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Sustainability at Wake Forest

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Sustainability course offerings continue to grow

Monday, August 29th, 2016

The fifth annual Magnolias Curriculum Project brought together ten faculty members on May 11-12, 2016, to explore extending sustainability education across disciplines. Ron Von Burg, assistant professor in the Department of Communications, and Luke Johnston, associate professor of Religion and Environmental Studies, facilitated this year’s workshop.

The workshop aims to build an interdisciplinary community of scholars dedicated to addressing sustainability and empowering these scholars to incorporate sustainability into their own courses.

This year’s cohort was a great illustration of the breadth of faculty with participation from the following departments: divinity, art, politics and international affairs, education, English, psychology and anthropology.

“I was probably most wonderfully surprised by the range of colleagues I met and formed relationships with—I really feel everyone brought something new and interesting to my world and I want to continue these relationships,” a Magnolias Curriculum Project participant said.

During this two-day workshop, participants discussed sustainability literature, developed key learning objectives for their students, and shared information from their own unique fields of study. This innovative approach to curricular change provides faculty with an intellectually stimulating environment.

“I left the workshop invigorated with new ideas and with a better framework for understanding sustainability at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, regionally and globally,” a participant stated in the workshop evaluation.

Following the workshop, faculty participants submitted a syllabus for a course in which sustainability-related outcomes are integrated. These courses are either classes the faculty have been teaching and plan to teach again, or completely new courses they are developing.

An example of a new sustainability course offering is Andrew Gurstelle’s Introduction to Museum Studies which explores sustainable heritage development, the long-term sustainability of cultural sites, and the idea of cultural landscapes as social constructs.

Each year this workshop results in an increased number of courses that support a wide variety of sustainability learning objectives. This gives students from all disciplines the opportunity to pursue knowledge about sustainability through a variety of lenses. The 2016 cohort brought the number of Magnolias Curriculum Project participants up to 52.

The faculty’s revised and new syllabi are available online and serve as examples for future cohorts.

Stottlemyer to head Environmental Program

Monday, August 15th, 2016

ericDr. Eric Stottlemyer has been named director of the Wake Forest Environmental Program— adding yet another hat to his current work as an assistant teaching professor of the Writing Program and as the faculty director of the Learn, Experience, Navigate, Solve (LENS) Global Sustainability program.

Stottlemyer will lead the Environmental Program as former Director Dr. Abdessadek Lachgar begins a year-long sabbatical to further his research before returning to a professorship within the Chemistry Department.

In his youth, Stottlemyer recalls running around the woods and swimming in the lakes and rivers near his parents’ remote cabin in northern Michigan—the place where his passion for the environment originates. Since this point, Stottlemyer has been an active proponent of environmental education making his directorship of the Environmental Program a natural step.

Professors attend Paris climate talks

Monday, December 7th, 2015

This article was originally published by the WFU News Center.  

Knox and Catanoso lay out Road to Paris – Photo by Ann Nguyen

Knox and Catanoso lay out Road to Paris – Photo by Ann Nguyen

Wake Forest University Professors John Knox and Justin Catanoso are attending the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris, as representatives from more than 190 countries seek to work out a new international agreement on climate change. 

Known as COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties is the annual meeting of all countries that want to take action for the climate. The conference started Nov. 30 and continues through Dec. 11. Knox and Catanoso leave this week.

Knox is an internationally recognized expert on human rights law and international environmental law and serves as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment. Catanoso is director of the university’s journalism program and is a veteran journalist supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Both serve as board members for Wake Forest’s Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and both have been busy raising awareness leading up to COP21 about why the Paris talks are so important.

“What makes it a little bit unusual is that each country will be deciding for itself what it can do,” said Knox. “There will not be a one-size-fits-all type of agreement.”

Before Thanksgiving, Knox and Catanoso hosted “Roadmap to Paris: Your Guide to the International Climate Talks”  on campus, discussing the likely trajectory of these climate talks. They are both encouraged that this year’s talks will result in real impact as the largest countries responsible for carbon dioxide emissions — United States, China, India and the European Union — among others, are on board. A likely agreement will chart a path toward the world’s reduced reliance on coal, oil and gas and expanded use of renewable energy such as wind and solar power.

To review the available coverage and learn more:

  • New York Times article featuring Knox
  • Raleigh News & Observer article by Catanoso featuring Knox, also ran in The Charlotte Observer
  • Greensboro News & Record op-ed piece by Catanoso about how Pope Francis — who will have a delegation in attendance for the first time — may influence climate talks
  • Thought Economics interview with Knox
  • WGHP appearance by Catanoso to discuss climate change and Paris
  • Winston-Salem Journal article featuring Knox and Catanoso

Follow Knox on Twitter @srenvironment and Catanoso @jcatanoso for updates from Paris.

