XL Dissent

This past weekend Unity College students rallied alongside the approximate 1,200 students who traveled from 100 colleges and universities throughout the nation to attend XL Dissent.

XL Dissent*not sponsored by Unity College*


Drop Everything and Rally!

A last minute opportunity for Unity College students! This weekend, March 1st and 2nd, join students from across the nation in a march from Georgetown University to the White House. Demand the attention of Obama and make it known that the youth of America does not want to see him approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. XL Dissent is completely student organized. 

There is also a non-violent direct action training Saturday 5-9PM that we will attend.

20140205233439-mm_copy (1)There are limited seats so please show your interest quickly! If there are more students interested than seats available students will be put on the waiting list.

This trip will last the entirety of the weekend: early morning Saturday-early morning Monday.
More details to come.

Visit: XLDissent.org

To attend this event e-mail: mtheberge11@unity.edu

Canada’s Tar Sands Exposed: Exploring the Human and Environmental Costs

Orono, Maine

Wells Conference Center

Saturday February 1st 2:00-5:00pm

Departure time: 12:45pm


  • Garth Lenz: International award winning photojournalist.
  • Eriel Deranger: Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations (ACFN) Communities Coordinator.
  • Sherri Mitchell: Executive Director of the Land Peace Foundation and Indigenous rights attorney. She will discuss the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership), an international trade agreement, and how it is able to threaten local land use ordinances.

Visit this event on the 350.org website: http://www.350maine.org/tar_sands_speakers_tour

Canada's Tar Sands Exposed: Speakers Tour

Please e-mail by Thursday January 30th if you would like to attend!

E-mail: mtheberge11@unity.edu

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Get Out for Earth Week!

Earth day logo final-01GET OUT! ….for Earth Week.

Cardboard Kayaks, Contra Dance, Goats, Chickens, Trashion Show, Night Paddle, Food Fun, Open Greenhouse, and more!

Earth week activities are planned for the entire week of April 15 and include a full slate of campus events, sustainability challenges, presentations, and trips.  This year’s Earth Week theme, “Get Out!” will include daily emphasis on a variety of sustainability initiatives.

  • Monday 15 – “Get Out…of Your Car” | Alternative Transportation
  • Tuesday 16 – “Get Out…the Word on Climate” | Climate Change
  • Wednesday 17 – “Get Out…and Dig In” | Food & Farm
  • Thursday 18 – “Get Out…and Serve” | Community Engagement
  • Friday 19 – “Get Out…of the Landfill” | Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
  • Saturday 20 – “Get Out…side” | Outdoors


(not Saturday as held in previous years)

Cardboard Kayak Challenge launches Friday at the Earth Week Fair. Get your engineering team together early!

A full schedule of activities will be available on campus and online.

350 Maine Statewide Meeting Sunday at Unity College

Image350 Maine will hold it’s statewide meeting here at Unity College on Sunday, October 28, from 10am to 4pm in the Student Activities Building.  Participants will help shape the organization moving forward and find out how Maine can get involved in local, regional, and global climate campaigning. Student activists and others from around the state are expected to attend.

From the event website:

  • Expand coalitions to confront climate change
  • Skill building
  • Strengthen working groups on media and policy
  • Prepare for upcoming events and campaigns, including:
  1. ‘Do the Math’ Tour with Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein – Portland, Nov. 13, 2012
  2. 350 New England Convergence,Boston, November 17 & 18, 2012
  3. NE Day of Action against fossil fuels, January 19, 2013

For more information or to register for the state-wide meeting, contact Read Brugger (rhbrugger@fairpoint.net).

Map/Direction: here
Ride Share info: here or Contact Read Brugger

White Oak

This spring, we’re celebrating the inauguration of Unity’s 10th president, Dr. Stephen Mulkey.  As is our custom, we planted a tree to honor the occasion — this time a white oak. Professor Doug Fox, campus tree man and director of the Center for Sustainability & Global Change had this to say about the white oak and its symbolism for Unity College and Dr. Mulkey’s presidency.

White oak, Quercus alba, is rarely found this far north. Its ability to grow in a wide variety of soils, its ring-porous vascular system, its monecious flowering, indicate that it may be one of the trees we see migrating northward with climate change.

