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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

September 2, 2010 - 5:45pm

In my more cynical moments, I sometimes feel like Merlin in T.H. White's The Once and Future King. Merlin had the distinct (dis)advantage of living life backwards, so that he was sometimes a bit vague on what had already happened but remembered well what was yet to come. All this gave him a richly ironic sense of humor which I flatter myself (the "rich" part aside, of course) that I share.

And then the students arrive back on campus. So bright, so eager, so revved-up after a summer of doing whatever it is that students do over their summers. Excited to meet new folks, take on new challenges, learn new ways of thinking and doing. So Wart-ish (in White's sense of that term).

Student enthusiasm can be pretty infectious. A new crop of kids can remind me of the upside of a job that, in the short term, sometimes seems mundane. And, in so doing, they can impart a remembrance of the pleasure of youth (even the parts of it that aren't misspent). I feed them on opportunity, and they infect me with energy.

That infectious enthusiasm might well have colored how I reacted to the announcement of California's Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan. It's incredibly aggressive (all new residential construction to be zero-net-energy by 2020, all new commercial construction by 2030), but wimpy plans won't get us where we need to go. Which isn't to say that aggressive plans always achieve all they promise, of course. It's quite likely that the state will fall somewhat short, even in a climate that's mild by Backboro standards.

The good news, as seen from Backboro, is that the announcement of this sort of initiative creates an immediate and sizable market for new and better energy-efficient technologies. New and sizable markets attract innovation, and the results of the innovation created will be available to those of us in other states.

So I wish California (and the colleges and universities there) the best of luck as their state's long term plan comes into effect. Meanwhile, I'll keep getting students involved in fourteen-week projects. Around here, long-term planning is anything that looks past the end of the semester.


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