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(photo) Bob Johnson Workshop
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(photo) Schmeiler Institute
Trend 5 Subcommittee examines
resource utilization, sustainability
Fifth in a series
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University Trend 5 Subcommittee, headed by Langdon Smith, associate professor of geography, geology and the environment, is refining goals and developing work subgroups as it considers the issue of reaching the worldwide point of diminishing returns in the area of resource utilization and sustainability.
The subcommittee's work, which is to be completed by the end of spring semester, will be combined with the work of four other subcommittees to help create the University's new, long-range strategic plan. The new plan will carry SRU to 2025 - and beyond.
SRU President Robert Smith initiated the project at his fall Academic Assembly by charging the taskforce subcommittees with providing input to the new strategic plan. He asked committee members to base their work, in part, on the "7 Revolutions" outlined by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The charge to the Trend 5 Subcommittee pointed out that food, water, and energy are among the defining elements of survival. How well these resources are managed as well as the distribution to needed areas will be factors determining the world's fate. The president urged the committee to consider such pending changes as poor land management and the overuse of fertilizers causing land degradation, soil erosion and desertification on a massive scale in agricultural areas from the Amazon to the Yangtze.
Other factors included in the committee's review are a 2025 prediction that of 3.5 billion people, or nearly half of the world's population, may face serious constraints on their capacity to meet water demands. By 2025, OPEC may account for up to 50 percent of the world supply of oil. Skyrocketing demand - primarily in Asia -is expected to drive these trends. The number of cars in China could rise from 12 million in 2004 to 500 million by 2050. In India, the number of cars could increase from 5 million to 600 million. The charge notes the numbers compare to 200 million vehicles on U.S. roads - a vehicle fleet which consumes about 11 percent of the world's current daily oil output.
Aggregate increases in other sources of energy are expected to be overshadowed by the exponential consumption of coal, oil, and natural gas in the decades ahead. Water scarcity and quality will be a prime determinant of expanding current food production. By 2020, India's demand for water will exceed all sources of supply. The impact of this rise in consumption is regarded as startling in terms of potential geopolitical conflict and environmental consequences. Most believe current trends are not sustainable and resource availability and demand will impact political stability throughout the world.
Sustainable design, currently a resolve at SRU, is becoming "good design." Energy conservation, students raised on environmental awareness and local purchases for economic development all play a role in this development. The president asked, "How do we prepare our students to meet the challenges of these trends?"
"Among the themes we are considering," said Langdon Smith, "are education and research, including pre-and-post assessment of student attitudes on sustainability, increasing student involvement in such areas as a possible 'Light Bulb Brigade,' and service-learning initiatives in sustainability." The brigades could increase student involvement in community sustainability projects, and create more opportunities for service learning initiatives in sustainability. The group will also try to find ways to introduce the idea of sustainability to SRU students they first arrive and will work to increase the involvement of faculty and staff," Landgon Smith said.
A second group within the subcommittee will examine the possibility of the University undergoing a sustainability audit, increased purchases of local food and increasing composting efforts, as well as increasing campuswide recycling efforts. "The group will review efforts toward pursuing carbon neutrality, constructing operations efficient buildings and looking at a greener motor pool," he said.
Another group within the subcommittee is reviewing the administration and finance side of the issue, including such topics as creation of a sustainability report, adding a sustainability officer, a University sustainability committee and creation of a green business incubator. "There are a number of other important and related issues this group will also pursue," Langdon Smith said.
"We have been brainstorming the over-arching goals of the project, and we are moving toward finding recommendations," he said. "In many ways SRU is a leader in sustainability and we would like the University to become a clearing house for sustainability information in the region. We want to ensure SRU is graduating productive graduates who can really make difference in the world," he said.
"Smart people have been talking about this topic for a long time. Al Gore's movie, 'An Inconvenient Truth,' has continued to gain momentum and influence. In 15-25 years students are going go live in a very different world from that of today, and we must prepare them to live in that world," he said.
Langdon Smith, chairperson
associate professor, geography
geology and the environment
director, library services
Mary Ann King
director, academic resources
assistant vice president, construction,
design and management
executive director, University Public
assistant to vice president for
vice president for finance and
associate professor, political science
police supervisor, University Police
assistant professor, library
director, University Union
associate professor, School of
professor, parks, recreation and
assistant director, Office of Residence
associate professor, geography,
geology and the environment
director, alumni relations
director, facilities and planning
director, Institute for Community,
Service-learning and Nonprofit
professor, political science
instructor, physical education
assistant professor, physical education
coordinator, Outdoor Adventures and
associate professor, physical
associate professor, sport
director, Robert A Macoskey Center
for Sustainable Systems Education