Section: Opinion

Environmental major, solar energy are worthy steps

Climate change and environmental degradation together represent one of the greatest crises facing the world in the 21st century. We’ve become largely desensitized to the descriptions in the media of melting ice caps, dangerously high atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, desertification, ocean acidification and a rise in extreme weather events.

These trends are so overwhelming, so discouraging, that the most reassuring approach is often to ignore them. But we won’t have that luxury for long. That’s why we commend the Kenyon professors striving to institute an environmental studies major.

Environmental studies is not to be confused with environmentalism; it is an academic discipline, not strictly an outlet for activism. In principle, it gives students the intellectual tools needed to understand and find solutions to pressing environmental problems. Perhaps more important, it may also instill in them the confidence to tackle daunting tasks such as combating climate change.

Like other interdisciplinary departments, environmental studies cultivates deeper understanding by incorporating political, economic, social and scientific perspectives. It combines the study of zoning policies and farming techniques with consideration of externalities and the greenhouse effect.

This broad-based approach is at the core of what the liberal arts are about, and may be more necessary now than ever before. Several of our peer institutions with established environmental studies programs, including Oberlin and Middlebury Colleges, seem to have recognized this years ago.

It is encouraging to see Kenyon show a greater environmental bent not just in its academic curricula, but also within its administration. The appointment of Dave Heithaus as director of green initiatives, and President Decatur’s support for moving Kenyon toward carbon neutrality, reflect a laudable institutional commitment to a more sustainable future.

The Village of Gambier is now considering having a solar array installed. As a renewable alternative to such carbon-intensive fuels as coal and natural gas, solar should be embraced as the responsible energy option that it is. The Village should be bold in adopting solar power, as should the College.


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