Searching for a truly green or socially responsible college?
Note: This essay was written in 1992. Unhappily, not much has changed for the better, and higher education remains a major culprit.
If the truth be told, higher education in the U.S. is a major contributing factor to much of the environmental degradation and climate change, economic collapse, injustice and social dilemmas being experienced throughout the world today. It is so-called “highly educated" people wreaking havoc in our communities and across the planet; "educated" people who build polluting chemical plants and create genetically engineered food; "educated" people who are responsible for destruction of our forests; "educated" people whose terminal greed is destroying our economy, who make the policies that hurt the poor, children, women and indigenous people, and that ultimately hurt most of us.
Those are "educated" people destroying our health care system whether in exchange for lining their own pockets, or due to shortsightedness or an inability to think critically... and mostly Ivy League graduates who were filling the Wall Street firms that ruined the economy while shipping jobs overseas. Those are highly "educated" people our government, in the World Trade Organization and International Monetary Fund who are funneling ever increasing amounts of money to the wealthy, while destroying the environment and lives of the middle class and poor at home and abroad.
So, if your student wants to make a better world, they don't want a "business as usual" education: they want a green or socially responsible college that shares their values, and gives the knowledge and tools to make a difference as well as a decent living. S/he wants an engaging education based on interconnectedness, compassion and vision. A relevant, practical and often innovative education based on critical thinking that will lead to meaningful work; an education where s/he is treated as a thoughtful human, not just another number or a cog in service of mindless globalization and greed.
Do understand, while it is profoundly good that more and more colleges are working towards “sustainability”, it is still often limited to money-saving areas of energy usage, transportation, and building design. A top rating for sustainability may have little to do with the education offered, the campus ethos, the interests and goals of the students or the college’s mission.
I think it is critical that colleges walk their talk, but the primary and most essential components are the education, and that's what I evaluate first. My work speaks to the student who wants to spend their life making a difference, whether locally or internationally, working with children or working with wildlife, working in government or in business for themselves, or in helping corporations become sustainable and attend to the "triple bottom line" of "people, planet, profit.
As parents, you'll find plenty to chew on in the Guide as well, with it's thought provoking essays from seminal thinkers such as Matthew Fox, Jeremy Rifkin and David Orr. You'll see why teens pass this book from hand to hand. I invite you to explore.
Where can truly green colleges be found? You'll find America's greenest, most idealistic and relevant colleges, and even travel programs here, the only resource wholly dedicated since 1992 to distinctive green, peace and social change oriented colleges.
I would also be pleased to personally serve you and your family as a college counselor. For more information on my green college counseling services, click here. (coming soon.)