While Unity College still promotes mitigation of greenhouse gases, we also recognize that adaptation has to be a part of any scientifically-grounded response to climate change. We don’t know if white oak will come out as one of the winners in the process of adapting to climate change in our area, but it likely will be, hence, today we are planting for the future.

White oak, with its 500-year lifespan, may also symbolize that Unity College is finding its niche in the landscape of academics. The landscape of Unity College has been dominated by many short-lived, aggressive pioneer species—paper and gray birch, aspen, and willow—appropriate for a young college gaining a foothold in the marketplace of higher education. It is time for our landscape to reflect our maturity and our intention to contribute in the long term to the intellectual life of humanity.

Lastly, the white oak is a symbol of resilience and hope. Systems ecologist Hank Shugart pointed out that if the progeny of a single white oak was grown to maturity, in just three generations the biomass originating from that single tree would equal the weight of biomass of all living organisms on earth. Working with the earth’s inherent recuperative powers, we at Unity College can become co-workers with nature in the Great Work of our generation.

Join us for official inauguration celebration will take place on May 12th prior to this year’s commencement activities.

Growing Pains: Student Response to Mulkey’s Vision for Sustainability Science

Last month, President Mulkey made a presentation to the faculty introducing the ideas in the white paper he wrote, titled The Imperative of Sustainability and Opportunities for Unity College. His speech, as well as the white paper in greater detail, (both available here: http://www.unity.edu/AboutUnity/PresidentWelcome/PresidentMessages.aspx ) outlined how Unity College’s instructors should go about integrating the concept he refers to as sustainability science into the way courses are taught. The goal of integrating sustainability science into all of the courses is to equip students with what Mulkey calls the “right tools” for facing a changing climate and an economy which has to step up to the task of addressing those changes.

“The thing that matters most for Unity College is that climate change will be the single-most important determinant of our environmental practice and programming,” Mulkey told faculty after beginning to delve into some of the hard facts behind climate science, which he feels will affect every field offered at this college. “It will amplify everything that we do…especially,” he emphasized, “in conservation and natural resources.”

In the white paper, Mulkey, whose previous experience as a research-gathering climate scientist predisposes him to trusting peer-reviewed literature, supports the need for sustainability science with information about climate change and the need to address it. One of the more practical applications of this that I saw was his mention of the zone maps that tell growers where their plants will survive based on the temperatures the plants can tolerate. These zone maps may normally only play a small role in horticulture, but the changes in the location of the zones in the past ten years has much larger implications, such as those that Mulkey warns about. As a sustainable agriculture major, I couldn’t help but notice when the recently revised map was released, and couldn’t help but wonder, How many times will this map have to be re-released to reflect the changing climate across the country before the world will realize what the changes mean?

Mulkey’s plan caused me to realize that Unity College students should already be, and if not, should start, asking in-depth questions about these maps. Almost all students here have chosen to dedicate their lives to managing living organisms whose range is very likely dependent on those USDA-developed zones. To “give our students the tools to deal” with climate change, Mulkey believes we need an “increasingly sophisticated curriculum.” This curriculum, in his vision, will be based around the framework of sustainability science.

The idea of sustainability science as an interdisciplinary tool –rather than a course or degree track –is one that is rapidly being developed by graduate institutions across the country, Mulkey tells us. At Arizona State University, one of the country’s largest universities, a whole school has been devoted to sustainability. There, students can attend a School of Sustainability just as easily as they could attend a School of Technology and Innovation or School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It’s hard to deny that sustainability is an up and coming issue in the world and in education –one that is increasingly in demand, and for good reason. Mulkey assures us that the numbers of green jobs will burgeon as the world realizes a need for sustainable practices.

Continue reading

Bus Load of Goodness-Climate Action Style

Our charter bus pulled away from the Unity College Student Center a few minutes early.  As I write, our driver Henry is wending his way carefully up RT 137 towards the highway that will carry us most of our way to Washington D.C. Tomorrow 18 students and 3 faculty will participate in the circle The White House climate change action.

There was incredible energy in the Student Center during our pre-trip meeting–as many names to learn as there were reasons for going.  Jeffrey wants to know whether two thumbs way up on his “thumb-o-meter” indicates an even higher level of enthusiasm.  Yes, is the answer.  When the news broke that the bus was in the parking lot, so did the meeting.  After that it was all backpacks, pillows and water bottles.