By Bonnie Davis and Lisa Snedeker of the WFU News Center

Goodstein Introduces the Power Dialog

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

Power Dialog2Anticipated speaker Dr. Eban Goodstein of Bard College found himself travel-locked in D.C. on November 10, unable to make his long-awaited appearance at Wake Forest.

The upshot? Goodstein still managed to deliver his message to students loud and clear: it’s now or never for college students to stake their claim in the national climate change conversation.

Two hours before the Republican debate kicked off in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Goodstein settled in at Wake Forest via webcam to stress students’ role in mobilizing climate change initiatives despite the politicized efforts to keep the conversation off the table. Spearheading a new campaign called the Power Dialog, Goodstein is calling for students to engage in face-to-face discourse with climate legislators in all fifty states.

“There are lots of ways for students to offer their perspective on this,” said Goodstein. “And by sparking this discussion in all fifty states collectively, we’ll create a media platform. Presidential candidates will see that students want to have a voice in the matter.”

State-level climate change conversations were forced after President Obama unveiled his Clean Power Plan in August 2015. With the goal of reducing national carbon emissions from power plants by 32% by 2030, the Clean Power Plan requires each state to come up with an implementation program to meet specific emission reduction targets within fifteen years.

As the EPA’s pressure on states to enact policy changes reached beyond partisan tensions, Goodstein sought the opportunity to recruit educated young people who will witness the long-term impacts of today’s decisions.

“While countless industries weigh in on these matters, lawmakers aren’t connecting with students,” said Goodstein. “You’re the ones who will be alive to feel the effects of these measures in 2050, and your children will the ones reaping the consequences of our action or inaction in 2100.”

In creating the Power Dialog, Goodstein provides students with a voice in measures that will not only determine their future, but the future of the planet.

The Dialog is working now to organize a meeting with five hundred college students in every state capital during the week of April 4, 2016. These students will get a policy-making update from their state legislators and will be able to give input in the process.

In Raleigh, Governor McCroy and his advisors are currently devising a strategy to cut its emission rate from the power sector by at least 40% in the next fifteen years.  While this conversation ensues, students from North Carolina have yet to join the 23 states already on board with the Dialog.

“It’s not an ordinary day out there and it’s not going to be an ordinary day for the rest of your lives,” said Goodstein. “You’re either going to change the future or you’re not.”

Looking to get involved? Learn more about the Power Dialog here and contact us at sustainability@wfu.edu to be part of the movement.

–By Taylor Olson, ’16

Campus Sustainability Awards

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

2015 Champions of Change award winners

On the 45th anniversary of Earth Day, change agents for sustainability across the Wake Forest campus gathered for the Champions of Change campus sustainability awards. The awards program recognizes the creativity and innovation of individuals and teams who work to integrate principles of sustainability into operations, teaching, and engagement. Dean of the School of Divinity, Gail O’Day, and Chief of Staff for the Office of the President, Mary Pugel, presented the awards.

Winners were recognized in four categories: Resource Conservation, Service and Social Action, Teaching Research and Engagement, and Bright Ideas.

  • The Office of the Registrar and the Surplus Property Program won in the Resource Conservation category. This year, the Office of the University Registrar completed four projects that saved over 13,000 pieces of paper, as well as printing and mailing costs for the university. Since its start in 2011, the Surplus Property Program has diverted nearly 250,000 lbs. of waste from the landfill, repurposed over 3,000 pieces of furniture and other items for use on campus, captured close to 30,000 lbs of residential electronic waste through a free pickup program, and helped the university avoid over $1 million dollars of new purchase costs.
  • Department of Religion faculty member Steve Boyd was named as a winner in the Service and Social Action category. Steve was recognized for his leadership of the Religion and Public Engagement Program and his statewide organizing of Scholars for North Carolina’s Future. Since its approval in 2011, 17 students have graduated with the Religion and Public Engagement concentration, and a record 12 more are set to graduate this year.
  • Ron Von Burg was recognized for Teaching, Research and Engagement. Ron teaches the popular interdisciplinary undergraduate course Humanity & Nature; taught the communications workshop and led a graduate research course on Coasts and Climate Change in Belize this year for the new MA in Sustainability; and directs undergraduate students in writing and performing plays for school-aged children and “moot court”-style debates on sustainability issues annually. He is also an alumnus of Wake Forest’s own sustainability-across-the curriculum workshop, the Magnolias Project, and is co-facilitating that workshop for the second time this year.
  • JL Bolt and the construction team of Facilities and Campus Services and Frank Shelton with Residence Life and Housing were recognized for a Bright Idea partnership. The construction team upcycled discarded bed frames from residence halls into white boards, bulletin board frames, safety bed rails, storage racks, benches, tables, mirror replacements, and mail boxes.

