• Getting to Green

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

Title

The child is father to the adult

Yesterday, I had one of those moments that made me feel all warm inside. I was speaking with a group of students about efforts to make Greenback U. more sustainable, and several of them called me out.

"Do you really think hybrid cars are a good solution?"

"Isn't ethanol problematic?"

"Don't you understand that US demand for soybeans is changing agricultural patterns and creating hunger in South America?"

"What's the chance that the world can avoid massive social problems resulting from massive poverty in an increasingly hostile climate?"

January 27, 2011
 
 

Yesterday, I had one of those moments that made me feel all warm inside. I was speaking with a group of students about efforts to make Greenback U. more sustainable, and several of them called me out.

"Do you really think hybrid cars are a good solution?"

"Isn't ethanol problematic?"

"Don't you understand that US demand for soybeans is changing agricultural patterns and creating hunger in South America?"

"What's the chance that the world can avoid massive social problems resulting from massive poverty in an increasingly hostile climate?"

(Of course, the actual questions rambled a bit more than this wording suggests, but the content was pretty much as depicted.)

These students were long past the stage of "use compact fluorescent light bulbs and be sure to recycle." They're not some environmental or otherwise radical fringe. They're not totally dedicated to solving the sustainability puzzle (to the exclusion or all other puzzles), but they definitely get it.

I like to think that a tiny bit of their progress has resulted from my efforts, but the truth is that more has been caused by classroom discussions, peer-group discussions, and the fact that these are pretty bright kids in general. The nutshell version of their position was that sustainability in all of its aspects is a real problem, that much of it is caused by the mix of technologies society is focused on, that it's only getting worse, and that the efforts of the generation currently in power (including university administration) simply aren't cutting it. They're a bit fatalistic, but there's a noticeable edge of anger in their voices as well.

In truth, if the senior administration of Greenback U. were as concerned with social, economic and environmental sustainability issues as these non-radical students are, my world would be spinning a great deal faster than it currently is. But it seems that our senior administrators have all of the fatalism with none of the anger.

Sometimes, I think adulthood is over-rated.

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