After a year on the job as UofL’s first-ever sustainability coordinator, I have to say that I’m really proud of what’s happening here. We truly are moving towards ever greater sustainability as we take new, diverse and bolder steps toward a more environmentally, socially and economically responsible institution. The latest quantum leap? A Climate Action Plan developed by a broad spectrum of the university community over the past year as a road map to UofL climate neutrality by 2050.
With this plan, UofL is saying, We will not sit idly by and watch the climate crisis deepen. We will take action now and in the coming decades to tackle the problem head-on. We will cut out waste and pollution. We will make our operations more efficient and less expensive over the long haul. And in the process, we will create a more livable, healthy and resilient institution, campus, and community.
Making commitments like this and sticking to them can really revolutionize the way an institution or an individual sees the world and responds to it. Let me share with you my own personal example. When I was 15 years old, my father took me on a cross-country bike trip from our home in Washington, DC to Seattle. For two months straight I saw the beauty and diversity of this great nation and learned how incredibly rewarding it is to get around under your own power. I fell in love with bicycling as a means of transportation — the pace, the connection to nature, the personal health and wellness I derived, the absence of environmental impact.
I came back a changed person. When I returned to high school, and all my peers were signing up for drivers’ education and committing themselves to a lifelong dependence on cars and fossil fuel, I decided to forgo getting a drivers’ license and to commit to a life without cars. That commitment has shaped nearly every choice I’ve made in the 21 years since — from the mundane (how much to buy, what to wear, where to travel and recreate) to the profound (where to live, what to do with my life, who to fall in love with) — and I believe in nearly every case it has pushed me to choose that which is healthier, more economical and much lighter on the planet.
It’s exciting to see UofL make a similar commitment to climate neutrality and a path of greater sustainability. The choices we make today will be pivotal in shaping our institutional future — not just in terms of our environmental impact and financial health, but in terms of the kind of community we create and the kinds of citizens we educate.
By taking pains to shape our choices around the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we are closing the door to a lot of dangerous possibilities and opening the door to a clean, green future filled with resilient promise. Realizing this vision will take considerable time and effort, but our Climate Action Plan gives us concrete goals to strive for and practical steps to take along the way. We’ve crafted the plan as a flexible, living document to be revisited and revised as circumstances change.
I urge you to explore this road map (available at AASHE.org) and to contribute your ideas and actions to the effort. There’s no time to waste and no reason to be fearful. All hands on deck!