Happy Campus Sustainability Day

Ashley Thorne

Today is the seventh annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD), a celebration invented by the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP). Other organizations such as Second Nature, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the National Wildlife Federation's Campus Ecology Project, Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium (HEASC), and the New York Times Knowledge Network, are partners in the project. The SCUP website on Campus Sustainability Day says that “CSD is devoted specifically to the achievements of, and challenges for, the tens of thousands of students, faculty, and staff working to instill sustainability principles in higher education institutions and their surrounding communities.” 

Every year the SCUP puts together a webcast to be streamed live on the designated October day. Colleges can pay to participate in the webcast (this year’s, “Sustainability Strategies for Vibrant Campus Communities,” costs $195), and audience members may submit questions via text message to the panelists during the program. Today’s webcast (1:00-2:30 EST) features four presenters, administrators at Dickenson College, Cornell University, Furman University, and the Los Angeles Community College District, respectively. Moderating is Andrew Revkin, a New York Times science reporter who created a Times blog on global warming called Dot Earth.

Campus Sustainability Day was founded in 2002 and the first CSD was observed in 2003 with a telecast called "Got Sustainability? Plan for it! Making Sustainability a Foundation of Higher Education Learning and Practice." Hmm...where have we heard this phrase before? Ah yes, it’s in the mission statement of Second Nature, the Kerry-Heinz-creation and the leading organization in the campus sustainability movement:

Second Nature's mission is to accelerate movement toward a sustainable future by serving and supporting senior college and university leaders in making healthy, just, and sustainable living the foundation of all learning and practice in higher education.

According to the SCUP website, “The contributions of Anthony D. Cortese, president of Second Nature, were key in the conception and development of the first Campus Sustainability Day.” NAS has written about Cortese and his organization in “A First Look at Second Nature.” Second Nature, we found, considers sustainability a tool to redress “past, present, and future maldistribution of resources, privileges and rights of endangered communities, of poor people, and of communities of color.” It believes that the university is the best place to foster sustainability advocacy, and that “The myth of the value-free university, that knowledge is attained for its own sake, stands in contrast to the reality that special interests always play a greater or lesser role.”

With its Second Nature roots, global warming alarmist moderator, and exuberant intentions to “celebrate sustainability in higher education,” Campus Sustainability Day promises to deliver the usual political agenda of the sustainatopians. About 300 American colleges and universities have participated in the CSD webcasts in the past, and many will do so today. Colleges are building their own customized sustainability days around the webcast and for some the festivities last for as long as a week or a month.

NAS won’t be participating in Campus Sustainability Day this year—but though we won’t be watching the webcast, we’ll be watching out for those who cast webs.

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