Animal Barn and Health Updates

Barn VisitorsThis update on barn goings-on is  from Barn Manager Meg Anderson.  Thanks to all of you for your interest in the campus livestock program.  Stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved.

*Note: For those of you with a special interest, you can read more about orf and our approach to addressing animal health issues in the barn online here.

The farm has been buzzing since the beginning of the semester! Our work-study students and animal training intern have been very busy ensuring that the barn stays clean, safe, and that all of our animals’ needs are being met. The following groups of students have already been involved with the barn and animals, whether just visiting or using the space as a learning tool, and we only expect the number of folks to grow in the future:

  • Interpretive Methods: Creating signage and multi-media presentations for the animals and fields
  • Unity Experience: fact-finding scavenger hunt at the barn
  • Animal Health: Parasite survey and animal husbandry on barn critters
  • Animal Training: Desensitization and stanchion training with the goats
  • Intro to CWCE: Introduction to the space and enrichment
  • Pasture Management: Field/Soil survey and animal handling techniques

We are off to a great start and can’t wait to expand our reach. We have hit some bumps in the road as the stress of integrating the animals into the college community has caused a flare-up in parasite levels as well as an outbreak of sore mouth or ‘Orf.’* After a visit from the vet we are on track to build our animals up to their fullest potential.

One more happy announcement is that on the 18th of September, our Silver Fox rabbit ‘Sylvie’ gave birth to a litter of 8 healthy, happy kits. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about goings-on in the barn, please feel free to contact me.

 

We Did It! Solar on the White House

WePutSolarOnIt

Nearly three years after they committed to do so, the Obama administration is installing solar panels on the White House this week. The administration knows that this is an important symbol to an America desperate for climate leadership. In fact, we told them that in person when a crew of Unity College students teamed up with Bill McKibben and 350.org to launch an epic solar road trip from Unity College to Washington in 2010. Along the way, we rallied the troops in Boston, New York, and DC, before delivering a petition of over 40,000 signatures to the White House Council on Environmental Quality with a simple message for Obama: put solar back on the White House and show real leadership on meaningful climate policy.

Courtyard Panels

Since 1991, Unity College has been the proud steward of the solar hot water panels that were installed on the White House roof by the Jimmy Carter administration in 1979. Those panels were removed during the Reagan administration in 1986 and languished in government storage until Unity’s Peter Marbach secured them and brought them to Unity College. Sixteen of those panels heated water on our own cafeteria roof for over twelve years and many others have been restored by energy lab students and Professor Mick Womersley for museum loan and public display.

Two of those restored panels were featured in the 2010 documentary A Road Not Taken, which followed Unity College (now) alums Sara Trunzo and Jason Reynolds on a solar road trip of their own. The film — by Swiss artists Christina Hemauer and Roman Keller — uses the delivery of those panels to the National History Museum in DC and the Carter Center in Atlanta to explore the unrealized hope for a renewable American energy future.

This current White House solar installation brings us closer to that future. Symbols are important, and solar on the White House is a stirring symbol of climate commitment from the top. May this public statement and the President’s full Climate Action Plan portend even bolder climate leadership to come; our students demand and deserve no less.  Thank you, Mr. President, for heeding their call.

Graduation Pledge

Congratulations to our graduating students!  Tomorrow’s commencement activities are a tremendous public celebration of our focus on sustainability science, and the real achievement of our students in the field.  We know you’ll continue to do great things in your communities.

Graduation Pledge AllianceGraduates wearing the green ribbon at tomorrow’s ceremony have signed the Graduation Pledge, which states:

“I pledge to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for which I work.”

By choosing Unity College, all of our students have committed themselves to a sustainable future.  By signing the Graduation Pledge, they’ve made that commitment public on this important day.

