The changing fall weather and colors always offer a time for me to reflect on the year. My thoughts linger on warm summer days spent in the garden, bicycling, paddling on the river, or soaking in sunsets at a Lake Michigan beach. I have been reminiscing about spring delights and a cross country train trip I took to connect with friends and family. As I think back to the lonely and cold winter of 20-21, I am growing apprehensive about the season ahead.
Like they say, the more things change the more they stay the same.
As I write this, the UN is in Glasgow trying once again to negotiate a way for the world to respond to climate change. I once again have wild hopes that I suspect will once again not be fulfilled.
“It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” (IPCC)
Despite yet another report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that clearly outlines how human behavior is driving climate change, we don’t change our habits or behaviors, thinking we are only one and don’t matter. If we have learned anything about the climate crisis it is that each individual action has been multiplied and has created some large collective negative impacts. Each action begins with one.
This is the story of the divestment movement on college campuses. It only took one student to raise the question…After years of student led protests demanding that campus divest, many have responded and the news is inspiring. The divestment campaign map by DivestEd is getting more and more cluttered with signs of hope! Yet at IU, more than five years after a resolution was passed by the All University Student Organization calling for the IU Foundation to “divest its endowment from investments in the top 200 fossil fuel companies within five years,” no public evidence of change has occurred.
Increased awareness and responses to environmental and social justice are signs that we won’t ignore the issues anymore. Yet they persist and continue to make the news internationally and in my own backyard.
At IU South Bend, we will be one of hundreds of campuses participating in the Worldwide Teach-In on Climate to Solve Climate by 2030 on campus (and to a live stream audience) on Wednesday, March 30. A variety of panel presentations featuring IU faculty will discuss, from their disciplinary perspective, a variety of climate issues and opportunities. While most will be focused on educating and engaging our students, an evening Teach-In is being planned for the community.
Across the IU system, campuses have formed environmental resilience committees. Working with Sustain IU and the Environmental Resilience Institute (ERI), we are beginning the important work of addressing our campus climate vulnerabilities and creating a plan to address them, mitigate them, and adapt to them. I look forward to sharing updates in the coming months about the progress of this cross-campus committee.
At the Center, our work is focused on building on our STARS Bronze status by using the baseline data to craft plans and actions steps to improve our operations from facilities to academics. We are beginning with energy and water use reduction plans and – importantly – creating more opportunities for the campus to learn about and participate in sustainability projects. From ecosystem improvements to waste reduction and equity and justice intersections, we expect to have a full and rich year of events!
The more things change, the more they stay the same. My hope is that as things change, we continue to change with them in responsive and responsible ways. That is what we have done here at the Center, and I hope that we can keep it the same moving ahead.
Most of all, I hope that more of our community will join in this joyful process of learning, growing, and improving ourselves and our world. May your season provide you with a time to reflect and to be inspired for the future.
Cheers! From me and some of my first year seminar students enjoying some kombucha at the Purple Porch Co-op – we LOVE sustainability themed field trips!