The University and Environmental Preservation

The University and Environmental Preservation
Caring for the environment has traditionally been thought of as a responsibility of environmental organizations such as Greenpeace or the Sierra Club. Universities have never been thought of as the leaders of environmental preservation?until now. Since universities are looked upon with high regard, many people including President Baker of Cal Poly, feel that it is the responsibility of the university to set an example of how the environment is respected and conserved. In his Earth Day speech in 2004, President Baker claims that Cal Poly finds it suitable to be a signatory of the Talloires Declaration. This is a 10-point plan signed by over 300 universities worldwide setting out the key actions they will take for a more sustainable future. By signing the Talloires Declaration, he claims it is the mission of the polytechnic university to find ways in which society can be improved, scarce resources can be managed, and environmental values can be preserved. Even though President Baker does a thorough job of stating a claim, weaknesses are present. He states that it is at the core of the polytechnic university?s mission to find ways to preserve the environment.
However, despite the fact that it is a polytechnic university, Cal Poly does not necessarily have to be environmentally friendly. In Dictionary.com, a polytechnic school is defined as an institute that ?specializes in the teaching of industrial arts and applied sciences.? Nowhere does this include teaching preservation of the environment. On the other hand, his claim has credibility when he states that the university has carried out actions that are included in the Taloires Declaration. This is shown through the substantial support of environmental programs and institutes President Baker provides in his speech. With the claim and reasons come both positive and negative aspects, but the evidence President Baker provides is valid. In his speech President Baker mentions evidence such as environmentally aware organizations and groups in Cal Poly along with the educational opportunities and learning institutes involving sustainability. Specifically, he mentions the web page and examples of actions taken by the Facilities Planning Department. This organization has implemented activities and ideals that are supported by principles of environmental sustainability. Also, in compliance with the Talloires Declaration, Cal Poly teaches environmentally responsible citizenship through educational programs. For example, several colleges offer degree programs and minors that provide emphasis on principles of sustainability. One last piece of evidence is when President Baker mentions the specific learning centers and institutions that provide environmental education. Baker introduces his evidence of the university?s compliance by referring to Cal Poly?s Master Plan that sets out the university?s mission. According to him, many elements are included in this mission to create ?a comprehensive vision of sustainability,? one of these elements being environmental protection. Although this is a valid reason, President Baker also states other reasons that are not pertinent to the environment. He speaks of a personally safe university and one that is more culturally diverse. Throughout the speech, President Baker displays a sense of urgency and passion about environmental preservation. As the president of the university and host of the event, he introduces the issue and his stance before the other speakers began. This demonstrates his strong feelings for the cause, showing the importance of the issue to the university. In the entire speech President Baker uses vocabulary such as ?duty and mission? to convey passion for the cause. In the claim President Baker refers to certain actions made towards preservation of the environment that ?supports us physically and uplift us spiritually.? Here he tries to convey how imperative it is for our well being to respect the environment and have a more positive and spiritual outlook towards our surroundings. But his emotional appeal would only work for some people; many do not feel spiritually close to the environment. To many, the environment is not something sacred or religiously inspiring but simply something pretty to look at. Since I already agree with environmental preservation, President Baker?s speech did not have much of an impact on me. However, his central idea that the university should lead by example and provide education about sustainability did spark my attention. Not only should Cal Poly be teaching students to be book-smart, but also how to be upstanding citizens in society by respecting and protecting the surrounding environment. With the environment continually deteriorating as a result of pollution and neglect, it is imperative that actions?including ones mentioned by President Baker?continue to be taken by the university to preserve our precious natural resources before they are completely depleted. After reading President Baker?s speech, I now have a better understanding of what my university education is all about. It includes being intelligent in an array of academic areas as well as being environmentally aware.

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