Student Spotlight

19 Nov

Name: Fiona Druge

Year: 2014

Major: Government

House: Capen

I met Fiona Druge at my first Divestment meeting last year. I was  a first year, clueless about political issues surrounding the  environment, and her knowledge about college endoF_Dwments,  fracking, fossil fuel companies, and government officials  impressed, scared, and motivated me to learn more. I have now  been working alongside Fiona on the Divest Smith College  campaign for almost a year, and I can say without hesitation that  Fiona is one of the most inspiring individuals I have met at  Smith.

Fiona is from Morgantown, West Virginia, where coal mining and mountain top removal are so commonplace that there is a coal plant downtown. She didn’t even realize that the presence coal companies had in her community wasn’t normal until well into high school, when her friend invited her to a Mountain Justice gathering in southern West Virginia. There, she heard stories of people whose lives were directly affected by mountaintop removal, and began to realize that the pollution and destruction of her own community was neither normal nor just. After high school, she took a gap year and spent that time learning more about fossil fuel companies and extraction communities, as well as working in a clinic writing grants for medical equipment. Many of the patients in the clinic she worked for had been harmed directly or indirectly by coal mining, and she began to realize that the issue was much larger than most people know. The coal industry is hardly ever questioned in extraction communities, and these companies work to enforce the message that the overall goal of “the coal industry is more valuable than you”.  This new knowledge of her own and other extraction communities motivated her to dedicate herself to raising awareness about these issues.

Once at Smith, Fiona was interested both in learning about other communities where extraction wasn’t commonplace as well as teaching others about her home. Wasting no time, she began organizing panels and film screenings to educate fellow students on the important issue. Fall of her junior year she participated in the Picker Semester in Washington program and interned for Minnesota senator Al Franken. She realized that even liberal politicians, who are theoretically in support of environmental efforts, lack the pressure and incentives to act for the environment because “there are no immediate consequences for neglecting the environment” in the political and societal sphere. Fiona quickly observed that “policy change doesn’t happen quickly, if at all, and the pace is infuriatingly slow”.

She spent more time in Washington this past summer, where she worked for an organization creating a national grassroots anti-fracking coalition of people who already live in extraction communities or in speculated extraction communities. She helped organize the first ever national anti-fracking rally and anti-fracking lobby day in Washington, and learned even more about the dangers and difficulties that people from these communities face. She met people who had well pads 100 feet from their homes and whose land was fracked and drilled without their consent because the land’s mineral rights had been bought over 100 years ago. She found that the most difficult stories to hear were those of farmers, whose groundwater had been compromised because of these practices, making it so that they were no longer able to grow food and provide for their families. Fiona is currently extremely active in the fossil fuel divestment campaign at Smith, believing that it “effectively reminds people of their responsibility to think critically about how they and their institutions act in the world”. Divestment is a direct way for a community to speak out against the destruction that is being inflicted upon current and future generations, and she believes that the campaign is both successful in promoting environmental and social awareness as well as campus grassroots organization.

Fiona is thankful for the opportunities in practical working experience that Smith has offered her, from classes to internships to giving her the space to develop leadership skills.  While she isn’t exactly sure what she would like to do in the future, her passions lie in teaching others to communicate effectively about environmental and social issues. I have experienced Fiona’s gift for educating others and sharing her vast knowledge of political environmental issues first hand, and I know that one thing is for sure: everyone had better watch out, because this tiny firecracker is going to light up the whole world.

– Savannah Holden, ’16

Savannah is a sophomore and prospective Government major, economics minor, and sustainable food concentrator. She also works as a student intern at CEEDS.

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