Tar Sands Action – Portland, January 26

An open letter to college and university presidents about divestment from fossil fuels

13 November 2012

Stephen Mulkey

Dear Colleagues,

On the 5th of November 2012, the Unity College Board of Trustees unanimously voted to divest our endowment from fossil fuel industries.  While one might think that this was logical for a college where Sustainability Science structures the academic program, it was not easy.   Indeed, the Board’s committee on investment carefully reviewed the potential fiduciary impact of this action.  Some members of the Board were uncomfortable with the choice to close off this source of revenue at a time when the College needs every penny.  In the end, the Board embraced our ethical obligation to stop supporting an industry that has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of commitment to future generations.  I write this letter to urge you to raise this crucially important issue with your governing body.

Why should colleges and universities divest?  It is increasingly clear that climate change will be the defining environmental factor of what will come to be seen as the environmental century.  Recent work at the National Center for Atmospheric Research indicates that our current rate of emissions will carry us beyond 7°F average global warming by 2100.  Other studies show that warming may be more than 9°F.

Either way, this level of warming is catastrophic.  The current generation of college students will experience a dangerously disrupted climate by mid-century.  We must provide strong incentives for fossil fuel industries to invest their gargantuan profits in alternative and renewable energy rather than in the development of new and increasingly marginal sources of fossil fuels.

Your institution must not be on the wrong side of this issue.  Given the recent decade of extreme temperatures and catastrophic weather, America is waking up.  In the near future, the political tide will turn and the public will demand action on climate change.   Our students are already demanding action, and we must not ignore them.  As college presidents, we are committed to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.  Failure to provide ethical leadership on an issue that has the potential to be the most profoundly negative factor in the lives of our students is unacceptable.

Financial managers may complain that divestment will be complicated and insurmountably onerous.  However, it takes no more effort to manage a portfolio for minimum exposure to fossil fuels than it does to manage for maximum market return – and these two goals can coexist.  Admittedly, markets are more complex today than in the time of divestment from companies associated with apartheid.  Depending on your particular mix of investment tools, achieving an absolute zero fossil fuel return may be difficult.  Unity College has chosen to strongly bias its portfolio away from such investments, and we are confident that we can achieve a negligible exposure to fossil fuels.  We also believe that under current market conditions our overall portfolio will generally not perform more poorly than the market average while holding true to our promise to divest.

All board members are acutely aware of their fiduciary responsibilities to the institution, and they will want assurances that investment practices bring an appropriate return.  While endowments must be managed to insure growth, we must turn away from the embedded acceptance of the notion of profits at any price.

Regardless of financial considerations, we must demand the highest ethical standards from our universities and colleges. It is ethically indefensible that an institution dedicated to the proposition of the renewal of civilization would simultaneously invest in its destruction.  In this respect, divestment is not optional.  As presidents, you do not control your institution’s investment policy, but you do have great influence.  Urge your board to take a stand and make it possible for your institution to speak from a position of integrity.

Sincerely,

Stephen Mulkey
president
Unity College
Unity, ME 04988

Unity College Board of Trustees votes to divest from fossil fuels

I am proud to say that earlier today the Unity College Board of Trustees voted to divest the College endowment from fossil fuels.  The following editorial is my statement to the public about this important step.

Time for higher education to take a stand on climate

Stephen Mulkey

Stephen Mulkey
President
Unity College
Unity, ME 04988

5 November 2012

We are running out of time.  While our public policy makers equivocate and avoid the topic of climate change, the window of opportunity for salvaging a livable planet for our children and grandchildren is rapidly closing.

The way forward is clear, though for many confrontation-averse academics the path seems impassable.  It requires action that is unnatural to the scientifically initiated:  to fight to regain the territory illegitimately occupied by the climate change deniers.

Every day that we avoid taking action represents additional emissions, and additional infrastructure that is dependent on our fossil fuel based economy.  In our zeal to be collegial, we engage with those who are paid by vested interests to argue that our Earth is not in crisis.  When these individuals demonize public investment in alternative energy, we fail to point out how the oil industry benefited from significant taxpayer support in its infancy and continues to receive government subsidies today.  We also sidestep the thorny issue of how oil and coal, in particular, fund large-scale organized opposition efforts to deny legitimate science, winning the battle for climate change public opinion with slogans, junk science, and money.

