With global warming creeping its way into the minds and mouths of many government
officials, it’s no surprise that President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart is just as concerned about environmental sustainability as her publicly elected counterparts.
During her March 22 inauguration speech, Hart announced the creation of the Temple Sustainability Task Force on Main Campus, which will be composed of faculty, administrators and students.
“In this time of acute awareness of the earth’s fragility and limited resources, Temple will demonstrate how a large urban university can contribute to a sustainable
future for all,” Hart said in her speech.
Robert Mason, director of the environmental
studies department and associate professor of geography and urban studies, is one of several faculty members who wrote a proposal to Hart about forming a university-wide sustainability initiative.
“Public institutions should be leaders,” Mason said. “And a university should be a place for experimentation, evaluation, understanding and dissemination of information.”
Although the task force has not met formally, the organization plans to examine a range of environmental concerns affecting
Temple’s campuses, Mason said. “This mission may be narrowed once the task force gets underway,” he said.
Ambler Campus is already actively involved
in promoting environmental sustainability.
In July 2000, the Center for Sustainable Communities was established there to promote innovative ideas and preserve the quality of life through sustainable development, according to its mission statement. Dr. Jeffrey Featherstone, the Center’s director, has been involved in research projects such as the Pennypack Creek Watershed project, which helped reduce flooding and pollution throughout Bucks, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Temple is also working with Villanova University to establish best management stormwater practices through the Temple-Villanova Sustainable Stormwater Initiative.
“The [CSC] has received a lot of money from foundations and government agencies to document and advocate better stormwater management,” Featherstone said.
“Unfortunately, our stormwater facilities
on campus are minimal – far from best management practices,” he added. “We should have state-of-the-art facilities to be good neighbors and to serve as a model for the region.”
Featherstone is currently writing a proposal to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to convert the large detention basin near Ambler Learning Center to an infiltration basin.
The Ambler Sustainable Campus Council is another environmental group that was created in 2006 to address local sustainability initiatives. A formal proposal was submitted to Ambler College Collegial Assembly by Deborah Howe, the department chair of community and regional planning.
The proposal requested the creation of the council, said Lynn Mandarano, assistant professor of community and regional planning. Mandarano, who serves as co-chair of the council, said the proposal was approved, but nothing happened. She took it upon herself in March to hold the council’s first meeting. Those in attendance volunteered to be representatives of stakeholder groups on campus, Mandarano said.
Since March, the council has met twice and both undergraduate and graduate students
have participated in the meetings.
“The students volunteered to create sustainability games and educational projects for Ambler’s Earthfest,” Mandarano said. The Earthfest will be held Friday. Activities will take place between Bright Hall, Cottage Hall and Ambler Learning Center.
Students also expressed a desire to work on planting projects, campus clean-up, trail-making and other types of projects in the fall, she added.
Mandarano is also organizing a seminar
series called “Visioning Workshops”. The first workshop for faculty and staff will be held May 1.
“The intent of the workshop is to get the word out that the council exists, to highlight several sustainability initiatives that already exist on campus and to solicit ideas on what types of sustainability initiatives the interested stakeholders deem are most important to this campus,” Mandarano said. Acquiring environmental sustainability practices often saves money, especially in the long term, Mason said. “If we account for environmental impacts and attach dollar value to them, it saves even more,” he said.
Mason said that there may be up-front costs, particularly with implementing alternative energy systems.
“But there is cost recovery over time and it is in the public interest,” he said.
Despite the efforts of the staff, faculty and students involved in the Sustainability Task Force as well as the CSC and Ambler’s Sustainable Campus Council, there are still some students who feel that the campus is not yet up to par.
“I think the fact that Temple is such a large university in a very liberal city, there is an inherent obligation that they need to address some environmental concerns,” said Dave Mariano, senior political science and Latin American Studies double major. “But overall I don’t really see many events hosted by the university for environmental awareness.”
Mariano said he feels environmental concerns don’t appear to be a top priority for the university. “Students have the power to speak out against that, and many of them don’t seem to care either,” he said.
Jenna Oskowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.