April 26, 2005

C.U. Commemorates Sustainability Month

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In his state of the University address, President Lehman ’77 identified sustainability as one of the three great challenges facing the world and the University. Throughout this month, sustainability has been at the forefront for many environmental groups as they have come together, collaborating in their efforts toward making the world and the University a more sustainable place.

Through programs and summits, students, faculty and staff have voiced their opinions and ideas on how to improve conditions.

The month started off with the third annual Sustainable Enterprise Symposium held at the Johnson school. Lehman gave the keynote address, reiterating the themes of his state of the University address and of making sustainability a priority in University development. The symposium, attended by executives from around the world, faculty and students of Cornell, focused on ways to improve technology, combining various aspects of Cornell in order to make business more efficient and environmentally friendly.

As a centerpiece to the month, the Campus Sustainability summit was held on April 14, engaging faculty, staff and students once more on their ideas for sustainability.

“The idea [of the summit] was to bring together diverse groups interested in campus sustainability for discussion and allow input into what Cornell is doing,” said Garrett Meigs ’04, campus sustainability intern. “We had a great turn out. It was really inspiring to have everyone in one room, realizing that there is a really large and dynamic group of people interested in making Cornell a sustainable campus.”

A common theme throughout the month seemed to be of combining efforts, and allowing for more discussion between the various groups.

“All the groups have come much closer together,” said Ding Kong ’08.

“We’ve found out more about each other and allowed for more than just individual effort. It’s really our collaborative effort toward sustainability.”

The summit emphasized small group discussions between the participants, asking questions such as, “What steps does Cornell need to take to accomplish campus sustainability?”, and, “What structures of collaboration should Cornell develop in order to advance the goal of campus sustainability?” The results of the summit will be synthesized and presented in a report for the Cornell administration. It is also available on the Sustainable Campus website.

Friday, Earth Day highlighted important issues pertaining to sustainability, including the recent controversial issue of paving Redbud Woods.

“For Cornell, sustainability is only in words and brochures. It’s our job to make it a reality,” said Danny Pearlstein ’05, Sun columnist. “[The paving of Redbud woods] is not only anti-sustainable, but undemocratic.”

With regard to the discontent about the issue, Meigs commented, “People are a little skeptical that actions are speaking louder than words.” Engineers for Sustainability was another group present at Earth Day. They showcased various projects they were working on, including building a water filtration system in Honduras. This project is part of a class taken by engineers for credit, which focuses in on the challenges developing communities face. The water filtration system is one of many projects the students in the class are currently working on. Also a main part of Earth Day was the Student Sustainability Summit.

“We really reached out to a lot of people,” Kong said about the summit. “With the student sustainability summit we got a lot of students excited and a coalition forming.”

This summit, like the previous one, showcased smaller group discussions. The month culminates on Thursday with a lecture given by Gro Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway.

“She’s the women of sustainable development,” Kong said. “She’ll be attending various conferences as well with faculty, staff and students.” In her lecture entitled, “Sustainable Development and its Global Significance”, Brundtland will address the links between sustainable development, human rights and global health.

“It will be really interesting because she is a global leader for sustainability and we’ll see how our efforts on campus sustainability relate to the world,” Meigs said.

Meigs and Kong both reflected on the success of the month in its entirety, stressing that these were only the initial steps.

“We’ve accomplished most of the goals we’ve set out to accomplish, and we’re still working on things for the rest of the semester,” Kong said. “It took a tremendous amount of energy to make it and we don’t want it to die down. It’s still going on.”

Archived article by Emily Gordon
Sun Senior Writer