While there is much uncertainty about how climate change will play out with respect to specific regions and weather patterns, one thing is very clear:  Our current emissions trajectory will carry us beyond 5oC average global warming by 2100.   This will be a planet that is not consistent with our civilization and science shows us that the impact will be largely irreversible for a millennium.  I don’t know how the stakes could get any higher.

Higher education is positioned to determine the future by training a generation of problem solvers.  As educators, we have an obligation to do so. Unlike any time in the history of higher education, we must now produce leading-edge professionals who are able to integrate knowledge from multiple disciplines, and understand social, economic, and resource tradeoffs among possible solutions.  Imagine being a college president and looking in the mirror twenty years from now.  What would you see?  Would you be looking at a professional who did his or her best to avert catastrophe?  For me, the alternative is unacceptable.

Those within higher education must now do something they have largely avoided at all costs: confront the policy makers who refuse to accept scientific reality.  We must be willing to lead by example. Like the colleges and universities of the 1980’s that disinvested from apartheid South African interests – and successfully pressured the South African government to dismantle the apartheid system – we must be willing to exclude fossil fuels from our investment portfolios. We must divest.

The colleges and universities of this nation have billions invested in fossil fuels. Like the funding of public campaigns to deny climate change, such investments are fundamentally unethical.  The Terrifying Math of the 350.org campaign is based on realistic, reviewed science. Moreover, in our country it is clear that economic pressure gets results where other means fail. If we are to honor our commitment to the future, divestment is not optional.  This is especially true for Unity College, where Sustainability Science, as developed by the U.S. National Academy of Science, guides our academic mission.

I am proud to be a part of the 350.org program of divestment, and I am especially proud of the Unity College Board of Trustees for their willingness to make this affiliation.  Indeed, the Trustees have been on the path of divestment for over five years.  The Trustees have looked at the College’s finances in the context of our ethical obligation to our students, and they have chosen to make a stand.   I can think of no stronger statement about the mission of Unity College.

Our college community will lead by fearless action.  We will confront policy makers who continue to deny the existence of climate change.  We will encourage those who work in higher education to bravely step out from behind manicured, taxpayer funded hedges, and do what needs to be done.   We will not equivocate, and we will meet those who have been misled by climate change denial in their communities.

The time is long overdue for all investors to take a hard look at the consequences of supporting an industry that persists in employing a destructive business model.  Because of its infrastructure and enormous economic clout, fossil fuel corporations could pump trillions into the development of alternative energy. Government subsidies and stockholder shares could be used constructively to move these corporations to behave responsibly.

Higher education is the crown jewel of the United States system of education, and it remains the envy of the world.  Higher education has always been dedicated to the highest standards of honesty and integrity.  If our nation’s colleges and universities will not take a stand now, who will?

Spoiled

Unity College students are exploring resource use through the gamification of education.  First-year seminar students in the Unity Experience course will imagine the impacts of peak oil and develop meaningful community responses while earning points and winning prizes through the game spOILed.

Unity Experience instructors have borrowed (with permission) from the existing game, World Without Oil, and tailored it to work for Unity College students exploring real environmental challenges. “We could focus on pollution, on biodiversity, on access to fresh water, on the climate crisis. The point of the game is to make you think about resource use, ” said Sarah Cunningham, the Unity Experience instructor leading the development of the game.

According to the SpOILed site, “learning objectives for the SpOILed game include:
  • Understand the causes and contexts of a key environmental issue (sustainable living)
  • Develop personal perspectives on a key environmental issue (sustainable living)
  • Participate in campus and community initiatives related to that issue
  • Characterize the complexity of environmental issues by employing systems thinking and approaches that go beyond traditional disciplines
  • Plan, strategize, and solve problems
  • Appreciate the value of diverse people and ideas
  • Value multiple perspectives by seeking out other views and by active listening
  • Make meaningful connections with campus and community
  • Information literacy:
    • Define and articulate the need for information
    • Identify a variety of types and formats of potential sources of information
    • Retrieve information online or in person using a variety of methods”
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