The Quest | The Free Press of Reed College

Sustainability is Dead

News from last week confirmed my long-standing suspicion that both the college administration and the student body have given up on sustainability as a topic of meaningful substance and as a goal worth working towards. Both Colin and Student Senate have forsaken that instrument of environmental justice, the sustainability committee, opting not to further fund community sustainability projects.

This committee’s sustainability fund, inaugurated in the fall semester of 2009 after the success of a student referendum by Greenboard, has proved to be a flop. Though it has received approximately $12,000 of funding from the president and the student body, it has only spent $2,000 of it, funding such projects as installing motion sensing lights, equipping faculty houses with programmable thermostats, and promoting recycling in the dorms. Professor Alan Shusterman, a member of the committee, has stated that many projects have been approved and funded but just didn’t happen. It sounds to me like the student body just isn’t interested.

Forming a committee and throwing some money in a pot has enabled us to assume that we have dealt with the issue and return to our homework, smug and satisfied. We put the bureaucratic band-aid on the problem and all meaningful political participation fizzled under the academic pressure of this institution.

Since the graduation of Devin Judge-Lord ’11 and Joel Batterman ’11, we’ve lacked a figure that will relentlessly bring the issue before Student Senate, Colin, and the trustees, regardless of whether or not they wanted to listen. Now that there’s no gadfly around to point out that we haven’t addressed the issue we can simply relax and get on with our meaningful lives of paper writing and binge-drinking.

But we don’t just need a better committee or more money. Our last attempt to make the college more sustainable failed because we pinned our hopes on busy, unorganized students to come up with ideas and execute them in their copious free time. If we’re to work meaningfully towards a sustainable college, we must work together, pooling our ideas and our resources to enact change throughout the college: in the classroom, the dorms, and in our personal habits.

Greenboard has become a farce, an organizational apparatus more concerned with orchestrating Canyon Day and disseminating information about local environmentalist events than actually decreasing the carbon footprint of the college. We have no group of students currently on campus concerned with articulating a more environmentally sound vision for the school or mobilizing students to make that vision a reality.

Call me cynical and old, but I don’t think that the student body, for all its ‘progressive’ politics, actually cares to challenge climate change in its own community. It’s more content to live in the library, oblivious to the rest of the world. Prove me wrong.

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