The Student Sustainability Summit on Saturday drew 20 student leaders from various environmental groups on campus — including KyotoNOW!, Cornell University Sustainable Design and Take Back the Tap –– to brainstorm ideas for implementing more environmentally-friendly measures on campus.
Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 began the meeting by praising Cornell students for what he said was their ability to come together on the issue of environmental conservation.
“I am very happy to be here in a summit of all these student groups,” Myrick said. “Because [it] seems to me that you guys already understand the importance of binding together. That’s something that I unfortunately did not realize in my undergraduate career.”
Myrick stressed the importance of collaborating to accomplish important goals, which he said he incorporated during his mayoral campaign.
“I joined forces with all manners of progressive groups that care about the environment and the future of the city,” Myrick said. “People who were concerned with the future of the natural environment, [the] future of the workforce and the future of housing. I joined forces with all these disparate people and in November I won.”
Elyssa Dixon ’12, who organized the event, said that there will be continued efforts to bring sustainability groups together on campus.
“We’re going to try to have monthly lunches to get everyone together and to continue having dialogue between all these groups,” she said.
At the summit, after each group presented a summary of its goals for the semester, they gathered in small groups to brainstorm ideas to raise awareness about sustainability issues on campus.
Suggestions included incorporating a “Sustainability Wise” educational program into the orientation curriculum and re-branding sustainability, Dixon said in an email.
Anna-Lisa Castle ’13, president of KyotoNOW!, said that the summit was important because it allowed the leaders to listen to one another’s opinions on issues pertinent to the entire group.
“I think the whole idea of exchanging ideas of people working towards a common goal is really important but I think the most important thing is being able to hear other people’s perspectives from a larger, more diverse group to maximize impact,” she said.
Castle emphasized the importance of outreach, such as reaching across college lines at Cornell.
“I’m in the College of Arts and Sciences and other people [involved in sustainability organizations] are either in CALS or other very specific groups,” Castle said. “I come to speak from a point of view that outreach to other colleges is very important. Sustainability has such a potential to be universal.”
Myrick credited student organizations for recent advances in sustainability, citing President Skorton’s decision to sign the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 and the city and county’s pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. He emphasized the ability of young people to advance social and political change, particularly on environmental issues.
“These are the things that we grown-ups have not done ourselves and will not do ourselves,” he told students at the summit. “We, grown-ups, we lose track of right and wrong much easier, much faster than young people. You still have a very strong sense of fairness that gets lost there out in the larger world.”