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AASHE 2011: Thoughtfulness and Action

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m at AASHE in Pittsburgh this week. I’m attending the conference in two roles: as a staff member at Berklee involved with the sustainability committee and as a student in Tufts’ Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program. I really felt pulled back and forth between these roles on the first day. Between the STARS workshop, the student summit, the keynote speech, and the expo hall, I was running around like crazy, even missing lunch. No wonder they have a meditation room!

Bill McKibben

There was a dramatic difference between the very practical workshop in the morning and the student summit keynote by Bill McKibben in the afternoon. I’ve always thought McKibben’s protests were an inefficient use of energy, but I can see how his enthusiasm for them can be infectious. He’s an entertaining speaker, and his emphasis on the immediacy of climate change is welcome, but I’m worried that he discourages students from doing anything but protesting. At one point he seemed to disparage the point of the entire conference by calling it all just “changing lightbulbs in your dorms.”

K. Christian Bayart from Macalester College reports on the Sustainability Student Worker Network he started.

Luckily, the student presentations after his talk showed that not everyone shared his views. I was especially impressed by the student who created a sustainability student employee network (sometimes by co-opting pieces of jobs in other department that weren’t being fully utilized) and the students who organized their college’s STARS data collection (by making it the final project for an Environmentalism 101 class).

Majora Carter’s keynote detailed her work with Sustainable South Bronx and her consulting company, the Majora Carter Group. Her entrepreneurial mentality and eloquence are so strong that they made me feel at the same time inspired and inadequate. Really—check out her TED talk.

AASHE executive director Paul Rowland pulled it all together when he exhorted the assembled 2,000 sustainability professionals to thoughtfulness, but warned “thoughtful hermits are probably good people—and they probably have a very small carbon footprint—but that’s not sufficient to make a difference in the world.” Harried from a day of running around and wanting nothing more than to shut myself away in my hotel room, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. We’re all doing a lot of thinking this week; now we just have to get back to work and turn that into action.


Comment from Jason Braley
Time October 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I have such a major crush on Majora Carter right now.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time October 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Me, too!

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