Wednesday, June 27, 2007

ACUPCC in DC

So, the reflective, thoughtful life of a grad student ends, and the flow of blog posts slows to a trickle…! But the excitement of creating a sustainable society certainly has not. I’ll likely turn to writing more on the Greenland Enterprises site once we get a better blog set-up going, but I’ll continue to post here from time to time.

Aside from staying busy with business development, networking and exploring new project ideas, most of our time has been dedicated to the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. It’s been going very well, with over 312 presidents so far pledging their institutions to a path towards climate neutrality.













We had a very successful public launch of the initiative in Washington DC a couple of weeks ago at the ACUPCC Leadership Summit. It was incredibly inspiring to hear some of these presidents speak about what they’re doing on their campuses and why, what it means for the future of the US and the world, and how it will benefit their institutions and stakeholders now and in the long-run. We were also treated to some talks by rock-stars in the space, including James Hansen (NASA Goddard Space Institute), Eileen Claussen (Pew Center), John Kerry (MA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Jay Inslee (WA), and Steve Johnson (EPA Administrator).













But in my opinion the presidents stole the show – Michael Crow (Arizona State), Tim White (U of Idaho), Kathy Schatzberg (Cape Cod Community College), David Hales (College of the Atlantic), David Shi (Furman), and many others – are all doing amazing things. A quick Google search will bring up some good info on them if you’re interested – especially Crow and ASU, they are shifting the paradigm in a big way, and as a result are going to be well positioned to meet the coming demands from applicants, employers, funding bodies, etc.













I also got a chance to facilitate a dialogue session amongst the presidents about implementing the commitment, sharing a definition of leadership I heard recently, which says leadership is stepping into that which you have not yet mastered. It’s safe to say that no one has yet mastered a long-term shift to climate neutrality on a large scale, so in that sense, and in many others, making this commitment is a tremendous show of leadership by these presidents and their institutions.












Our fantastic partners at ecoAmerica wrote up a summary for their blog, if you’re interested in more details (they also have some links to the excellent press coverage the event received). And we finally got to meet the rest of the team in person, after months of emails and conference calls - a great group to work with:











All in all, it’s been an interesting to see the reactions to this initiative as we go through this amazing time when the US is waking up to the global warming challenge. The resistance to signing has for the most part come from misunderstanding what the Commitment actually entails, or getting hung up on details (for example, it includes picking 2 short term actions from a list of 7, and people will take issue with one of the options on the list). Also, as with anything new, some believe it cannot be done, but I think they’ll sign on as they see the successes of the others. Another piece that’s often overlooked is the power of collective action – some schools figure they’ll be better off going it alone – but they’re missing a tremendous opportunity to send a powerful message to the rest of society about the need to collaborate for this common cause (they’ll also miss out on some great technical support, the development of a common framework and standards, and opportunities to learn from each other along the way).

Finally, and most importantly, a common reason for resistance is not seeing the larger picture, which is that ACUPCC is not just about reducing GHG emissions from campus operations, but much more about (1) educating our next generation of leaders so they’re prepared to solve this problem, by being able to deal with the complexity and communicate with each other across disciplines and (2) promoting research to develop the solutions we will need – both the physical and social technologies we are lacking. As ASU’s Crow said at the Summit, “The higher ed. community may only have about 3% of the carbon footprint, but we have 100% of the educational footprint.” As I’ve discussed before on this blog, creating a sustainable society will require not a magical new technology or set of laws, or by improving efficiencies or making incremental improvements, but with a change in our thinking, an evolution of consciousness. As Marcel Proust said, “The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” Stay going.