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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Addressing climate disruption

Dear Editor,

I attended the first hour of the “Time is Running Out!” debate held last night in the Humanities Institute, held as part of the Provost’s Lecture Series. I found the debate depressing, but not because our time is running out on addressing environmental degradation and climate change, as the event’s title rightly pointed out. I found it depressing because the debate panel suggested the same depressingly ineffectual ‘solutions’ that are keeping us from making any real progress – carbon trading schemes, which are Madoff-style schemes to manage dangerous atmospheric emissions, and better communication of the scientific issues – while touting the centerpiece of the evening – motivating young people to get involved, which given the University’s recent history is just ingenious.

I won’t address carbon trading. Anyone who believes that free market Ponzi schemes will solve our problems after the debacle of the last two years is nuts anyway.

I also won’t address the need for better communication of scientific findings since that works just as well for both sides of this issue. Responding to the deniers’ misinformation, frankly a crime against humanity at this point in time, with climate disruption evidence will only result in further mistrust of either scientific position in the non-aligned public’s mind, while it will do nothing to change anyone’s established position on the issue.

But what I would like to address is the motivation of young people that Dr. Bowman raised, since this offended me.

Dr. Bowman and I had sat together at the last Stony Brook Council meeting during which it agreed to retroactively support Dr. Stanley’s decision to close the environmental sustainability programs at Southampton, where I was teaching environmental ethics, and move the programs to the main campus. The administration argued for the move by explaining that it had to cut expenses due to its on-going budget cuts, and moving the programs would result in $6 or 7 million in savings per year once the faculty’s contracts were allowed to expire.

Dr. Bowman supported this cost-cutting move of the programs to the main campus. The result was devastating to the students involved – several hundred motivated students who were in the process of dedicating their lives to addressing the issue of environmental sustainability – the result of which has seen the majority of them leave this university, or change majors. They were smart people and they got the message: immediate dollars and current politics will always win out over environmental concerns, so why bother?

Stony Brook’s performance in motivating young people to get involved is definitely deeply in the deficit column. If this University is truly serious about wanting to get students actively involved, then it is incumbent on it to make a strong and public show of support for the displaced sustainability majors by properly funding them and making them permanent. And the administration should take seriously the claim of the faculty and students that were involved in those majors, that the educational environment in which the programs are offered needs its own home.

I don’t speak for anyone but myself, but I see how other first-rank universities are directly addressing the issue of environmental sustainability by either offering comprehensive permanent curriculums or by funding separate schools dedicated to it, and Stony Brook, frankly, lobbed itself back into the stone-age through its recent handling of Southampton.

Dr. Bowman is correct – time is running out. So let’s get serious about this and stop playing political games and making shortsighted budgetary tradeoffs. Frankly, they too are a crime, given the dangers we face.

The first step in motivating students to get involved is to show them what real action is – let’s lead by example!

James M. Corrigan

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