Miami, Florida, USA (re-posted by request May 20, 2009)
It's been a while since I've written. I've been back on campus handling a myriad of office chores while preparing for this, my second recruiting trip of the fall. My day started early as a local taxi picked me up at my home at 5:15 am for a 7:05 flight from Cleveland to Miami via Dallas. I'd like to take just a moment to address the rather convoluted routing that I'm taking for this particular trip. Ordinarily flying out of Cleveland airport is quite convenient. The airport is only about 25 minutes from campus and there is a public bus that runs 6 times a day back and forth from campus to the airport. It makes a single stop on the way to the airport and is non-stop on the return. I often take this for my trips and, in fact, will be taking it upon my return on the 28th of October. Had I been flying internationally, the bus would have been great, but because I needed to get to Miami for an early afternoon meeting, I needed to get to the airport before the earliest bus.
If you know your US geography better than I knew my UK geography (see my previous blogs if this reference makes no sense), you're probably wondering why I would fly all the way to Dallas to get from Cleveland to Miami. It all has to do with my whole ticket. If I just wanted to go to Miami, it would have been easy. There is a nonstop flight on Continental Airlines every afternoon. Actually you should know that Cleveland is a hub for Continental, so flights to most major destinations in the US can be done nonstop from Cleveland. There are also several very convenient connections through Charlotte, NC, on USAir or Atlanta on Delta. But my trip is Cleveland, Miami, San Jose (Costa Rica), then, after a bunch of internal S. American flights, a return from Sao Paulo (Brazil) back to Cleveland. Given all of the constraints on my itinerary, flying American Airlines through Dallas turned out to be the best option. In case you're trying to figure out why I wrote so much about this, I wanted to be sure you knew that you can fly from Cleveland to most major cities in the world with just a single stop en route. You can fly to virtually any city worldwide with just two stops. And with Cleveland airport being so accessible to campus, Oberlin is just about as convenient a location for international students to study as anywhere on the east or west coasts.
The flight from Dallas to Miami took me over the Gulf of Mexico, which I couldn't see because of heavy cloud cover, and over the Everglades. The Everglades are a huge swampy ecosystem in Florida that is virtually unique in the world. The miles and miles of swamp are home to thousands of species of fish, amphibians, and birds. The Everglades are also under attack from the human development in Florida that is, among other things, lowering the water table and shrinking the 'Glades by many square miles per year.
This environmental demise has me thinking about all of the interest in the environment at Oberlin. Environmentalism is probably the single most prominent cause on campus at the moment. Our environmental studies major was one of the first in the country. It is headed by Prof. David Orr, an internationally recognized expert in environmental issues. I was in the San Francisco airport last fall and came across a full page article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the environment. The primary resource for this article was Oberlin's own David Orr. The program is housed in our state-of-the-art environmental studies building. We think that this is the only academic building in the US that is a net producer of energy - recycling even bathroom wastes!
Oberlin students don't just study the environment, they make a difference. Several different Oberlin alumni have gone on to found eco-friendly building and/or development companies. One of my advisees returned home to China during the summer and worked with a local firm to help them minimize their impact on the environment. Many of our residence halls are linked in a real time energy-monitoring project that allows students to track the energy usage of their buildings and to see exactly how their efforts at conservation make a difference.
The College itself is also committed to going green. Oberlin was among the initial signatories to a pledge to reduce our carbon footprint. An independent environmental organization recently completed a study of several hundred colleges and universities across the country. None received an A grade, but Oberlin was one of only 15 to receive a grade of A-. You can read more about that on our web page. It is the front-page story today, and should be findable for the indefinite future if you're willing to look.
We are also beginning an investigation of how to redevelop a block of college-owned property. We hope to replace the aging Oberlin Inn, replace our largest auditorium, and build some residence halls and arts facilities. But we are taking our time with the planning as we want to be sure to do this in an environmentally friendly manner and in a manner consistent with the needs of the local Oberlin community.
So if you are interested in things environmental - either as an academic discipline or as a way of life - please check us out. You'll be glad you did.