How climatenegative campuses will drive a modern industrial revolution

In the 1960s and 1970s, as undergraduates and youths were protesting and striking on campuses, graduate students were inventing whole new fields of study and pushing for increased academic freedoms. These graduate students taught the first seminars in African American studies, Latin American Studies and Women's Studies, expanded the university curriculum, and won future generations the freedom to supplement traditional learning with independent studies, directed research projects, internships and externships. Through these new freedoms, these fields of study have grown from small graduate lectures to mainstays on most of today's campuses, educating and training millions. Graduate students of 40 years ago are now established senior professionals.

More recently, the computer and Internet breakthroughs of the 1980s and 1990s have given students access to nearly open source information. In the modern Age of Data, these young minds will have a better view - a Google Earth aerial, if you will - of the enormous physical and social systems they are trying to change. By collecting, combining and crunching these data, today's college students can help create, sell and then implement a sophisticated, affordable, equitable vision of what their campuses, cities, states and nations should/could look like in 2012, 2020,2030,2050 and 2100.

Campus Climate Neutral

Over the past few years, today's law, engineering, design and business students have launched climate neutral and campus greening projects across the country.10 Leading the way, NAELS launched Campus Climate Neutral (CCN) in 2004. CCN is a grassroots campaign to leverage the country's graduate student resources to pursue aggressive, for-credit, greenhouse gas reduction efforts on university campuses and in surrounding municipalities and counties. Through CCN projects, graduate students aim to help educate and connect the next generation of world leaders, training them and mobilizing them - across disciplines and political affiliations - in support of cost-effective, long-term climate solutions.

The model CCN project was launched in 2005 at the University of California Santa Barbara's Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Five students worked under climate expert and leading social scientist Oran Young. The students each received 12 credits for their year-long research project and delivered a final report, Changing the Campus Climate: Campus Climate Neutral at UC — Santa Barbara, in lieu of their senior thesis.11 The student report found that the school could meet the California governor's 2020 climate targets and save several million dollars in the process, and it now serves as a national model for other campuses and students.

Most importantly, CCN showed the strategic benefit of using graduate students and collaborative research as an advocacy model. The project received glowing reviews from a diverse group of campus leaders as well as: Gus Speth, Dean of Yale's School of Forestry and the Environment; Mary Nichols, Director of the UCLA Center for the Environment; and UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang. NAELS is now pushing for 'climate negative' campuses that reduce their emissions, help their neighbors and cities to do the same, and invest human and financial capital towards further reductions around the globe.

National neutrality: American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment

A growing movement of international, national, regional, state and individual campuses and the champions who are driving change at these institutions are transforming their socially and physically complex campuses into climate neutral models of sustainability. Leading these efforts is the recently launched American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), a commitment by some 325 American colleges and universities who have pledged to eliminate their campuses' greenhouse gas emissions over time by:

• completing an emissions inventory;

• within two years, setting a target date and interim milestones for becoming climate neutral;

• taking immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by choosing from a list of short-term actions;

• integrating sustainability into the curriculum and making it part of the educational experience;

• making the action plan, inventory and progress reports publicly available.12

Crimson & Platinum

Spurred by increased demand for climate and sustainability courses and offerings, campuses are dedicating significant funds to cross-campus efforts to create more sustainable institutions. One of the leading campuses pushing towards sustainability is Harvard University and its Harvard Green Campus Initiative (HGCI) — a cross-discipline center 'working to engage the Harvard community in becoming a learning organization and living laboratory dedicated to the pursuit of campus environmental sustainability'.13

The HGCI is run by Leith Sharp, a visionary who has been working in the field for more than a decade. After working in Australia on campus sustainability initiatives, Sharp wrote a paper on campus sustainability in 1999, From Little Victories to Systematic Change, which is a 'must read' for anyone working on campus sustainability and climate action on today's campuses.14

Sharp now runs the HGCI out of Harvard's historic Blackstone building in Cambridge, MA. The building was recently given a Platinum rating by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEEDTM). The project is not only the highest-rated historic renovation project to date, but is also the third highest scoring project ever in the country. According to Sharp:

the building was designed using an integrated design process which is why we came out of it at no added cost. You can certainly spend more on green buildings, but it is essential to understand that it is possible to minimize and even mitigate these additional costs using an integrated design approach, effective energy modeling, well-written specifications, a dedicated design team, and a strong client leader.

