Sustainability not worth the wait for U

By Channel Horas

Although campuses across the nation are making efforts to become more “green,” U President Michael Young and administrators have decided that sustainability programs will no longer be implemented on campus.

“After looking at the numbers, we realized that it just wasn’t beneficial to the university as a whole,” Young said. “We would have to put so much money into it now and wouldn’t see the payoff until much later.”

The 2007-2008 school year has seen the formation of an Office of Sustainability, a new recycling program, a President’s Sustainability Advisory Board and the continuation of Campaigns for Sustainable Energy — a program that raises money to purchase wind power.

Young said these programs will be eliminated, and the funds previously allocated to them will be distributed to other programs and advisory boards on campus.

Although the U was ranked No. 11 on the Environmental Protection Agency’s rankings of colleges that bought green energy last year, the cessation of sustainability practices is sure to impact this ranking.

Work on a new steam co-generator has been halted, expensive biodiesel-powered shuttle buses will no longer be used and campus gardens will be paved to provide more parking spaces.

Young has also decided against signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment.

“It has certainly become trendy to be eco-friendly or green,” Young said. “However, the goal of higher education has never been to follow fads — it has been to promote the furthering of student success. Therefore, we as a university will now begin moving toward the goal of being environmentally passive.”

The U will also no longer purchase $110,000 worth of wind power per year, said Chris Hill, a biochemistry professor who has been in charge of buying the wind power for the U since 2006.

Previously, each staff member was encouraged to donate about $30 every year to wind power in an effort to make campus departments climate-neutral, Hill said.

However, it became clear that purchasing wind power was more trouble than it was worth.

“We weren’t bringing anything tangible into the departments from these faculty donations,” Hill said. “It’s all very well to say that we were combating global warming, but really, there’s no real proof that global warming or climate change is actually occurring.”

Melinda Coleman, an environmental chemist and member of Focus the Nation — a national initiative dedicated to finding solutions to climate change — disagreed, calling Hill’s thinking and the U’s decision “dangerous.”

“There is substantial evidence that is accepted by the majority of the scientific community that global warming is affecting the world in a real and a negative way,” Coleman said. “It is only by everyone doing their part that we can save the Earth for future generations.”

Hill pointed out that any scientific “fact” is really just a theory on which a few scientists happen to agree.

“If global warming really is happening, we won’t see its effects — or the effects of the U’s environmental impact — in our generation,” Young said. “We should focus our energies not on wind power but on practices that affect us in the here and now.”

Faculty members will instead be encouraged to contribute their annual $30 to more worthwhile causes, such as those spearheaded by coworkers’ children — Girl Scouts and wrapping-paper fundraisers for example, Hill said.

ASUU President Spencer Pearson supported Young’s decision, saying the Associated Students of the University of Utah never “really felt right” about the sustainability efforts.

“There were just too many factors involved,” Pearson said. “For one thing, each student was paying $1 in student fees to purchase wind power. This year (ASUU leaders) have worked tirelessly to keep money in students’ pockets, and we’re going to continue saving money by cutting extraneous fees like that one. After all, $1 per semester buys a lot of Ramen.”

U students echoed the administration and ASUU’s resolution to be environmentally passive.

“Recycling is a pain,” said Shaela Wall, a junior in communication. “It’s much easier to just have one garbage can.”

Warning: This article should only be read in the context of April Fool’s Day.

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