The acclaimed author and scientist Tim Flannery spoke at Colgate Monday night to an attentive crowd. There wasn’t a definitive message Flannery sent, rather a consortium of anecdotes and ideas that were meant to provoke thought. Flannery was invited because his book, The Weather Makers, was chosen as the summer reading for the incoming class of 2011. Even though his book was chosen as summer reading, his presence and intelligence were invaluable for all those that heard his lecture. Flannery’s lecture was one of the finest lectures over the past three years at Colgate. Unlike the Freakonomics lecture, Flannery did not simply summarize his book. And unlike another lecture this year, we didn’t get the commandments according to Ben Stein.
While Flannery spoke, he highlighted the importance of international cooperation, a distinctive response in the next decade, and useful ways of conceptualizing the climate crisis problem. As the lecture moved into the Q&A session, one of the most interesting and pertinent subjects arose. Several students came to the microphone and asked about Colgate’s carbon impact, and what we could do as students to avert climate change. Among the things Flannery listed are buying compact fluorescent “light globes” (light bulbs) and improving the fuel the vehicle fleet runs on. Most importantly, Flannery made a point about the new Ho Science Center.
The new Ho Science Center was touted as a building that would revolutionize inter-disciplinary science in higher education. Even with the advanced classrooms, architecture and equipment, the Ho building still lags behind many new campus buildings around the country. Other schools have begun introducing green buildings. For whatever reason or reasoning, forms of alternative energy were left out of the Ho design. As Flannery noted, a main cause of lack of action is the absence of political will. Flannery commented that we as Colgate students have to demand more progressive building and thinking from our school.
In terms of being green, Colgate seems to be hovering in the middle of the pack. We have a biomass plant, but our recycling standards are nothing to hang our hat on. As we move forward as students, a school, and a community, it is vital for us to consider our voice and action so that we may be able to move toward a sustainable future. It is important to do this since we will be sharing a common environment in the years to come.