The 2010-2012 Environmental Leadership Awards (ELA), held November 16th at the UConn Foundation, recognized dozens of people whose efforts over the past few years have exemplified UConn’s commitment to campus sustainability. Plaques and certificates were presented to leaders in nine different award categories. The biennial ELA ceremony has become a way to refresh our often short-lived institutional memory and celebrate the teamwork and most significant accomplishments that have helped propel UConn toward the top of the rankings of the nation’s greenest colleges and universities.
President Susan Herbst opened the event and later introduced Dr. Gene E. Likens, a Distinguished Research Professor, whom she appointed earlier this year as her Special Advisor on Environmental Affairs. They both showed their appreciation for campus sustainability efforts “above and beyond” routine job duties or academic pursuits by their encouraging remarks and presentation of the awards to the winners and runners up.
While President Herbst acknowledged UConn’s high campus sustainability rankings were a source of pride, she emphasized their greater importance as a measurement of strong institutional values and programs. “Our commitment to environmental sustainability is about much more than rankings. It’s about fulfilling our mission as a land and sea grant university…and about moving forward with our Climate Action Plan, reducing our carbon footprint and helping communities understand and prepare for the effects of climate change.”
Gene Likens referred to the devastation from Super Storm Sandy, the late-season, Category 1 hurricane that was transformed by global warming factors into a catastrophic event here in the northeast, as evidence of the need for environmental leadership to avoid future dire consequences. Speaking specifically about the need for action to mitigate and adapt to climate change, Dr. Likens noted “ a lack of appreciation about the magnitude of this major environmental problem and an absence of interest in taking action to alleviate it…this is a pivotal time not only for our University, not only for our nation, but also for sustaining the vital life-support systems of our Earth.”
President Herbst closed her remarks with a focus on UConn’s educational mission. “Just as no student should leave here, degree in hand, without knowing something about literature and international relations and the natural world, no student should leave without a deep sense of responsibility for the protection of the planet. It is part of being a good citizen.”