Today’s blog post comes from Eliot Neal, one of the students in this summer’s program.
“The School for the Environment was honored to have Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and popular environmentalist, join us on Tuesday evening for a workshop on writing op-ed pieces. McKibben is something of a media wizard, and can often be seen on television or gracing the pages of well-known newspapers and magazines. Needless to say, he knows how to get his message across. One of his best tools is the op-ed piece. His talk outlined some of the basic guidelines for writing an op-ed piece, and revealed what helps to make an op-ed successful and widely read. Critiquing examples of op-eds that both he and others had written, McKibben taught us how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that plague op-ed pieces. We will be working with McKibben later in the program when we write our own op-eds in our elective classes.
“One of the major focuses here at the School for the Environment is the power of communication. It is not enough to simply measure, say, levels of pollutants in Lake Champlain. You must then be able to translate that hard data into language that everyone can understand. Additionally, if you wish to enact any change, you must be able to get the attention of people who can make that change happen. As we learned from McKibben, one of the most effective ways to do this is to write an op-ed. By acquiring the necessary skills to communicate information and ideas, we will be much more prepared to tackle the environmental issues that we have explored in the SoE.
Last week, Kenny Williams, of the GreenThumb Program in New York City, came and talked to students about his experiences as a someone working to make a difference promoting the development of community gardens. Kenny brought an important perspective to our exploration of what it takes to be an effective leader. He is a recent college graduate (Class of 2012), yet despite that, he has tried a lot and learned a lot about what it takes to design, implement, and manage a project meant to make the world (or, at least, a part of it) a better place.
Kenny currently works as an Outreach Coordinator for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation GreenThumb Program. GreenThumb supports community efforts to create and maintain over 500 community gardens throughout the city. He joined GreenThumb shortly after graduating from Middlebury College in the spring of 2012. During his undergraduate career he and a group of fellow alumni created a school garden summer program at the Bronx Academy of Letters Charter School. The experience directed him towards further exploring the city’s approaches to gardening, particularly regarding conservation and community engagement.
One of our students, Joseph Interligi, summarized their conversation like this: ” Kenny Williams lecture fell right in line with our course curriculum by expressing how the lessons we are learning now in regards to the environment and implementing change are employed in the working world. Knowing the knowledge is important but you have to be willing to put that knowledge to work. The “sweat equity” you must dedicate into a project or idea, as Mr. Williams most eloquently stated, is one of the most important aspects of executing change. You cannot just talk the talk you must be willing to walk the walk as well.”
I’m very pleased to be announce that Gus Speth will join the School of the Environment as a Fellow this summer, both talking informally to the students about his life as an environmental leader and giving a formal lecture, which will be open to the public. Throughout his career, James Gustave “Gus” Speth has provided leadership and entrepreneurial initiatives to many task forces and committees whose roles have been to combat environmental degradation and promote sustainable development, including the President’s Task Force on Global Resources and Environment; the Western Hemisphere Dialogue on Environment and Development; and the National Commission on the Environment. Among his awards are the National Wildlife Federation’s Resources Defense Award, the Natural Resources Council of America’s Barbara Swain Award of Honor, a 1997 Special Recognition Award from the Society for International Development, Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Environmental Law Institute and the League of Conservation Voters, the Blue Planet Prize, and the Thomas Berry Great Work Award of the Environmental Consortium of Colleges and Universities.
In short, there are few people who can speak more authoritatively or with more breadth of experience about what it will take for students to become effective agents of environmental change than Gus Speth.
He is the author, co-author or editor of seven books including the award-winning The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability and Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment. His latest book is America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy, published by Yale Press in September 2012.
He is currently on the faculty of the Vermont Law School as Professor of Law. He serves also as Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, Senior Fellow at The Democracy Collaborative, and Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute. In 2009 he completed his decade-long tenure as Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. From 1993 to 1999, Gus Speth was Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group. Prior to his service at the UN, he was founder and president of the World Resources Institute; professor of law at Georgetown University; chairman of the U.S. Council on Environmental Quality (Carter Administration); and senior attorney and cofounder, Natural Resources Defense Council.
Stay tuned for more information about the title, timing, and location of his public lecture. If you are in the area, it will be well worth attending!
We are pleased to announce that noted author and environmentalist Bill McKibben will join us as a Fellow of the Middlebury School of the Environment this summer. Bill has worked tirelessly – and successfully – on behalf of the environment for over 25 years. His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages. He is founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement. The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities; Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.” A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone.
