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The Campus of 2035

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 11:26am

What role does today's college campus play in broader sustainability efforts? Our scientists and engineers conduct research and develop bench-scale projects that show promise; other researchers document the effects of mankind on the planet, generate new ways of thinking about waste, urban infrastructure and even visual representations of society's conflicting interests and desires. But what of the campus itself? While not isolated from its surroundings, the campus does exist as a microcosm where new efforts can be tried and tested. Maybe the better question is, what role should today's college campus play in broader sustainability efforts?

The city is Oslo, Norway (pop. 600K) recently announced a plan to ban cars from its city center; the math on staying below a 2°C global temperature rise is looking more and more difficult. Are these signals that we should get more aggressive about curtailing energy consumption? What are 'negative emissions'?

Today's college campuses actually possess a non-trivial number of steps at their disposal that, taken together, could begin to drastically cut localized emissions and consumption but also act as signals to the broader public about what can be done, how it works and the plan's impact on an actual population that has to get around, study at night and stay warm [and always be cool]. A living demonstration project could also become a distinguishing characteristic of a forwarding thinking campus. It's a great opportunity to lead and there's always room at the top. Should we get a little more aggressive and find out what works for faculty, staff and students in the guise of people and planet? Should we have this discussion as a part of all we're learning, teaching and living?

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