Home > Newsroom

Quotes from Earth Day celebration

earthday
2009-04-22

Allyn Steele, Sustainability Coordinator

Welcome to Wofford’s celebration of Earth Day 2009. It’s a beautiful day. It’s also the official launch of Wofford’s Gold, Black & Green initiative. There’s a website you can check out. You’re about to hear some comments on Gold, Black & Green, as well as a variety of efforts made by the Office of Sustainability, the Presidents Climate Commitment task force… all of the work that we’ve done so far this year and all that we have planned.

 

Benjamin B. Dunlap, Wofford president

When I was the age of you graduating seniors, it suddenly occurred to me that I owed a great deal to my parents, who had sacrificed in order for me to go to college. So somewhat awkwardly I approached my mother and said, “Mom, I just want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me the last 21 years.” Kind of a dumb thing for a son to say to his mother. She looked at me with consternation and she said, “Son, in a relay race you do not return the baton to the person who gave it to you.”

As it turned out, that meant a lot to me because in both high school and college I ran track and one of my events was the mile relay. If you’ve ever run in the relay, you know that they typically put the fastest runners in the first and last positions. I ran number three. The slowest runner usually runs number two. Often I’d wait at my mark for the second runner to come around the last turn, extending the baton. There was anxiety and anticipation. Almost invariably, the second runner had lost ground, and I realized that my task was to make up what ground I could and pass the baton to the final runner, who would win the race if it could be won.

Your generation is in the position I was in, of the number three runner on a relay team. I want to tell you that my generation has run a very poor leg, at least as far as environmental sustainability is concerned. We’ve coped with all sorts of difficulties in the course of our leg, but we have ignored what Earth Day is attempting to address. And we are passing you the baton in a very difficult situation. You will take it from our hands and you will run faster than we did. But you’re not just running against the other runners on the track. It’s not just the human teams you are competing against or for that matter competing for. It is literally a race against time to save the Earth.

I have signed the Presidents Climate Commitment on behalf of the college, and we have goals that we are attempting to reach. We intend to develop means to track our carbon footprint. We intend to introduce into the curriculum issues of sustainability and climate action, and indeed we are already doing so with the construction of the Glendale Shoals Environmental Studies Center, a new environmental studies major that will be directed by Kay Savage, who will be a new professor at Wofford beginning in the Fall. And we aspire to a goal of carbon neutrality and ecological sustainability in the future.

This is a very important commitment, a matter of life and death for other species as well as our own. I hope that today and every day you will forgive my generation for the poor race that we’ve run and you will take up the baton and pass it into the hands of those who follow you with a good chance of winning the race.

 

Bob Keasler, Wofford senior vice president of operations

There is a reason that only 500 out of more than 3,000 colleges and universities in our country have signed the Presidents Climate Commitment. You were asked to sign that before many schools had done the study to see what their carbon footprint was. I would like to take this opportunity to tell Dr. Dunlap on behalf of the college that it took courage to move forward with this, to truly understand what carbon neutral would maybe be in 2020. To understand that it was the right thing to do, and that by setting this goal, it would move this college forward. We did it because it was the right thing to do. It is an issue that you in your lifetime will deal with every day. I think it’s important to recognize that courage.

The climate commitment is now reorganized into a task force of students, alumni, faculty and staff to set about creating an action plan to reach this goal. In that process, we’ve changed over 50 different policies and procedures on campus. Many of those things you may not recognize but understand that they are ongoing. For instance, we have reduced the amount of water and fertilizer that we use on the grounds by more than 50 percent, yet the campus is still beautiful. We use bio diesel fuel in our equipment. A lot of student affairs and activities have come from this. The emphasis on bicycles on campus by WOCOGG itself. Many activities are ongoing here at the college.

Over the next year or so there will be subcommittees that form as part of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. You will have opportunities. We need your participation. Please give us your time. It is your issue and will be your issue for life.

Right now I’d like to take the opportunity to present this first annual green report of Wofford College. It talks about how we started, how far we’ve come, and where the college is headed in the future. I’d like to take the opportunity at this time to present it to the president.