New environmental policy a crucial step

Last Thursday, the Campus Planning Committee voted unanimously to propose the environmental policy statement drafted the previous year by the Campus Environmental Advisory Committee (CEAC) to President Schapiro and the Strategic Planning Committee. It is imperative that the Strategic Planning Committee adopt the statement and subsequently mandate the development of a long-term Campus Sustainability Plan in order to reduce Williams College’s impact on the environment. I applaud the administration for the recent steps it has taken to reduce Williams’ contribution to global deforestation and climate change. Buildings and Grounds is currently installing a co-generator in its power plant, which will dramatically improve the plant’s efficiency. In the Schow atrium, Dining Services has opened the Eco-cafe, serving fair trade and organic coffee and tea. Office Services has switched to printing on paper containing 30 percent post-consumer recycled content.

Nevertheless, the institution-wide commitment embodied in the policy statement is essential. An environmental policy statement will provide a framework for implementing further environmentally responsible practices at Williams; this often requires collaboration among the various administrative departments on campus. The statement will also encourage the individual members of all administrative departments to assess the environmental impact of their department’s practices and seek possible sustainable alternatives.

Global climate change, growing scarcity of fresh water and loss of productive agricultural land, forests and biodiversity all threaten the security and well-being of humanity. Fortunately, governments, businesses and universities around the world are beginning to respond in order to reverse these trends. This summer in Johannesburg, South Africa, government officials, non-government organizations, academics and business leaders from around the world will convene at the United Nations Earth Summit.

Our very own town of Williamstown has become a member of an international coalition of Cities for Climate Protection, joining such important urban centers as New York City, Rome, Berlin, Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro. This summer,Williamstown will conduct an audit of its current greenhouse gas emissions in order to develop a plan to reduce those emissions. In addition, the Williamstown Elementary School recently received a grant from the state to install photovoltaic solar panels on its roof as to reduce its fossil fuel consumption. Colleges across the country, including Middlebury, Brown, University of Massachusetts and North Carolina State University, have adopted environmental policy statements similar to the one which will soon be voted on by the College’s Strategic Planning Committee.

As centers of research and education whose faculty members are the very individuals warning society of the gravity of the problems before us, these universities have recognized their responsibility to set an example for the world. Williams College is among the best institutions of higher education in the country and as such ought to adopt the environmental policy statement and join its peer institutions in leading the transition toward a sustainable society.

Sincerely,

Carlos Silva ’04