Additionally, Green Team captains Barbara Macri and Kate Ruley were named champions of change for their departmental leadership. As the Green Team captain for Human Resources, Barbara facilitated a department-wide sustainability goal-setting pilot, working collaboratively to develop a range of goals to meet the varying needs of her colleagues.

Kate coordinates the tracking of our institutional food purchases, identifying and calculating what we spend on regionally-grown, organic, and fair-trade-certified items. She mentors the team’s sustainability intern, and advocates for sustainable choices in menu development and procurement.

65% of our departments and units across campus are now led by Green Team captains – they support their colleagues with the resources and encouragement to integrate sustainability into everyday workplace decisions.

Learn more about the Champions of Change award program and explore a list of last year’s winners.

A Lesson about Values

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
TS Designs Field Trip

Photo by Scott McCullough, MA’15

This February graduate students in the Applied Sustainability class visited TS Designs, a Certified Benefit Corporation making t-shirts in Burlington, North Carolina. The students spent the morning with company President, Eric Henry, who aims to create the “highest quality, most sustainable, printed apparel,” measuring success against the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. Henry discussed his take on sustainability, and the vision for the company that calls North Carolina home.

Henry’s vision, and triple bottom line approach, is a consequence of the 1990’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). TS Designs, which Henry had operated since 1977, nearly closed its doors when customers and competitors fled to Mexico for cheaper labor and cheaper inputs all across the supply chain. The company, whose bread and butter was 50-cent screen prints for some of the world’s largest apparel brands, could not maintain a commitment to keeping anything local — NAFTA had all but eliminated that possibility. Henry was forced to reinvent if he was to stay in business.

Now TS Designs’ product is more than an automated screen print — it’s a t-shirt, and what’s behind the t-shirt: the set of values a company operating on a human-scale holds. In its reinvention, Henry and his colleagues consciously created a model that is based

on human-scale relationships across the supply chain. By keeping it local, they keep it accountable. Henry is accountable to his employees, and they to him; he’s accountable to his suppliers, and they to him. Scott McCullough, MA’15, one of the students on the trip noted that “TS Designs is a business that not only serves its customers, but serves its community in a number of innovative and meaningful ways. Eric understands that a business can’t be sustainable and resilient if it doesn’t seek to improve the community around it. It was really refreshing and inspiring to see what Eric and TS Designs are doing.”

The critical tool that TS Designs implements to achieve success, and accountability, is full transparency. When you buy a Cotton of the Carolinas t-shirt, one of TS Designs’ innovative brands, you support a “radically” transparent supply chain. Turn the shirt inside out, and the colors of the thread give you access to a map and the ability to track your tee, literally from dirt to shirt. According to Andrew Wilcox, MA’15, “…it creates a business ecosystem where money and resources stay in local communities and regions instead of hemorrhaging out to far off factories and headquarters. The multiplier effect of local business is compelling.”

Transparency for TS Designs isn’t just about supply chains; Henry was even transparent with the students about sustainability being a journey, not a destination. He’s not trying to hold up the company as a model of all things perfectly sustainable (whatever that might mean). It’s not perfect; it’s blemished in places, but it reflects an important journey on a values-driven path. His model clearly reflects what is important to him, and what is clearly important to his many customers.

In the context of a course on Applied Sustainability, this on-site lesson provided students the opportunity to interrogate theories supporting and opposing values-based business models with a business leader who’s got skin in the game.

TS Designs is a Certified Benefit Corporation Operation making t-shirts in Burlington North Carolina. For more information visit tsdesigns.com

Jon Clift, MA in Sustainability Associate Director of Outreach

PRO+ECT Event Increases Awareness

Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Protect2

Click to view more photos from the event

For a conservation event with potentially apocalyptic connotations, Thursday’s “Pledging Responsibility for Oceans and Environmental Change Today” in Brendle Recital Hall was frank, optimistic and self-aware: panelist and scientist Nancy Knowlton even pledged to keep audience members “not utterly depressed,” to noticeable titters.