This summer, Bill will bring to the students at the School of the Environment his expertise as a journalist on how to craft Op-ed pieces for promoting environmental issues and narratives, as well as his expertise as a practitioner in organizational strategy and creative ideation. We are pleased and excited that he is joining us, and I know that students who attend the School this summer will benefit tremendously from his experience, insight, and passion.
As I have noted in several previous posts, the curriculum for the Middlebury School of the Environment will include workshops offered by a wide variety of professionals who have expertise in one or more tools critical for achieving success in effecting environmental change. I am pleased to be able to announce the addition of two more Fellows for the School of the Environment, Dr. Helen Riess and Dr. Michael Kiernan.
Helen Riess, M.D., is the Chief Technology Officer of Empathetics, Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Empathy and Relational Science Program in the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. She conducts translational research using the neuroscience of emotions in educational curricula to improve empathy and relational skills in physicians and other health care providers. Dr. Riess will join the School of the Environment this summer as a Fellow to lead a workshop on “Empathy and the Environment,” building upon her innovative work on the power of empathy as both a leadership skill and a means to develop positive relationships with people in virtually any setting.
Mike Kiernan is a physician, actor, public speaker – and one today’s most energetic and engaging voices for creative leadership and communication. He will be joining the 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.
This summer, Alden Woodrow will join the School as a practitioner-in-residence, bringing to the students his experience in leading teams that develop alternative energy strategies as well as a background in economics and business.
Alden Woodrow leads the business team for the Makani project at Google [x] (formerly Makani Power), which has developed a novel approach to generating wind power. The Makani Airborne Wind Turbine is a tethered wing that generates power by flying in large circles where the wind is stronger and more consistent. It eliminates 90% of the material used in conventional wind turbines, and can access winds both at higher altitudes and above deep waters offshore — resources that are currently untapped. Their goal is the utility-scale deployment of airborne turbines in offshore wind farms.
Alden directs Makani’s strategy, business development, communications, policy, and partnership efforts. He previously worked for a power project developer financing utility-scale wind farms, and as an economic and environmental consultant on topics ranging from climate policy to dog house manufacturing. Alden holds an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a focus on energy finance.
We’re very much looking forward to him joining us this summer, as can offer a fresh perspective not only on the future trends in alternative energy generation but how innovative thinking can be manifest in a business environment.
One of the goals of the School of the Environment is to offer as comprehensive and integrative of a curriculum as possible. It is therefore with great pleasure that I introduce the School’s Artist-in-Residence for 2014, Mr. Martin Clark Bridge.
From his website … “Martin is proudly carrying his family tradition forth as he lives, creates and teaches in the hills of Western Massachusetts. His work spans a wide range of media from Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Theater Design and Site Specific Installations to Performance. His Spiritual Path as an Animist first and foremost influences his art. His work celebrates the sacredness inherent in nature, the consciousness in all things and power of place and seeks to challenge the cultural paradigms that dictate the way we relate to both the natural world and our brother and sisters. He strives to create work that improves his own awareness of how he relates to the natural world and invites viewers to contemplate how to live in better balance with the world around us. Through his work he hopes to inspire and cultivate a greater sense of mystery and possibility in our experience of the world.”
As a Fellow with the School of the Environment, Martin Bridge has accepted a commission to paint an original piece to commemorate the inaugural session of the School. This image will be used on the School’s t-shirt (a tradition that I hope will continue with future artists-in-residence in the coming years), and the original will be placed on display at Middlebury College. Martin will also present an installation lecture, during which he will talk not only about the commissioned piece itself but about how it contributes to his larger exploration of arts and the environment.
Martin Bridge brings to this subject a diverse set of skills and world views that transcends traditional approaches to studies of art and the environment. He is a painter, sculptor, musician, architect, landscape designer, and mycologist … all of which both inform his practices and come together to create a more integrative reflection of the arts than any one practice alone could do. More than anyone else working in this area today, Martin Bridge lives his art, and his art comes alive (often literally) through him.
We are very pleased that he will be joining us during the second week of the summer session, and look forward not only to his presentation but to his deeper engagement with the students.
In the meantime, be sure to visit his website and its associated gallery. I am sure you will agree with me that his work dramatically throws open the door to explorations of arts and the environment.