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Archive for October 18th, 2007

By Tim Krueger in the Cornell Daily Sun:

Today, I’m doing something that’s rare in the 21st century: I’m selling people. And despite whatever rumors you may have heard, I’m not involved in any sort of transpacific child trafficking. Rather, the Cornell Democrats are having a date auction to raise money for (and by “for” I mean “not for”) global warming. It’s a great idea, and it’ll likely raise a ton of money, as did the one we held two years ago. Still, part of me is slightly uncomfortable with the notion that I’ll be selling people. The reason I’m doing this, however, and the reason I’m OK with it, is the same reason why I’m a Democrat.

Having an environmentalist date auction frames a tension between means and ends. Saving the environment is obviously important, but does doing so by commodifying individuals somehow blemish the end result? There’s no doubt that holding a date auction is one of the most effective fundraising strategies available to an undergrad organization. But the commodification of human beings contradicts liberalism, even if those human beings have willingly opted to participate. The “church of liberalism” is constructed around a certain sanctity of the individual that commodification, bluntly stated, transgresses.

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This was an article I wrote for the Sustainability Series running in Tompkins Weekly; this ran in the March 26, 2007 issue. MMB

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Educating for Sustainable Development

Evidence abounds that traditional ways of thinking and acting have raised the looming specter of disasters of planetary proportion. Natural habitats are degraded or destroyed, civil war and social conflict rampant, poverty rife. Despite these dire indicators, sustainability offers a glimmer of hope. There is growing understanding that we are – or we should be – deeply interconnected with one another and our environment. This shift in consciousness has led to the emergence of the sustainability movement.

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Once again, someone reached out and asked a question that engaged my “start philosophical wax” cycle button. MMB

Question: How did this [campus sustainability] movement evolve [at Ithaca College]: was it, to your knowledge, student driven, staff driven? Has it turned over in almost an Al Gore minute? (I know for me, Al has played a big role in my personal sea change).

My reply: It’s an interesting question. And actually, there are several interesting questions imbedded within this one. Sorry in advance, but you’ve hit one of my “engage philosophical stream” buttons. Here goes:

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Someone reached out to me this summer with an intriguing question, triggering a lengthy reply that I thought might prove instructive for others. Marian

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Question: I’m researching for an article [in which we will] detail some ways that our readers can use their clout as alumni to promote sustainability and social justice improvements on their old campuses. The framing question is, rather than simply writing a check and mailing it in at the end of the year, how can an alum shift that donation, or make it conditional, or direct it more specifically to support “green” (environmental and social justice) improvements at those institutions?

My reply: At Ithaca College, we’re in the midst of the waning months of our $115M capital campaign, so of course, we have reached out aggressively to all alumni to “give back” to the College.

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I seem to be fielding “green purchasing” inquiries lately from a number of folks, partly because I run the “point” for our campus sustainability work, and partly because some folks know that I used to be Ithaca College’s purchasing director. Someone who asked me this question earlier this summer apparently hit me when I was waxing philosophical. I thought my lengthy response might prove instructive to others. Marian

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Question: How much did shifting to green purchasing cost the university a year? Because I am writing a Guide for student affairs professionals, budget is a significant concern, so it is helpful if I can supply financial information.

Answer: As you surmise, it’s really difficult TO answer this question: Whether it “costs” more to make more sustainable choices is all over the map, depending largely upon the commodity itself, the purchasing strategies employed, and the will of the campus community to internalize and apply the costs of certain “externalities.”

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In case you’re interested in “What’s New” at Ithaca College, here’s the link to the latest issue of “Collective Impacts”, our quarterly newsletter about our sustainability initiative.

http://www.ithaca.edu/sustainability/  (scan to bottom of page under Publications)

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Ithaca College is again observing Campus Sustainability Day, on Wednesday, October 24th from 9:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. in the Emerson Suites in our Campus Center. This event is free and open to the public.

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