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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.

Modest proposal #8 - Steal some good songs
April 17, 2008 - 9:54am

I once heard Waylon Jennings -- former guitar player for The Crickets -- describe someone (not, to my knowledge, a musician), as "so dumb, he couldn't even steal a good song." I hope I'm not that dumb.

Rather than stealing songs, per se, I intend to steal policies. Sustainability-related policies. Greenback U is like an ocean liner -- it doesn't change direction quickly. Greenback takes a while to consider the possibilities, evaluate its options, foster consensus, arrive at a decision, marshall its resources, organize an expeditionary party, and finally sashay out to buy breakfast. Timely actions are best taken in a downhill direction, on a well-greased surface, with a tailwind.

For sustainability action, the tailwind is being provided by the increasing public awareness of global warming and the urgent need for change. It clearly hasn't penetrated the White House yet (anybody hear the one about stopping US emissions growth by 2025?), but much of the country really does "get it", and more attention is being paid every day. The surface is already lubricated, in that our president is a charter signatory to the Presidents Climate Commitment. The words have been spoken, the position has been staked out, all that's left is to actually ... um ... actuate.

So, to get real motion going, I need to make sure that we're on a downhill slope. The initial steps need to be as easy as possible. Administrative actions are easiest to take when they're backed by specific policies, and all Greenback has, at the moment, is a high-sounding statement of aspiration and intent. Nothing specific.

One of my goals for next year, then, is to get a set of specific sustainability policies adopted. I'm going to spend much of 2008-09 drafting and negotiating an emissions mitigation plan for Greenback (under terms of the PCC), getting that plan adopted (in about 13 months) will be easier if the appropriate administrative policies are already on the books.

Now, I'm only smart enough to write a bad song, not a good one. So I'm going to steal some good ones. Greenback likes its administrative policies short and to the point. As you may already have noticed, "short and to the point" is not my strongest suit. So, as the first set of policy drafts I propose, I expect to put forward modified copies of the policies in place at the University of Winnipeg. Like many Canadian universities, UWinnipeg is ahead of most US institutions in its efforts to achieve sustainability. Its suite of policies is available on the web, and covers most or all of what I expect to address in the mitigation plan. What's not to steal?

Yes, for the "academic honesty" contingent in the audience, I will acknowledge the source. UWinnipeg will be credited on each of the initial drafts, as they get local distribution. However, our policy development process at Greenback is such that, by the time we present to the final decision-makers (our Senate), any lasting resemblence will be something of a surprise. At that point, citation may or may not be warranted.

Does your school have a suite of sustainability policies, sufficiently specific to facilitate administrative action? Do you like them better than the ones I found in Winterpeg? Are they in plain sight? Is your back door locked?


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