Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Interview by:Gabrielle Greene
Q: What words or images would you use to describe Oberlin and why would you choose these?
A: Oberlin is a progressive, sustainable, little piece of the east coast in central Ohio-- cutting edge, can be very cooperative.
Q: What actions are you engaged in that relate to helping the environment, the local economy, or other aspects of peoples well being?
A: We use sustainable grounds maintenance practices where its feasible and possible. For example, we collect and filter all of the vegetable oil that the campus dining service kitchens use, and we have tractors that are equipped with fuel systems that will run the vegetable oil to burn it just like diesel. We use a minimum amount of synthetic nitrogen to maintain the lawns of campus, and we use a minimum amount of herbicides and insecticides during our maintenance program. I have worked with students and the City of Oberlin to convert 10 acres of lawns to wildflower meadows, decreasing pollution and labor time while increasing storm water retention and biodiversity. I figured making the campus landscape a demonstration ground for sustainable practices would promote the unified initiatives of the college and city. I wanted the Grounds Dept. in the thick of the transformation.
"I see Oberlin as a place where things can be done here first, and then with the expectation that it would be scaled up in the the larger world."
Q: How do you see past events or what is going on now in Oberlin connecting with larger issues in the world?
A: I see Oberlin as a place where things can be done first, with the expectation that it will be scaled up in the larger world. Things can be done here because Oberlin is big enough to attract some remarkable, energetic people, but not so big that a person or a group of people can still affect significant change. Ive done some things here and people from big schools have come and they say, well how how did you do that? Isnt there an oversight committee that would keep things from changing? I told them no, we just thought about it and we got a few people together and we just did it. Thats what I mean by you need it big enough to be significant but not so big that things cant change relatively quickly. I am amazed that students have the zeal and skills to work with me to reforest former conventional agriculture fields, plant trees to sequester carbon, convert standard landscape to permaculture sites, and convert fine cut turf areas to meadows. I have plugged into their energy to change the campus in ways I didnt think were possible.
Q: How do you think attitudes towards the environment have changed over time in this community? How have your own attitudes changed?
A: My attitudes have become reinforced that the environment, specifically climate change, is the defining challenge of our generation coming up, and I see the Oberlin community as a major initiator of change. I see a lot of skeptics in the area, but I see them migrating towards that same conclusion, but its kind of an incremental, slow process.
Q: Do you think now as opposed to before people are more likely to latch onto these ideas?
A: Probably. I see people that say something needs to be done but not right now. That kind of thing. So I see movement, but its not fast enough. Im reminded of a quote by Winston Churchill in 1940 that describes us, Americans will do the right thing-- after trying every other alternative first.
Q: Is there anything you would like to tell your fellow community members regarding care for the environment, sustainable living, or respect for nature?
A: Just to visit a natural space once a month and get out of the house and go to an event at Oberlin College. Also, put recycle and compost containers out where people can see them.
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