Most Recent Articles
August 28, 2008
For some time now, I've been uncomfortable with the term "global warming". Not that it's in any way inaccurate, just that the term "warming" doesn't sound particularly threatening. At least, not around here. After all, my grandfather used to say that we got two seasons -- July and winter. "Warming" can sound a lot like a good thing.
August 27, 2008
A recent article by Bryan Walsh in Time Magazine reports the National Wildlife Federation's conclusion that, while campus operations have gotten considerably greener since the turn of the century, the sustainability content of the curriculum hasn't increased one iota. (Check out the original NWF report here.)
August 26, 2008
It's easy to get wrapped around the details. And being a campus sustainability analyst/auditor/planner/provocateur means dealing with a lot of details, many of which don't come out quite the way I'd hoped.So, it's nice to be able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. (Often a good idea, unless you're working on a scaffold.)
August 25, 2008
OK, so it's badly written, and the key section (at least from my perspective) is entirely ungrammatical, but McPaper recently published an important article about "thinking green". It seems like the American Psychological Association has determined that (1) being outside can make us happy, (2) being made to feel guilty can drive us into denial, and (3) we're even more likely to go into denial if an "authority" says it's OK to do so.
August 20, 2008
When I think about information, I usually think about it at rest. Kind of like, when I think about water, the image of a lake or an ocean pops into mind before the image of a river. Maybe that's largely a function of where I've lived, but it's also about how many of us on the wonky side learn and think -- combining and recombining bits of data from various sources, trying to form a comprehensive understanding. "Information", then, is the material of which a stable (if only temporarily) understanding is formed.
August 19, 2008
OK, so it's not technically a secret. But, if your college or university is located in (or even somewhat near) the northeast quadrant of the USA, it could be the best higher education sustainability conference you've never heard of.The Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium puts on a two-day conference every October. This year's conference is at Princeton, on October 27-28. (The schedule for both days is pretty full, so you might want to travel on the 26th and/or the 29th.)
August 18, 2008
Higher education is all about information -- parsing it, passing judgment on it, and passing it on.Sustainability work is largely about keeping up with information -- with a problem complex enough to encompass the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the socio-sphere, new knowledge emerges daily and anyone's understanding is always incomplete.If you have to combine the two (as any university sustainability administrator must), a high tolerance for complexity is critical. Unfortunately, this same tolerance for complexity can lead us to over-think and over-explain.
August 14, 2008
Part of my job at Greenback U is to go around to other departments on campus and update them on the University's latest sustainability efforts. A portion of any update is often context setting -- sharing with folks why what we're doing improves sustainability, and pointing out some of the steps other universities have taken or new technologies now or soon to be available. Sure, we have a website, and send out an electronic newsletter, but there's nothing like face-to-face communication when you're trying to help people form an impression or an understanding.
August 13, 2008
Living on a farm, I don't travel all that much. The place doesn't take care of itself, and the schedule of chores isn't real flexible -- certainly not to the extent of a day or more. Still, my duties at Greenback do take me on the road (at least figuratively) from time to time. More often, these days, that "road" has rails.
August 9, 2008
Thursday morning, on my way in to campus, I was listening to NPR. One of the items was an interview with consultant Howard Davidowitz, about the current state of the retail industry. No real surprises -- automobile and restaurant sales are down, off-price sales are strong, Wal-Mart is doing just fine, thank you. What struck my ear was Davidowitz's closing comment that the US standard of living was headed south for several years, at least. He said that like it was a bad thing.