Promoting sustainability at Greenback U. brings me into constant contact with both students and faculty. Each group has what I call its typical objection when presented with encouragement to behave more sustainably.
Promoting sustainability at Greenback U. brings me into constant contact with both students and faculty. Each group has what I call its typical objection when presented with encouragement to behave more sustainably. For students, it's something like "well, I'll do what I can, but it really won't matter because all the other guys are @$$#0!&$ and they won't do their part." Faculty objections are often more along the lines of "do you really think that the right mix of technologies exists or will be invented, and can be implemented in time to prevent global climate disruption, especially given current economic conditions and the resulting political realities?" I've developed a quiverful of appropriate encouraging responses to each, as I have a variety of ways of defusing the other objections I run into. I need to disarm as much opposition as I can. That's my job.
More to the point, that's what's necessary to build consensus and momentum at Greenback. Students and faculty are good at coming up with reasons why campus (or global) sustainability can't be achieved; left to their own devices, they'd bring any "green" initiative to a grinding halt. So in my role as change agent, I need to build in them a sense of the possible. A confidence, even a sense of security, that if they and all their peers do their part, we can lick this thing. It's a false sense of confidence, but it it helps them to move forward so it's way better than no sense of confidence at all.
In truth, I appreciate better than almost any of them just how massive the sustainability challenge facing us is, and how inadequate our current efforts (real and aspirational) will turn out to be. The climate is changing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Storm systems will be both more frequent and more energetic. Sea levels will rise, and storm surges will rise more. Precipitation patterns will continue to change, rendering many currently populated areas uninhabitable. Large masses of people will be forced to move into areas not particularly inclined to receive them. Here in the northeastern USA, pests and diseases we've never had to worry about will become commonplace, and some of our coastal cities are definitely at risk. Poverty will become less survivable, so class warfare won't be just for the rich any more. Our beggar-your-employee economic system is part of the problem, and so has to change along with everything else. It's not going to be a lot of fun, and no technology fairy is going to swoop down and change that fact.
But if I say that, people stop listening. If they stop listening, they won't hear why, or how, to change their behaviors and expectations. If they don't change their expectations and behaviors, the coming climatic, economic and social disruptions are going to be a little bit bigger. And less disruption (even a little bit less) is better than more.
So I assemble the players. I tell them they're talented and dedicated, and that the last few practices have looked really good. I say that, on any given day, the team that really wants to win can usually find a way to do that. And I tell them that those guys from State put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do. I tell them they can do it. Then I send them out to get their @$$&$ kicked. Because I know what the alternative looks like.
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