Geneseo’s Sustainability Commission ambitiously introduced a Climate Action Plan in 2010 with both short-term and long-term goals regarding cutting campus emissions of carbon dioxide. Effective use of the plan would cut emissions in half by 2020 – compared to the lower rate of 1990 – through the tracking of energy use and behavioral patterns, the installation of energy-saving projects and educational and community outreach. By 2050, the commission hopes to reduce emissions to its 1990 level, a reduction of 100 percent.
While the commission has made an honest attempt to confront the worldwide energy crisis and the environmental externalities that exist on college campuses, it is hard to grasp the potential of the initiative.
The biggest challenge facing the Sustainability Commission is the fact that there exists no paid faculty position designated to the oversight of sustainable activity on the campus. Similar to any one of the classes or organizations at Geneseo, the commission is a priority but not the only priority for those involved.
The Sustainability Commission is comprised of students, faculty and staff from various departments of the college that also includes subcommittees, which focus on certain aspects of sustainability. All of the bases are covered, but to what extent and how thoroughly? If the commission exists as no more than an unpaid extracurricular activity for those involved, what results, if any, does the college expect?
Members of the Sustainability Commission certainly contribute experience and knowledge, just as I do to The Lamron and other obligations. Well-known instructors from across the spectrum bring accomplished research and representatives from athletics, Campus Auxiliary Services, the student body and the administration, ensuring that initiatives put into action recognize various implications, both positive and negative, that can arise.
It’s clear from the Sustainability Commission website that the members are probably spreading themselves too thin: Seven subcommittees reveal the amount of work that each member packs in.
Business manager of facilities services Craig Ross and associate professor of biology Kristi Hannam seem to have the most responsibilities. So it should be a red flag when we see that they hold positions as members and chairs of the Sustainability Commission while working on the Budget and Finance, Climate & Impact Monitoring, and PR & Campus & Community Engagement Subcommittees, all things that, when done well and correctly, take time and commitment.
From personal experience, it’s known that there is just not enough daylight to manage as many things that we say we do on paper, and the Sustainability Commission’s reliance on insanely busy faculty members and students is worrisome, in terms of both the college’s future of sustainability and my perception of its priorities and mission.
The lack of funding for a paid position reveals shortsightedness or perhaps oblivion when it comes to sustainable initiatives and progress. Without money for a position, the reality is that these changes probably are not feasible.
In 2012, former President Christopher Dahl designated the Environmental Impact and Sustainability Task Force behind the plan as a Presidential Commission, heightening its urgency. If the opportunity arose for faculty funding, I would hope that there would be consideration for a position that involves sustainability on campus to make further strides in effecting the Climate Action Plan. Keep in mind: We’re one-third of our way to 2020.