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Greening of academia
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // June 22, 2008 // Education, Environment & Energy // 1 Comment
With thanks to Professor Paul Quirk of UBC
Higher Learning Adapts To a Greening Attitude
Students Lead Drive Reshaping Curricula
By Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writer
The environmental fervor sweeping college campuses has reached beyond the push to recycle plastics and offer organic food and is transforming the curriculum, permeating classrooms, academic majors and expensive new research institutes.
The University of Maryland teaches “green” real estate strategies for landscape architects. The University of Virginia’s business graduate students recently created a way to generate power in rural Indian villages with discarded rice husks. And in a Catholic University architecture studio last week, students displayed ideas for homes made from discarded shipping containers.
The New Trophy Home, Small and Ecological
For the high-profile crowd that turned out to celebrate a new home in Venice, Calif., the attraction wasn’t just the company and the architectural detail. The house boasted the builders’ equivalent of a three-star Michelin rating: a LEED platinum certificate.
… While other ratings are widely recognized, like the federal Energy Star for appliances, the LEED brand stands apart because of its four-level rankings — certified, silver, gold and platinum — and third-party verification. So far this year, 10,250 new home projects have registered for the council’s consideration, compared with 3,100 in 2006, the first year of the pilot home-rating system.
How Green Is the College? Time the Showers
So it goes at Oberlin’s new sustainability house — SEED, for Student Experiment in Ecological Design — a microcosm of a growing sustainability movement on campuses nationwide, from small liberal arts colleges like Oberlin and Middlebury, in Vermont, to Lansing Community College in Michigan, to Morehouse in Atlanta, to public universities like the University of New Hampshire.
While previous generations focused on recycling and cleaning up rivers, these students want to combat global warm ing by figuring out ways to reduce carbon emissions in their own lives, starting with their own colleges. They also view the environment as broadly connected with social and economic issues, and their concerns include the displacement of low-income families after Hurricane Katrina and the creation of “green collar” jobs in places like the South Bronx.
The mission is serious and yet, like life at the Oberlin house, it blends idealism, hands-on practicality, laid-back community and fun.
With their professors as collaborators, and with their own technological and political savvy, students are persuading administrators to switch to fossil-free fuel on campus — Middlebury is building an $11 million wood-chip-powered plant, part of its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2016 — serve locally grown food in dining halls and make hybrid cars available for shared transportation when, say, the distance is too far to bike and there is no bus. Students are planting organic gardens and competing in dorm energy-use Olympics. At Oberlin last year, some students in the winning dorm did not shower for two weeks, officials said.
“This is a generation that is watching the world come undone,” said David Orr, a professor of environmental studies at Oberlin. Projects like the Oberlin house, he said, are “helping them understand how to stitch the world together again.”
December 25 2007
A Threat So Big, Academics Try Collaboration
The political landscape of academia, combined with the fight for grant money, has always fostered competition far more than collaboration.
But the threat of global warming may just change all that.
Take what’s happening at the Rochester Institute of Technology. In September the school established the Golisano Institute for Sustainability, aimed at getting students and professors from different disciplines to collaborate in studying the environmental ramifications of production and consumption.
“The academic tradition is to let one discipline dominate new programs,” said Nabil Nasr, the institute’s director. “But the problem of sustainability cuts across economics, social elements, engineering, everything. It simply cannot be solved by one discipline, or even by coupling two disciplines.”
Neil Hawkins, Dow Chemical’s vice president for sustainability, sees it that way, too. Th us, Dow is giving $10 million, spread over five years, to the University of California, Berkeley, to set up a sustainability center.
“Berkeley has one of the strongest chemical engineering schools in the world, but it will be the M.B.A.’s who understand areas like microfinance solutions to drinking water problems,” Mr. Hawkins said.
That realization is spreading throughout academia. So more universities are setting up stand-alone centers that offer neutral ground on which engineering students can work on alternative fuels while business students calculate the economics of those fuels and political science majors figure how to make the fuels palatable to governments in both developing nations and America’s states.
“We give professors a chance to step beyond their usual areas of expertise, and we give students exposure to the worlds of science and business,” said Daniel C. Esty, director of the year-old Yale Center for Business and the Environment, a joint effort between the School of Management and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Similar setups are getting easier to find. Last year, the University of Tennessee consolidated all of its environmental research programs under a new Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment. Arizona State University did the same in 2004, when it inaugurated its Global Institute of Sustainability.
March 14 2007
Renewing a Call to Act Against Climate Change
Some are born earnest, some achieve earnestness, and some have earnestness thrust upon them. Bill McKibben qualifies for inclusion in at least two of these wedges of humanity.
In 1989, at the age of 28, he achieved earnestness of a dour, frowning sort as one of the first laymen to warn of global warming in his book “The End of Nature.” In the ensuing 18 years, he said recently while cross-country skiing in the woods near his home, he felt caught in a bad dream, forever warning heedless people of a monster in their midst.
Now, when Mr. McKibben is 46, his role as the philosopher-impresario of the program of climate-change rallies called Step It Up, has thrust new earnestness upon him. This time with a smile.
Mr. McKibben’s title — scholar in residence at Middlebury College — seems far too passive to encompass his current frenetic pace. His online call for locally inspired, locally run demonstrations on April 14 has generated plans for a wave of small protests under the Step It Up banner — 870 and counting, in 49 states (not South Dakota) — to walk, jog, march, ski, swim, talk, sing, pray and party around the idea of cutting national emissions of heat-trapping gases 80 percent by 2050.
