Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #4

In a later chapter in his book Flourishing, John Ehrenfeld says that the question of whether one is optimistic or pessimistic about the future is the wrong question. The right question about the future, he says, is, “Are you hopeful?” Why might that be an important question to ask if you are thinking about engaging with issues of sustainability as a young adult?

And what is your personal response to that question. Are you hopeful? If so, why? From what source or feeling do you manufacture your hope? And if not, what motivates you to pursue an educational path that includes an emphasis on a study of the environment even though you are not hopeful for the future?

Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #3

We began the class three weeks ago with a broad macro-scale perspective on sustainability, and quickly worked toward a micro-scale perspective, focusing on methods directed at small, targeted goals that address specific vulnerabilities for a specific system. Reflect on the pros and cons of these two perspectives. What do we gain and what do we lose by adopting one or the other of these perspectives? What do you think are some solutions or strategies for addressing issues of sustainability that would allow us to retain all of the benefits without suffering from the negative consequences.

 

Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #2

SP3We have progressed in this course from discussing sustainability in broad conceptual terms to working on specific planning skills, in particular systems mapping and scenario planning. Reflect – using at least one specific example from the readings, your experience, or general knowledge – on your views of how such planning skills can contribute – or not – to developing practical strategies to promote sustainability.

Provide your answer as a comment to this post. Remember – your comments are public.

Sustainability Practicum (2016) Prompt #1

In class on Monday, we began discussion of sustainability by considering the definition of sustainable development offered by the Brundtland Commission (1987) and how it might be revised to take into account its limitations as noted by such authors as Wackernagel and Rees, Ehrenfeld, and Engelman. We went from this …

“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland et al. 1987)

… to this …

“Sustainability means living within the Earth’s biocapacity to allow people and nature to flourish while assuring the ability of all future life to flourish.” (MSoE 2016)

There was general agreement that this definition also had limitations, either in interpretability, emphasis, or completeness … as well as its fundamental syntax.

For your first writing prompt, I would like you to critique (in both positive and negative ways) the definition we created. If you believe it needs improvement, then I would like you to offer and justify a revision for consideration by the class. If you believe it is perfect as it is written, then I would like you to justify that position.

Add your critiques, revisions, and justifications as comments to this post. And remember, your posts can be seen by anyone on the Internet. Please put your best face forward in your writing.

Noah Hutton, Director of “Deep Time”

This summer, the Middlebury School of the Environment will welcome director Noah Hutton for a public showing of his 2015 film, Deep Time.”

Deep TimeThe themes exposed in this acclaimed documentary perfectly blend with those of the MSoE: “Ancient oceans teeming with life, Norwegian settlers, Native Americans and multinational oil corporations find intimacy in deep time. Following up his 2009 feature Crude Independence (SXSW), Deep Time is director Noah Hutton’s ethereal portrait of the landowners, state officials, and oil workers at the center of the most prolific oil boom on the planet for the past six years. With a new focus on the relationship of the indigenous peoples of North Dakota to their surging fossil wealth, Deep Time casts the ongoing boom in the context of paleo-cycles, climate change, and the dark ecology of the future” (adapted from the film’s web site).

Deep Time has been well received by critics and audiences alike.  It won the Special Jury Award at the 2015 Environmental Film Festival at Yale, as well as the Jury Award for Documentary Features at the 2016 Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

We’re excited to have Noah Hutton join us for the screening, which will be followed by an open Q&A with the audience to explore both the subject of the film and the craft of film production.

The screening will be held on July 19th, 7:30 pm in Dana Auditorium on the Middlebury College campus.  The film is free and open to the public, and we hope you will be able to join us.

Peter Forbes joins us this summer

I’m pleased to say that Peter Forbes will join the Middlebury School of the Environment this summer as guest practitioner.

Peter ForbesPeter describes himself this way: “I am a life-long student and advocate for the relationship between people and place. I’ve worked with many different people in very different geography from remote Nepal to the Rocky Mountains to central Harlen, New York. My life as emergency medical technician, photographer, author, father, farmer, and facilitator combine unusual aspect of the practical and visionary to produce work that has been helpful to a variety of sectors: conservation, leadership development, sustainability, philanthropy, and social ventures.

The list of his specific projects and writings is long and diverse:

  • Negotiating Generational Change
  • A Man Apart (2015)
  • Making Allies: Western Maine
  • Making Allies between Conservationists and Rural Native Communities
  • Coming to Land in a Troubled World (2004)
  • Integrating Conservation and Human Wellbeing
  • The Great Remembering: Further thoughts on land, soul and society (2001)
  • Connecting Native and Contemporary Land Trust Leaders
  • Strengthening Conservation by Connecting with Community
  • Making a National Case for Community Conservation

Through his work with the Center for Whole Communities, the Trust for Public Land, and currently Knoll Farm (with his wife, Helen Whybrow), Peter will bring to his conversation with the MSoE students a wealth of experience in integrating the voices of the people and the needs of the land. And we greatly look forward to his time with us!

Managing Environmental Conflict

Jeffrey-Langholz-2Having passion is important.  Having a great idea is a good thing.  But sooner or later, in one setting or another, everyone encounters a conflict in moving an idea forward or getting a message across.  It’s normal, and therefore a successful leader doesn’t focus just on avoiding conflict but also on managing it when it occurs.

This summer, we’re pleased to welcome to the MSoE Dr. Jeffrey Langholz from the Middlebury Institute for International Studies, in Monterey, California.  Jeff is recognized as an expert in international environmental leadership, with extensive experience in working with environmental groups in Africa and Asia.  He will join us to teach a workshop called … appropriately enough … Managing Environmental Conflict: a guerilla guide.

