Next week, an initiative you will be voting on will position UCSB to become a national and even global leader towards sustainable design. The Green Initiative Fund will propel UCSB to the forefront of institutions proactively confronting the realities of climate change and global warming, and will expand the educational opportunities available to students here at this living laboratory we call UCSB.
Human society is at a crucial point: Billions of people on the planet are eager to develop to a level at which we won’t be able to sustain ourselves if we continue to operate at the status quo. They will demand energy, clean water, improved health and a high standard of living. Environmentally preferable processes will be a significant step in this direction. In order to meet these needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, we will require cleaner, renewable and more efficient products and services that create zero waste and have a positive impact on both the health of our bodies and the life that surrounds us.
“So, what’s in it for me?” you might ask. What isn’t? Green technology and environmentally preferable products and services are the next industrial revolution; they are transforming markets and improving our relationship with the environment. Creating a student fund on this campus that provides a vehicle for these projects to come to life more effectively will improve everyone’s prospects for a better future. And they will help you. Graduating from a university that is a leader in advancements toward sustainability and having a knowledge of the tools and strategies necessary to tackle the challenges of the 21st century will give students an advantage in future job markets.
Take some time to examine the current climate – there is no better place to start. Our universities are centers for intellectual and technological growth, and the manner in which we develop and grow is highly visible to those around us. The purchasing power of the University of California surpasses that of entire nations on the planet. We have the capacity to transform both markets and society, and an ability to do so in a positive manner.
This couldn’t come at a more pressing time. The University of California has already established itself as a leader, and this campus in particular is a focal point of that effort, but funding is far from widely available. Indeed, all new construction strives to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver status, a level above the UC system-wide goal of LEED certified status. However, roughly 2 to 4 percent of buildings are new construction, while existing buildings comprise the vast majority and don’t apply to the UC Green Building Policy and Clean Energy Standard. TGIF would move beyond that and embrace the projects necessary for UCSB to take the next crucial steps. What we do on this campus resonates across the UC system and throughout the state of California.
The passing of TGIF will send a strong message that students are dedicated to bringing UCSB toward a positive transformation into the future and want to be a part of the decision making process. TGIF would ensure that funds for the continuation of the many student sustainability projects on campus would be continually available through funded internships and educational opportunities. It is not merely a vote for several dollars a quarter to help fund more sustainable projects on campus, but for a new paradigm that embraces sustainability and confronts the realities of the world we live in without fear or the folly that someone else will solve the problems we have created.
The realities of the 21st century cannot be lost on us. The decision you make in next week’s election will have a ripple affect beyond the boundaries of our campus community. We live in an interconnected world, and it is one in which our local choices can impact the global community. There is still much hope, but much to be done. Leadership is not always requested by those who assume the role, but it is a responsibility that must be answered.
Scott Mac Kenzie is the sustainable procurement coordinator for UCSB.