Looking to ConU’s future

Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. These are the first words of the eight-page introduction to the Sustainable Concordia project, initiated at the beginning of the fall semester by environmentally conscious students.

Among these students is Geneva Guerin, a communications and political science student who is graduating at the end of the semester, and is leading the operation.

“If there’s one thing I want to make clear, it’s that the focus of this project is not solely on the environment,” she explained.

“The objective is to make Concordia more ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. These three pillars are fundamentally interconnected at a variety of scales and places.”

Only the introduction to the projected 300-page assessment is finished, but the rigorous research for the lengthy project is complete. Guerin hopes the report will be done by the end of the semester, and presented next September.

But what exactly is meant by sustainability? The report defines it as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” It suffices to say, according to Guerin, that in our oil-crazed, capitalist society, the ability of future generations to meet their needs is being compromised by our generation’s negligence.

An example of sustainability that will enter the report is the potential benefits gained from using geothermal energy to heat the Loyola campus, specifically the sports complex.

Work done last semester by Yves Gilbert, director of energy at Concordia, has shown that because the campus sits on a body of water, there is a possibility of using geothermal energy as opposed to gas for heating. While this is more efficient due to the fact that geothermal energy is greenhouse gas emission free, like many of the proposed reforms in the report the process it is expensive and involves a lengthy payback period.

The project is based on the framework developed by a student at Royal Roads University in Victoria B.C. that instills 10 crucial indicators to gauge a school’s sustainability. Five indicators will focus on the socioeconomic areas of knowledge, governance, economy/wealth, health/well-being and community. The other five will focus on the ecological areas of energy, land, air, water and materials. In time, Guerin believes this framework will be used by all universities across Canada.

The indicators of 2003 will set precedents for future assessments, which are going to take place once every two years. A permanent office has been recently donated to the sustainability effort by the philosophy department, and Guerin will attempt to run it using only solar energy. Her plan is to put a 1500-watt solar panel in place so that it will be entirely Greenhouse gas emission free.

While Guerin is spearheading the project with fellow student Melissa Garcia, hundreds of others on campus are contributing to the cause. Communications students are working on the project for credit, others are submitting art for the book and some students will be translating the document into French. In fact, if you are part of the faculty or staff, you may receive one of the one thousand surveys being used to determine what people know about sustainability on campus.

Guerin is aware that the cards are stacked against her. She is, however, unfazed by the daunting tasks ahead of her. “There is so much potential to improve our community, I am convinced this project will be successful.”

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