Now students are settling in at the back of the bus and boning up on their Tar Sands science, strangers are introducing themselves, and I just overheard President Mulkey say “I’m here to make a point…”


A Time for Courage and Action

Stephen Mulkey

Photo: Unity College

From Stephen Mulkey, PhD, president, Unity College

It seems to be unusual for a college president to step into what appears to be a political event such as the Tar Sands Action that will take place on 6 November.   Indeed, some of my colleagues at other institutions think that I must be quite mad to join the group that will circle the White House.  As president of Unity College, a liberal arts institution with an environmental mission and a history of activism, it is not only appropriate, but also quite necessary for me to make my voice heard.

As a new college president I ask myself daily how my personal mission is connected with the larger mission of Unity College, and to the broader issues that are so profoundly affecting the students who are in college today.   Since assuming my position in July, I have been vocal and public about the scientific reality of climate change.  Indeed, I take pains to make it clear that my position is based on the science (I have spent my career as an ecologist) and not on any partisan perspective.  The science alone shows that climate change is the single, gravest environmental challenge ever faced by modern humanity, having the potential to profoundly alter much of our planet over the next century and beyond.  In this sense, my personal political perspective is immaterial to my choice to take action.  Simply put, I believe it is my ethical obligation to act in every acceptable way possible to provide a viable future for the students in college today.

Human-caused climate change is now widely regarded as settled science: the climate is warming, and humans have been the major cause of the warming observed since the mid-twentieth century.  There is broad consensus among scientific organizations and academies across the globe.  The list of endorsing scientific organizations is very long, and there are few credible recognized scientific authorities that dispute this reality.   A recent survey published in the Proceedings of the National Academy showed that more than 97 percent of practicing climate scientists agree about the fundamentals of this issue.

There can be little doubt that the 21st century is destined to be the century of the environment.  Besides climate change, other critical trends include the increasing human consumption of primary production, maximized and declining capacity to produce food and fiber, precipitous loss of biodiversity, widespread degradation of ecosystem services, increasing shortages of usable fresh water, and depletion of ocean fisheries. The best science has validated these trends, as global change unfolds with increasing speed.  A child born today faces the prospect of living in a vastly diminished world unless we make major adjustments in our use of natural resources, and bring new sources of energy rapidly on line.  We face the ultimate test of our adaptability as a species, and it is likely that we have little more than a decade to vigorously engage in the transition towards sustainability to prevent profound and irrevocable consequences over a millennial time scale.  These are alarming words, but based on my understanding of the science, I do not consider myself alarmist.

Many college and university presidents have supported climate change research and education on their campuses, while often not drawing great public attention to these efforts.  While providing a politically safe environment for these mission-critical activities is crucial, I believe that we must do much more.  Over 600 colleges and universities have signed with the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment.  Although this commitment is producing measurable results, this is often a quiet commitment, rather than something that is prominently displayed at the institution’s public venues.

We need vocal and public leadership on the science of climate change at this time of dire need.   Education leaders need not align themselves with the political aspects of climate change, and I recommend that we be fastidious in defining this as a scientific issue of immense significance for the wellbeing of current and future generations.   The science with respect to the mining and extraction of oil from tar sands makes it arguably the dirtiest oil on the planet in terms of lifecycle carbon emissions.  I have carefully read and evaluated the State Department’s impact assessment, and I categorically reject their assertion that the lifecycle carbon emissions impact will be minimal.  With due consideration of the assumptions of the study, this is scientific nonsense and it is ethically indefensible.

Given the gravity of our situation, I believe that any reticence by me on climate change would be a failure of courage and leadership.  If the consensus of 32 national academies does not provide sufficient support for my stand, what will?   I have recently challenged our faculty and colleagues with the “mirror test.”  In ten years, will you be able to look in the mirror and say with honesty that you did all that you could as a teacher and leader to bring about the change needed to salvage our children’s future?  I challenge other college and university presidents to step to the podium and speak with strength and courage.   These are strong words, carefully chosen.

The history of our relationship to our environment is, in many ways, a tragic story of our failure to act in time.  Now, again, we have the opportunity to act with courage and integrity to preserve our world for future generations.  Now, we must act in time.

Bill McKibben’s message



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