Furman University Marches Forward on Sustainability Actions

Jennifer Andrews

By Jennifer Andrews,
Director of Program Planning and Coordination

Clean Air-Cool Planet

The week before last I had the great pleasure of returning to what has quickly become one of my favorite campuses: Furman University.  Some of you may remember that Furman was our 2009 campus Climate Champion award recipient and the reasons behind my return trip this spring were proof positive President David Shi, Dr. Angela Halfacre and team have not been content to rest on their laurels.

March 1st-5th was Sustainability Week at Furman, which kicked off with a panel discussion featuring former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, President David Hales from College of the Atlantic and Andrew Revkin, formerly of the New York Times , discussing the challenge of carbon neutrality.  Then on Tuesday evening, campus and community members gathered to celebrate the dedication of the new Shi Center for Sustainability, a beautiful, sustainably-constructed building with many green features on demonstration.  While I had carefully made my travel plans with attendance at the panel discussion and dedication in mind, a southern snowstorm brought air travel more or less to a stop, so while former governor Christine Todd Whitman was marking the dedication of the Shi Center with a talk about communicating global warming to diverse audiences, I was cooling my heels on an Atlanta runway cursing the weather/climate gods.  Perhaps not exactly ironic, but coincidental enough to be darkly amusing—extreme weather, anyone?  Luckily, the event (dedication, not snowstorm) was videotaped, so I’m told I will be able to catch Whitman’s speech online very soon.

I did finally arrive in the aptly named Greenville, and was still able to enjoy two days worth of additional events: a Climate Action Planning train-the-trainers workshop  sponsored by Second Nature that featured Furman’s own Angela Halfacre, as well as Middlebury’s Jack Byrne.   Representatives from leading campuses across the Southeast attended to learn how to better understand and facilitate the climate action planning process—both for the benefit of their own campuses and to help their peers.  This workshop built upon the three-day climate action planning workshop sponsored by The Duke Endowment and hosted by Furman in early 2009, about which CA-CP recently released a case study  to demonstrate to other campuses how to effectively engage their stakeholders in the planning process.

Finally on Thursday, Dr. Shi and local business leader Minor Shaw hosted a luncheon, co-sponsored by CA-CP and Furman’s Richard W. Riley Institute for Government, Politics and Public Leadership, for business executives, elected officials and others in Upstate South Carolina.  This is an important audience these days, home as South Carolina is to Senator Lindsay Graham, who together with Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and John Kerry of Massachusetts is crafting a climate and energy bill for introduction later this spring.  The luncheon event featured conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and John McCain’s advisor on domestic policy during the 2008 campaign, who came to share this message: that putting a price on carbon is the best way to improve energy and national security while creating jobs and keeping the US competitive globally. It was a common-sense, straightforward message that seemed to be well-received by the energy executives, chamber of commerce representatives, business interests, professors, clergy and others in the room. 

The great theme for the week, voiced by Christine Todd Whitman and Douglas Holtz-Eakin and evidenced in anecdotes from the sustainability and energy coordinators from campuses across the region, was that climate change is about not only our environmental future, but our economic outlook, world influence and long-term quality of life.  And that these are messages that can resonate with broad audiences.  Along these lines, we have a great webinar coming up in April featuring Cara Pike of The Social Leadership project; if you’re interested in effective messaging around climate and energy issues, you’ll want to tune in!

Explore posts in the same categories: Campus Climate Action, Planning, Policy

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