By Robert Barboza
April 14, 2008
(Reprinted from the Standard Times)
(Sus·tain·a·ble, adjective: Capable of being sustained. Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment... according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition).
Global warming concerns, a year-long debate over a wind farm on Buzzards Bay, grass-roots opposition to a local LNG facility in Fall River, this summer's stunning spike in gas prices, the president-elect's fervent promise to make renewable energy development a cornerstone of his economic stimulus package... the list of 2008 headlines related to sustainability issues could go on and on.
Looking back and looking ahead, you can see that slowly but surely, a green revolution is coming to America, to our small towns and struggling cities. The farmer's markets, the backyard windmills, the hybrid cars in local driveways, the community garden planners scouting city-owned lots for plots to farm- all are signs of a blossoming South Coast sustainability effort that should continue to flourish in 2009.
The heart of the South Coast's wide-ranging efforts to help us all create a more sustainable society beats strongest at two keystone academic institutions- UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College. Both are actively working to shape our sustainable future- nurturing renewable energy technology research, training a workforce for leadership roles in an increasingly green economy, and supporting the local sustainable agriculture community.
"This is a time in human history where we're really re-inventing ourselves as a society," suggested Susan Jennings, director of the Alternative and Renewable Energy/Sustainability Office at UMass Dartmouth during a recent talk to the Leadership South Coast Class of 2009 at the Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center in Fall River.
The main tenets of the sustainability effort are equity, ecology, and economy, Ms. Jennings told the LSC group. "We have to change the way we do business- transportation, food production, heat and power- renewable energy sources are not going to solve all our energy-related problems," she said.
"We're at a crisis point in terms of destruction of the environment, climate change, population growth, the peak oil crisis," Ms. Jennings added. More and more, sustainable practices will have to be adopted worldwide to prevent energy and food shortages, wrecked global economies, and other societal disasters.
Her job, which she is undertaking with an admitted enthusiastic passion, is to help manage UMass Dartmouth's campus-wide Sustainability Initiative, where all disciplines working together to help the campus become "as climate-neutral as possible," she explained while supporting the region's private efforts to similarly reduce our collective carbon footprint.
The initial steps at UMD- active energy conservation practices, an improved recycling effort, course offerings in green jobs fields, supporting the agricultural community by buying local, plans for an on-campus wind turbine and solar heating installation, even a rooftop garden experiment- are just the beginning of the school's sustainability initiative.
An 18-credit sustainability minor has been established at the university, and a 15-credit graduate program is currently being developed, she reported. Similar environmentally-oriented courses are being offered at Bristol Community College, aimed at training a new generation of workers in green industries.
"It's a new revolution," Ms. Jennings told the region's future community leaders of the . "Our entire society is being transformed in a variety of ways, and everyone can do something" to help, she suggested.
"Sustainability is possible; sustainability is desirable," she added. The trick is to find ways to do that which are economically feasible and will be supported by the general population.
A big step locally for 2009 will be the establishment of a regional Green Jobs Task Force, with a mini-conference tentatively scheduled for Feb. 12. Weatherization training, contamination remediation programs to reclaim blighted lots, and organic gardening seminars are among the potential topics of discussion at the upcoming regional exchange, she indicated.
Ms. Jennings report on the region's Sustainability Initiative came on Science, Technology and Environment Day for the LSC class, which takes a close look at different segments of South Coast community each month.
In the morning, the class toured two renewable energy companies at the ATMC producing the technology to harvest tidal and wave energy, visited the nearby Meditech production facility for an update on the health technology industry, and heard a presentation on solar thermal energy systems from a local installer of integrated solar systems.
"The day's agenda demonstrates how all these areas are related parts of the societal effort to improve the quality of life here on the South Coast," said Leadership South Coast director Dr. Antone Vieira.
"It also highlights some of the many opportunities for businesses and for leaders in the future" in the science, technology and healthcare fields, Dr. Vieira noted.