Spring 2012 –
David Orr, a Paul Sears distinguished professor of environmental studies and politics and Special Assistant to the President of Oberlin College, visited Miami University on Jan. 19, to discuss designing eco-friendly communities in a black swan world.
“We’ve entered a brand new environmental era,” said Orr. “And the question is- what are we going to do about it?”
Orr described today’s society as being a series of black swan events, or events that are nearly impossible for most people to predict but have the utmost importance due to their widespread impact, in regards to how the environment is treated.
Orr isolated five “drivers” that have the most impact on the environment: rapid population growth, energy transition from fossil fuels to alternative resources, environmental stress on land and oceans, rapid climate destabilizations, and political instabilities highlighted by the increasing income gap.
In response to these problems, Orr is fighting back with the Oberlin Project in Oberlin, Ohio. It is a joint effort of the city of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and private partners according to Orr.
He says the goal is to “revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry, and create a sustainable base for economic and community development.”
As part of the Oberlin Project, Orr helped design the Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies. Completed in 2000, after a decade of construction, the Center was named one of the 30 Milestone Buildings of the 20th Century by the U.S. Department of Energy, one of the top ten green projects by the American Institute of Architects, and many others.
Recently the Oberlin Project was chosen to become one of 16 Clinton Foundation Climate Positive Development Program cities, only one of two in the United States. This agreement requires that the city and the college reduce their carbon emissions to below zero by 2050.
The Oberlin Project is meant to be a model for how cities all over the world can become carbon neutral.
The Center would have qualified for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum building if it was not built before the LEED system was established.
Dr. Orr met with representatives from Miami University and Oxford to discuss the implications of what might happen at Miami to reduce its carbon footprint shortly after his lecture.