can be applied for online at their official website https://masspirgstudents.org.