Skiers in Wyoming plan to descend a shrinking glacier. New Yorkers plan to form an unbroken human line (dress code: blue shirts) along what might be the new southern shoreline of Manhattan. A group of Dominican sisters and a Wisconsin environmental group are organizing a conference on Sisinawa Mound overlooking the Mississippi River.
…The rallies, organized online by a half-dozen Middlebury graduates (well, one is still finishing his thesis) hunched over laptops in an otherwise bare conference room in Burlington, could filter a kind of passion and fashion reminiscent of the 1960s through a YouTube lens.
All the scattered “actions,” as Mr. McKibben and Company are calling them, are to be photographed, with the results put up on the Web on the evening of April 14.
4 September 2006
We’re witnessing the birth of a new protest movement to force action on global warming
I headed for the environmentalist protest camp pitched outside a coal-fuelled power station in Selby, North Yorkshire, in search of such signs. In the shadow of the great cooling towers of Drax – which belch more global-warming gases into the atmosphere than any other single source in western Europe – there was a slew of white tents and the whir of wind turbines.
Inside I found a blend of Glastonbury and open-air science seminar, where 600 protesters discussed climate chaos with a level of knowledge that would shame our news broadcasters. They discussed the six degrees Celsius of separation that stand between us and global crop failure, the melting of 40 per cent of the Arctic ice shelf in the past 40 years, and the evacuation of the world’s low-lying islands (which has already begun).
They planned to shut down Drax for a day, “to stop the vandalism of the climate for just a moment, and to send out a message”, as one put it. These protesters w ere tired of praying the world’s scientists have made some unprecedented collective error, or waiting for a political Messiah to solve the problem.
A typical participant was Simon Lewis, a PhD in environmental science from Cambridge University. He explained: “The climate is now almost certainly changing faster than at any point in the earth’s history. The ecosystems we all depend on for food are vulnerable to collapse. We are potentially going to unravel the very fabric of life. I know it sounds over the top, but the more you study the science and look at the clear rational evidence, the more terrified you become.” He added, plainly: “People are here because they are refusing to witness a crime without doing something.”
10 October 2007
I just spent the past week visiting several colleges — Auburn, the University of Mississippi, Lake Forest and Williams — and I can report that the more I am around this generation of college students, the more I am both baffled and impressed. I am impressed because they are so much more optimistic and idealistic than they should be. I am baffled because they are so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be.
…But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country’s own good. When I think of the huge budget deficit, Social Security deficit and ecological deficit that our generation is leaving this generation, if they are not spitting mad, well, then they’re just not paying attention. And we’ll just keep piling it on them.
…America needs a jolt of the idealism, activism and outrage (it must be in there) of Generation Q. That’s what twentysomethings are for — to light a fire under the country. But they can’t e-mail it in, and an online petition or a mouse click for carbon neutrality won’t cut it. They have to get organized in a way that will force politicians to pay attention rather than just patronize them.
Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual.
Maybe that’s why what impressed me most on my brief college swing was actually a statue — the life-size statue of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi. Meredith was the first African-American to be admitted to Ole Miss in 1962. The Meredith bronze is posed as if he is striding toward a tall limesto ne archway, re-enacting his fateful step onto the then-segregated campus — defying a violent, angry mob and protected by the National Guard.
Above the archway, carved into the stone, is the word “Courage.” That is what real activism looks like. There is no substitute.
11 September 2007
Titans of Ecology
T.C. Williams Among Rising Number of ‘Green’ Schools
(Washington Post) At the brand-new T.C. Williams High in Alexandria, a modern “green” school, students say the environmentally friendly design has led to a serious lifestyle change: They can’t doze in class anymore because sunlight pours in from practically every angle.
…In the Washington region and elsewhere, local governments are spending big money on a new generation of schools designed to be sensitive to the environment. The campuses — often equipped with the trappings of an upscale hotel, such as waterless urinals and motion-sensing light systems — stand in sharp contrast to schools with mold, chipped ceilings and more fluorescent light than natural light.
At T.C. Williams, classroom ceilings are sloped to disperse light more efficiently, giving the space a futuristic feel. A roof top garden over the cafeteria reduces the amount of heat the building absorbs. And then there are the seemingly nuclear-powered hand dryers in the restrooms, which can be heard from classrooms.
The number of schools nationwide built or designed under strict environmental guidelines has increased in the past seven years, according to the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, which certifies new buildings of all types under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.
Sixty schools nationwide have obtained council certification, including three in the Washington area: John M. Langston High School Continuation Program in Arlington, the middle school of the private Sidwell Friends School in the District and Great Seneca Creek Elementary School in Montgomery County. At Sidwell Friends, the middle school’s protective skin is made of western red cedar reclaimed from wine fermentation barrels. And at Great Seneca Creek, students have cubbyholes that look like wood but are made of wheat.
More than 360 others, including T.C. Williams, are applying f or certification. In 2000, only four were in the pipeline.
One Comment on "Greening of academia"
I’m considering joining the World Wealth Society, a group started by thought leader, James Arthur Ray (I’m a big fan) and wanted to see if anyone had any tips or info about going carbon neutral as a business owner. One of the requirements of the society is, as a business owner, to take your company carbon neutral and to set up an environmental policy. I’m totally onboard, but frankly, I’m a little intimidated and would love to hear from some other business owners who have done this and what the costs and time commitments are to make this happen. James talks about why we need to do this in his book, Harmonic Wealth (check out the Relationship chapter – as in relationship with the world! – on page 133), but I’d love some more specifics. If you are interested, check out his website: http://www.jamesray.com or http://www.harmonicwealth.com.