The panel, an effort to engage the public on the importance of oceans and their nascent fragility as a result of climate change, garnered a sizable crowd, perhaps partially due to the celebrity of the panelists speaking: Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic oceanographer; Knowlton, Sant Chair for Marine Science at Smithsonian’s Natural Museum of Natural History; and Amanda Leland, vice president for Oceans at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Despite the preliminary call for optimism, the scientists made the audience aware of the current dire state of the world’s oceans. Overfishing and pollution have ravaged our oceans to noticeable decline: species are becoming extinct, including New England’s famed Atlantic cod. Forty percent of fisheries are in jeopardy.

The implications, Leland stated, are as environmental as they are economic: Somali pirates originated as fisherman who ran out of fish to extract. In addition, three million of the world’s population depends on the oceans as its only source of protein.

Knowlton and Leland revealed that the solution to ocean deterioration lies largely in policy, and that increased management of fishing policies can improve fish quantities in the ocean and decrease overall waste.

However, in a visit to an undergraduate and graduate lab classroom earlier that day, Earle argued that extracting any organisms from the ocean would be problematic to the structure of the food chain, according to Wake Forest professor Dr. Katie Lotterhos, who attended the earlier session and whose area of research is marine biology.

Hope for ocean renewal is within reach, the scientists said, with policy and attitude change: “Fish are not just clumps of meat waiting for us to extract them,” said Earle.

Instead, proper fishing and ocean regulations have the capacity to revitalize communities, ecosystems, and expose the “ocean’s natural resilience.”

Lotterhos, who invited the three scientists to campus, hoped the event left people “feeling cautiously optimistic.”

“We will have to take responsibility soon if we want to have sustainable ocean ecosystems, but it is not too late yet,” she said.

By Elena Dolman (’15), Staff Writer

 

Choreography: Dance & Nature

Monday, January 5th, 2015

dance-photo-enewsletter2Dance is an increasingly popular art form for the investigation of cultural understandings of nature. Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, engaged her students in just such an investigation this semester. Soriano, who was a member of the 2014 Magnolias Curriculum Project cohort, modified her Dance Composition class to incorporate sustainability.

Soriano challenged her students to choreograph a piece based on nature, specifically something growing in Reynolda Gardens. She asked them to observe various plants, and then choose one to explore, taking into account its color, structure, growth and movement; how it might change with the seasons, and how it might react to light. With this information, the students developed their own movement studies, aligning their dances with nature.

After the assignment, the class performed Anna Halprin’s Planetary Dance to witness how other choreographers integrate nature themes into their work.

The students were also asked to consider how an art form like dance might become more sustainable through rehearsal, repetition, and thoughtful use of time and resources. She encouraged them to consider what made dance sustainable, and to journal their thoughts and experiences.

Annie Stockstill, a student in Soriano’s class, reflected that by continuing to dance well-known pieces, “I am preserving the ongoing life of the dances, and therefore acting out sustainability.” Serena Cates expressed similar feelings, stating “Personally, I choose to perceive dance as sustainable because, although the technique, style, or choreography alters over time, the motivation and impact of it has remained.”

Reimagining How the World is Fed

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

shiva-news-release-header“Rejuvenating the earth should be the outcome of the food system.” Vandana Shiva made this call for awareness and action last week during her visit to Wake Forest University. On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Shiva lectured as a part of the “Make Every Bite Count” speaker series, organized by multiple partners. On Wednesday, Nov. 5, Shiva led a community forum with students, faculty, and staff at the School of Divinity.

The “Make Every Bite Count” series featured other events including a panel discussion and film screening of GMO OMG with filmmaker Jeremy Seifert. The series aimed to investigate the role of agricultural biodiversity in our local, regional, and global food systems. The final keynote lecture by Shiva highlighted the challenges and opportunities of feeding the world with sustainable agriculture.

Shiva is the author of Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development and the founder of Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote sustainable farming and fair trade. Her newest book, Who Really Feeds the World?, will be available next year.

During her lecture and in the community forum, Shiva consistently referred to the “patenting of life,” in relation to the patents held on seeds by industrial food producers. “Ecosystems produce food, not companies,” she said. “Destroying seeds destroys life. Saving seeds is an ethical duty.” The world is at a point where the diversity of creation needs to be reclaimed and valued for that diversity.  Saving seeds is one way to preserve and continue the variety of life forms around us.

“We are not masters of the earth, we are a part of the earth family,” Shiva said during Tuesday’s lecture. “The process of commercial agriculture displaces diversity and people. There is a division in labor and knowledge.”

