Michael Roth, What are you doing about global warming? These were the words I saw graffitied on the sidewalk near my office this week. There were a few more global warming tags at the Usdan Center and walkways. What an important subject, but what a dumb way to articulate it! We asked physical plant workers to clear the surfaces, using even more energy resources than we already were doing. And how was I supposed to respond – with graffiti? I don’t think that would be very effective.
But it is such an important question. Michael Roth, what are you doing about global warming? I don’t think I’m doing enough. I am more conscious now of the energy I use, be it in the car, or in the office, or at home, and my family has become pretty good at recycling and composting. But we should do more, and we are working at it. But whoever scrawled the question near my office probably wanted to know what Wesleyan is doing about global warming. This is a great question, and my answer is similar. We have started to become a much greener, more sustainable campus, but we have much more to do. Recently I met with a group of students, the Environmental Organizers Network, and this group is very well informed about what steps Wesleyan can take to become a more responsible user of energy. We have appointed staff who are now responsible for ensuring that the university moves in a green direction. Our major facilities projects will all be subject to evaluation on their use of energy, and we will hold ourselves to high standards. And I will continue to meet with EON, with faculty and staff to get ideas about how we can do better as an institution to reduce our negative impact on the environment. Finally, we are developing curriculum, from the Center for the Arts to the Exley Science Center (with the Public Affairs Center as hub) to educate our community about the dynamic of climate change and how we can change it. This is not a subject for sloganeering, but it is an important topic for curriculum development and institutional change.
Last week I met with Ashley Casale ’10, who, along with Michael Israel just returned from a walk across the country for peace. I had heard about her efforts when I was in Berkeley, and I was filled with pride that a Wesleyan student was asking the country to wake up to the importance of the struggle for peace in our current political context. We had a small reception for Ashley and some of her friends in South College, and we talked about what Wesleyan is doing to call attention to the war in Iraq, and to efforts to promote peace and justice more generally. We are not doing enough, I said, but if the students have ideas as to how we can promote education about the dynamics of the current war, or about education for political engagement on issues from the war to global warming, I would do my best to support these ideas. I’ve already received some suggestions. Wesleyan should be the place where we can connect our liberal arts education to issues in public life – be they about mismanaged wars, global warming, or threats from terrorism. The connections are not simple (they can’t be reduced to graffiti), but they can be productively explored in classes, in “teach-ins,” and in a variety of co-curricular programming. We are working on it.
Let’s work together – faculty, staff, students – to use our educational resources to have a more positive impact on the culture and on the environment around us!