Discourse / Editorials / May 15, 2008

Thoughts from the Embers: Lip service

Barely a month after getting blasted for being less than forthcoming with information regarding Knox’s relationship with Family Planning, the Knox administration failed to release Nathan Engstrom’s sustainability report until pressured to do so. Roger Taylor cited a desire to maintain warm relations with Engstrom as the reason for not releasing the report, but Knox hasn’t seen hide nor hair of him since fall term, and one wonders if telling interested students how to be more sustainable would really have made Oberlin’s Sustainability Coordinator mad.

As with the Family Planning issue, Knox students weren’t given information they needed and wanted because it made Knox look bad. This caginess makes change impossible. If we aren’t even told what our problems are, how can we solve them? Why did we bother to commission a sustainability report, only to bury the constructive criticism it contained? Even the Sustainability Task Force didn’t get to see the report, commissioned during fall term, until spring. What’s the holdup?

Roger Taylor has a bad habit of equating talk with progress in terms of sustainability. While it is a good thing to get more people talking about sustainability, and although his adamant dedication to turning off the lights is commendable, there is more to it than that. Taylor seems to think we’re on the cutting edge of the campus sustainability movement because we have a Sustainability Task Force, a Sustainability Committee, and a few CFLs scattered across the campus. What he isn’t acknowledging is what Engstrom said in his report: Knox is far behind.

This is not to say we haven’t done anything at all. The Green Fee was a huge accomplishment, and sustainability certainly has become more a part of campus discourse than it used to be. Groups and individuals have demonstrated a commitment to change. But an expert analysis of our sustainability status is a huge asset, one that we paid for, and to leave it sitting unread in a drawer in the president’s desk is to waste an opportunity.

Talk is cheap. People at Knox aren’t putting their money where their mouths are just yet. Senate contestants play up their dedication to sustainability, then plaster the walls of Seymour with single-sided fliers. Knox patted itself on the back for providing biodegradable plates for lunch on Flunk Day, but used the same old styrofoam for dinner. We are no longer in the early days of the sustainability movement. We’re past the point where we can brainstorm for a while and call it a job well done. Senior members of the Sustainability Task Force who wanted to see tangible changes in the seven months since Engstrom’s visit aren’t being impatient, they’re just getting with the program.

Engstrom’s report is a wakeup call, and so is the administration’s handling of it. We need to hold ourselves and our school accountable for the way we drag our feet through committees and task forces. These important first steps have yielded valuable information, but it’s past time to act on it.

TKS Staff

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