The HGCI also now uses the building as a learning tool, and Sharp declares that:

Students use the building and the site for class projects. Various faculty from the GSD [Graduate School of Design] and FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] have hooked up student tours and projects using the innovations we've got here — geothermal, bioswale, energy performance issues. So it's become a really great teaching tool for the university.

Sending out an SOS: ASU's School of Sustainability

Elsewhere, campuses are developing entirely new programs to teach the new field of sustainability studies. Early in 2007, the largest campus sustainability gathering to date brought together leaders from around the country in Tempe, AZ to both catalyze the efforts of the ACUPCC and to launch Arizona State University's (ASU) revolutionary School of Sustainability (SOS).15 SOS runs undergraduate and graduate programs to prepare students to address the complex, interdisciplinary challenges of building a sustainable future. The school and its research arm form the core of ASU's Global Institute of Sustainability.16 As ASU sustainability guru, James Buizer, puts it, 'This is our way to make sustainability a basic tenet of everything ASU does. It has been a transformational exercise'.

What's law got to do with it?

Finally, individual graduate programs are stepping up to the challenge - training future leaders in the focused disciplinary (and related multidisciplinary) skills that they need to solve the current climate crisis. As part of the Energy and Environmental Security Initiative (EESI) at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Kevin Doran and visionary Professor Lakshman Guruswamy are leading law students on an interdisciplinary mission to use innovative legal and policy solutions to address climate change and energy security. Kevin explains:

What we do is help students see the impact of law on all the areas where progress is needed. Whether you're talking about basic science, applied R&D, market development and so forth, law either expands or contracts the universe of possibilities. Our students learn that good legal solutions can't be devised in the abstract. They need to be informed by the very environments and processes they're meant to deal with.

According to Guruswamy, 'We show students how to use law as an instrument for profound social change. We show them what the law can really do'.

Driving a modern industrial revolution (Project MIR)

In the process of using students to transform their campuses, universities will also create the leaders needed to drive a historically unprecedented modern industrial revolution (MIR). The word mir, in Russian, means peace. And the only way to build a global, sustainable peace (if that is really an achievable goal) is to help bring the prosperity we enjoy in the US to the Gaza Strip, to the Lebanese, to the Iraqis, to sub-Saharan Africa, and to the fast-developing Indian and Chinese populations. Today's campuses must churn out both environmental champions and modern industrial revolutionaries — today's Ghandis, Kings and Browers, but also today's Edisons, Rockefellers and Carnegies.

This generation must come together to retrofit 100 million US residences and build 50 million more; replace 500 million old, leaking windows; create 150 million cars that don't need much, if any, gas; transform the commercial and industrial sectors; and find massive, low-cost, low-carbon transportation solutions. These future leaders must literally build a new world. They must combine law, economics, business, environmental studies and engineering to energize a true modern industrial revolution.

In short, today's students must provide the soon to be 9 billion residents of planet Earth with enough food, energy and modern technology to keep global job rates up and mortality rates down. But they must figure out how to do this without breaking the backs and rich diversity of cultures around the world and without the annoying byproducts of CO2, SO2 and other industrial externalities that threaten humanity's very existence.

Although this may seem like a daunting task, history is full of young industrial revolutionaries who — in times of crisis — took the reins and changed the world. We need to change the world again. US colleges and universities must lead the charge — and, indeed, many are stepping forward (see Box 22.2).

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