Being "green" is much more than recycling trash, installing solar panels, or driving a hybrid car. It’s seeing the world in a wholly different way.
Earth hosts 6.7 billion people, with several billion more projected to be born. The Oberlin ideals of social justice and equity demand that all people have the opportunity to live well. To make that happen, however, we will need a few more Earth-size, resource-rich, habitable planets.
At the extremes, we have two choices: carry on and bequeath to our children an impoverished planet, or ratchet down humanity’s consumption. The choice for Oberlin is easy: ratchet down.
All of us are flooded with advice on ways to live a more sustainable life. The biggies—reduce, reuse, and recycle—have been discussed for decades. Today’s immediate challenge is climate change. Fossil fuels and deforestation have already increased Earth’s temperature by almost 1˚ C, and even with a Herculean effort, we can’t prevent another degree increase in this century.
The biological and physical changes already documented by scientists—earlier springs and later falls, increasing frequency of extreme weather, and species moving north—predict catastrophe if heat-trapping gas emissions are not rapidly reduced.
At Oberlin, these biophysical facts are motivating alumni to view the College’s core values—human rights, social justice, and a worldly consciousness—through a new, environmental lens. To that end, a group of alumni six years ago formed an affiliate group called the Oberlin College EnviroAlums. We advocate for sustainable practices by sponsoring activities and seminars on campus and by funding innovative student projects. Last spring, our group created the EnviroAlums Endowment, now worth more than $75,000, to help fund visionary initiatives both large and small.
Attaining a sustainable future at Oberlin and beyond requires a substantial amount of work, leadership, and resources. EnviroAlums needs your help! The can-do spirit and collective commitment of our alumni body will allow Oberlin to seize this opportunity to preserve the diverse, ecologically rich habitats in which humanity has flourished. Everything we do needs to be recalibrated in light of the challenges before us if we are to bequeath future generations desirable choices. To learn more about our initiatives and ways you can help, visit us at www.oberlin.edu/envs/oeeaa.
EnviroAlums Chair Carl McDaniel, visiting professor of environmental studies, kneels in the backyard of the sustainable home he is building in Oberlin.