Shiva has concerns not only for the production methods of agriculture, but also the impact of food on health and wellbeing. “How we grow food is related to disease,” she said. She gave examples on how malnutrition occurs because food lacks essential minerals and the ways toxins from the chemicals used impact bodies in negative and life-threatening ways.

“Rejuvenating the earth should be the outcome of the food system.” This call echoed as Shiva gave glimpses of hope about the work that is being done and the work religious leaders are called to do on food issues. She recalled the abolition movements in the U.S. and India as a historical framework of resistance movements that changed social practices. She encouraged faith communities to plant “gardens of hope” as a beginning point of resistance. “Faith communities throughout the world already are responsible for feeding communities through soup kitchens and food pantries,” Shiva said. “Let’s link the feeding and outreach to the growing of food.”

Shiva’s call to action resounded with many. Fred Bahnson, director of the School of Divinity’s Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative, said it was encouraging to have her on campus. “She inspired us, challenged us, and made us laugh. To hear this global food leader talk about the importance of faith communities working to create food justice and ecological healing was especially encouraging, because it means we’re on the right track.”

Second-year divinity student Pia Diggs is interested in learning more about holistic health and how the food industry is impacting the food she consumes. “After hearing Shiva speak, I have an increased awareness to be more cognizant about my intake of food and a greater concern for how it is being produced,” she said. Diggs worked in a community health center last summer in a low-income area of Greensboro, NC that has been designated as a food desert. “What you eat effects your mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional states, so if you are not eating well-prepared food, it will directly affect your entire being.”

Links of Interest

Focus on food in the forest – WFU News Center

(http://news.wfu.edu/2014/11/05/focus-on-food-in-the-forest/)

Make Every Bite Count Fall Speaker Series

(http://sustainability.wfu.edu/make-every-bite-count/)

Food, Faith, and Religious Leadership Initiative)

(http://divinity.wfu.edu/food-and-faith/)

Thrive: Well-Being at Wake Forest University

(http://thrive.wfu.edu/)

About Wake Forest University School of Divinity

The Wake Forest University School of Divinity is a growing, dynamic and ecumenical theological institution that prepares men and women to be religious leaders in a changing world. The School currently offers the Master of Divinity degree and several dual degrees in law, bioethics, counseling, education, and sustainability offered jointly with other schools of the University. Through imaginative courses and diverse programs of community engagement, students are equipped to be agents of justice, reconciliation, and compassion in Christian churches and other ministries.

By Mark Batten, School of Divinity

Spencer Finch: color / temperature

Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Spencer Finch: Sky; Over Franz Josef glacier April 8, 2008, 10:40 am, 2008, commercial ice machine and related elements, water, dye. photo: Paul Bright

Spencer Finch: Sky; Over Franz Josef glacier April 8, 2008, 10:40 am, 2008, commercial ice machine and related elements, water, dye. photo: Paul Bright

On October 21st, the exhibition Spencer Finch: color / temperature, at the Hanes Gallery, culminated with a talk by the artist in the Kulynych Auditorium. Finch engages in a close observation of nature and natural systems, tying the natural world to that of art, literature, and philosophy, expressed particularly in the properties and perception of light. He filters his fundamentally empirical approach through a poetic, eccentric sensibility that owes much to American transcendentalism and the uncanny awareness evident in the work of writers like Emily Dickinson (in his talk, Finch admitted to being a “groupie” of Dickinson and her work). Pragmatic, but also idealist and romantic, his work is in part a summation of 19th century sensibility brought into what is now being called the Anthropocene, a geological period reflecting the impact of human influence.

In his talk, Spencer Finch emphasized, with characteristic modesty and humor, the provisional nature of his research and process, even though he employs the tools and techniques of scientific measurement and observation. The centerpiece of the exhibition at Wake Forest was an ice machine adjusted to cycle water that has been color-calibrated to match that of the sky above the Franz Josef glacier (New Zealand) at a precise date and time. It then “calves” as ice into a basin, melts into a sky-blue pool, and is recycled.

Finch’s work posits us in a fraught relationship with the nature he observes and records the workings of. His creative process transforms and reinterprets those observations and experiences; his work helps us understand our position vis a vis “nature” (and its phenomena), even as we alter it.

Two things in particular stand out from Spencer Finch’s talk: his work (like Dickinson’s) takes the natural, the intimate, and the particular and creates a metaphor for our being in the universe; and he -repeatedly and knowingly, despite his assiduous methods- demonstrates the futility of quantifying the hue of human experience.

By Paul Bright, Director, Hanes Art Gallery