Last night, over 20 Cornell students gathered around a dinner table to participate in a conversation that extended beyond typical dining hall chatter. Art Purcell Ph.D ’66, an environmental policy and sustainability expert, hosted the dialogue “What an Obama Administration Might Mean for Environmental Policy and Sustainability,” provoking many students to think about the importance of the integration of environmental and economic policy.
“We’re in an era where there’s hope again,” Purcell began. He continued to say that it is a matter of “timing and an efficient use of resources” to push the country towards a more sustainable and green future.
Purcell found himself back at Becker House to give his talk because “Cornell has been very active in the sustainability area … and there seemed to be interest,” he said. “Every movement in the direction of sustainability is important so I thought it would be great to come here and talk to faculty and students about it.”
[img_assist|nid=33724|title=Synsthesize|desc=Art Purcell Ph.D ’66 speaks to students about Obama’s environmental platform in Carl Becker House last night.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Maryam Ahmed ’11 attended the discussion and was impressed by the wide array of students who were in attendance.
“[The environment is] an important issue that should be one of the top priorities that Obama focuses on, regardless of the industry,” Ahmed said. “There were people from every single major [at the table] which indicates [that] everyone thinks it’s important.”
During the conversation Purcell expressed optimism for an Obama presidency and invited students to share theirs.
“Obama brings hope,” he said. “People need and want to see change — and ‘change’ is a word that’s been used too often — but its an important one. If [Obama] can assemble the right team, and there seems to be some indication that he can, then different pieces that have fallen off can be put back together in the right order to, in a sense, reassemble the economy.”
Purcell explored on the close relationship between environmental and economic issues.
“I think Obama has demonstrated that he has some feel for the idea that environmental [progress] and economic [progress] are already the same thing.”
Angela Liv ’11 said she attended the discussion to learn about what the government is doing about environmental issues.
“Apparently there’s a lot of economics, and business embedded in it more so than I thought,” Liv said.
Purcell asked students what changes they would enact regarding the environment and the economy if they were in Obama’s shoes. Ideas included investing in environmental technology industries, heavily fining companies that do not follow environmental codes and creating incentive packages for companies to “go greener.”
“I would try to spend as much time as possible talking with my economic [advisors] trying to show them and convince them that environmental decisions are very much a part of economic decisions,” Purcell said. “It’s not ‘either’ ‘or’, and the better we manage our environmental resources the better off our economy will be.”
Purcell stressed the importance of action taken from government agencies aside from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“I would see how much I could integrate sustainability and progressive environmental activity into the actions of … government agencies.”
Purcell expressed that he would like to see the Obama administration give people “as much hope as possible,” stressing,“every little effort counts whether it’s a small business or a big business, a household activity or … a national government activity”.
Purcell said he would like to see Obama “set a tone”, and “see the Environmental Protection Agency realigned and in tune with the idea of the better we use our resources the better we’ll be off economically and environmentally.” Purcell drove home the idea that the more sustainable the country is, the better off our economy and environment will be.
Purcell concluded, “I would hope that students came away with the idea that even though it’s a complex field, there are many different pieces and there should be something of interest to them personally and professionally its not just something that should be left to somebody else or society as a whole. Secondly I hope that they came out with some specific information in regard to what is happening in the [environmental] field and politically how we can encourage the administration to … increase the pace in sustainability.”