Are we green by 2019?

Zoha Naqwi, Staff Writer

In 2010, President Paul Pribbenow signed the Climate Leadership Commitment which led to the Climate Action Plan, calling for Augsburg to work towards carbon neutrality by 2019.

Now it is 2019! So are we green?

With this in mind, the Environmental Stewardship Committee hosted events on campus on March 11 and 27 in which students, faculty, staff and environmental experts came together to share thoughts and opinions, exchange facts and predict the future of the sustainability at Augsburg going forward.

Dubbed “downlow,” the events were about a subculture that the organizers hoped would soon become mainstream. While the participants enjoyed a healthy dinner, they engaged in conversations that often reflected the spirit of “thinking globally and acting locally.” They recognized that sustainability goals require communication that educates and celebrates environmental stewardship. Communities and community members need to work in collaboration with institutional partners and leaders. The department of education will also need to play a role in improving sustainability through the younger generations. This can be done by supporting and enforcing sustainability and wellness across the K–12 curriculum along with the higher education programs.

The participants felt that corporations will have to be held accountable by law to reduce energy wastage that could be harmful –– in particular, harmful activities that could hurt our food resources and contaminate our air and water. There is nothing wrong with having eyes on profitability as long as the corporations understand that hurting humanity is bad business and will definitely cause their stocks to plummet. And finally, there are multiple methods to conserve and sustain our water and still keep our economy afloat.

Talking about local action, some excellent suggestions were made, including the need for Augsburg to upgrade IT systems that could significantly reduce energy consumption. Upgrades in parking facilities could encourage electric cars and smaller energy-efficient cars. The ice rink requires sustainable upgrades as well as improvement to minimize coolant leakage. Besides sustainability, ice rink work would address health and safety risks as well, which may become significant if not attended to.

Concerning Augsburg curriculums, the environmental studies department needs to grow to allow more students to take their courses. There was a strong feeling that at least one environmental studies course should be required to graduate. Also, admissions criteria should give a favorable consideration to environmental stewardship in high school years. More students, regardless of major, should be encouraged to participate in sustainability programs, including programs for studying abroad. There are plenty of nations that are hosting such programs, and some of which could use extra assistance from foreign participants. URGO/McNair have research programs and fellowships that revolve around climate change. Anyone looking at graduate studies after getting their bachelor’s are highly recommended to take a look.

And finally, to achieve the decade-long goal of carbon neutrality, the Augsburg community will need and want to undergo a cultural transformation. That means students, faculty and staff alike creating an atmosphere encouraging various innovative ideas. This would certainly educate and inform the community both inside and outside the university. Get-togethers such as public film viewings with environmental themes and motifs and sustainable benefit concerts and charities would promote co-learning and the building of relationships among staff, faculty and the students. In financial planning of facilities and space, the board will need to look for green solutions that would meet the Stewardship’s objective without imploding the University’s budget. Also, as stated, fundraisers are also a solution. The entire community might as well put social media to good use in order to build effective communication in environmental matters on campus.

This article was originally published in the April 12, 2019 issue.