Dr. Langholz’s research focuses sustainable use of natural resources worldwide. How can we use fisheries, forests, wildlife, water, and other natural resources in ways that guarantee their long term survival while also being good for people and profits? He is a recognized authority on the growing role that private lands play in accomplishing the triple goals of biodiversity conservation, economic development, and social justice. A past member of the World Commission on Protected Areas (IUCN), much of Jeff’s work takes place in and around parks of varying kinds. He was a Visiting Fulbright Scholar at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for the 2005-2006 academic year, researching best practices for combining conservation and development on private lands in southern Africa.

We know that the student’s will be as excited to work with Jeff this summer as the faculty will be to have him join us!

 

Environmental practitioners at the School of the Environment

As I’ve written about before, one of the most important elements of our leadership training program is the opportunity for the MSoE students to interact with environmental leaders from across a wide spectrum of pathways and experiences in life.  These leaders are real practitioners — people who are actually working on real projects and in real settings to bring about a positive change in the world.  Rather than simply have these practitioners tell their life stories, we ask them to share with the students some of the lessons they have learned about how to be effective — things that they are glad they did and things they wish that they hadn’t.  From hearing the stories of what others had to learn through trial-and-error, the MSoE students gain a leg up on developing a professional skill set earlier in their efforts to make their own mark on the world.

The roster of practitioners who will be joining us this summer is shaping up and looks to be our most exciting yet.

  • Bill McKibben, noted author, climate activist, and founder of 350.org
  • Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, Vermont’s largest energy utility and a leader in the implementation of renewable energy systems
  • Peter Forbes, founder of the Center for Whole Communities and co-owner of Knoll Farm, an organic farm dedicated to promoting resiliency, transparency, and the health of the land.
  • Kim Stone, city councilwoman for Highland Park, Illinois, and environmental advocate for alternative transportation.
  • Alden Woodrow, financial manager for the Makani Project (part of GoogleX), a company developing alternative strategies for harvesting wind power.
  • Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for the Trust for Public Land, as well as former New York City Park Commissioner.

And we’re working to finalize arrangements with a number of others, hopefully representing professional fields such as state government, the military, and community development.

We’re excited about our guest for the summer, and we know that the students who join us will benefit in untold ways from the conversations that will unfold.

Increased funding available for Summer 2016

From the start, several generous donors have made need-based scholarships available for students to attend the Middlebury School of the Environment.  In recent years, many students have been able to attend this six-week summer environmental studies and leadership training program, held on the Middlebury campus, who otherwise might not have been able to attend.

I am pleased to announce that in addition to the scholarship opportunities that were already in place, new funding has become available for the summer 2016 session. We are now able to meet up to 100% of demonstrated need on a first come, first served basis, and are offering merit aid ranging from $500 to $2500 for those who do not qualify for need-based aid.

Students have the option to live on campus or at home (at a reduced rate) while attending the program, and will earn 9 credit-hours (3 Middlebury units of credit) during the summer.

To be eligible for consideration for this funding, students will need to complete the admissions application (online application, recommendation, fee, and transcript) by midnight May 8, EST. To apply for need-based aid, they must also submit the online financial aid application.

Feel free to contact the director of the School of the Environment, Dr. Steve Trombulak, with any questions about this opportunity … or the School in general.

Persuasive public speaking

Traditionally, colleges and universities have placed a lot of emphasis in their curricula on persuasive writing.  This is all to the good.  It seems to me, however, that the vast majority of communication asked of us — especially if we are trying to advance an idea — is verbal.  Yet verbal communication, or public speaking, is one of the skills that is given the least amount of attention in higher education.  And when we do provide exposure to it as a skill, it is most likely to be oriented toward formal presentation of research results in the format most appropriate for a professional conference.

It’s not that the ability to speak effectively at a professional conference is unimportant.  It’s just that it represents only a small part of the persuasive speaking asked of us in being agents of positive change in the world.

We need to be able to make our points clearly and succinctly in public forums.

We need to be able to convince someone in 30 seconds or less to give us a hearing in a full proposal.

We need to answer questions convincingly.

We need to engage audiences, large and small, with compelling stories that capture their imaginations.

In other words, public speaking comes in all forms, for a host of reasons, and directed to a diverse range of listeners.

And to be effective, it all needs to be persuasive.

At the Middlebury School of the Environment, we focus a great deal on honing our skills in persuasive public speaking.  Much of it comes within the formal classwork, but it all builds off of our workshops on public speaking.  Lead by Mike Kiernan, these workshops are fun and engaging, but more importantly, they are effective in helping students become confident in their abilities to use their voices to make a difference.

Colchester, Vermont (January 29, 2013) - MiddCORE Winter Term (j-term) class at VPR with Jane Lindholm. (Photo © 2013 Brett Simison)

Mike is a physician, actor, public speaker – and one today’s most energetic and engaging voices for creative leadership and communication.  He will once again be joining the Middlebury School of the Environment as a Fellow to engage with the students on persuasive communication skills.  He has been an instructor in Middlebury College’s leadership and innovation training program, MiddCORE, since 2008 in all areas related to leadership and communication: crisis management, networking, story-making, and both strategic presentation design and delivery. He has also worked as a communications consultant with political candidates, physicians, business executives, and teams on leadership retreats. Mike is an actor and member of the local professional theater company, the Middlebury Actors Workshop. He is also a physician and recently was President of the Medical Staff at Porter Hospital. Mike serves on the Technical Advisory Group for the Green Mountain Care Board and the Executive Counsel of Vermont Medical Society. He is also an advisor to the State of Vermont Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy Committee.

He has consistently been one of the School’s most popular presenters, and we are excited to have him join us again this year!

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