Quotes from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action

On Dec. 19, 2016, a diverse group of Higher Education Institutions and Second Nature released a letter they collaboratively developed. This letter was sent to the new Congressional delegation and incoming Presidential transition team on January 17, 2017, and urges them to accelerate progress towards a clean energy future. The higher education sector is aligning with business leaders in calling on elected officials to support participation in the Paris Agreement, climate research, and investment in the low carbon economy. 

Why is strong federal and international Climate Action important to your Higher Education Institution? 

“Our mission at Agnes Scott is to prepare students to think deeply, live honorably, and engage the challenges of their time.  Our willingness to come together as a national and global community and take strong action in the face of the challenge of climate change will determine what kind of world these students inherit from us — and how history will judge our generation.” – Elizabeth Kiss, President, Agnes Scott College

“Allegheny has a deep and longstanding commitment to addressing the realities of climate change. That commitment is fundamental to our campus ethic and is reflected in both our curricular and co-curricular programs. Both during their time on our campus and in the years after their graduation, it is our hope that our students will bring their own deeply felt commitment to addressing climate change to their responsibilities as citizens of the world.” – James Mullen, President, Allegheny College

“Leadership on challenging problems means taking action and inspiring action by others. Sometimes leadership literally means going first. The President and the Government of the United States must lead.” – Thomas Manley, President, Antioch College (OH)

“Our institutional commitment to sustainability and social justice commands that we acknowledge that there is no more significant risk to our society than the expanding impacts of climate change.  We will continue to act and we call upon our country’s leaders to do the same.” – Melinda Treadwell, Provost, Antioch University New England

“As a New American University with a charter that includes assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves, Arizona State University believes leadership action on climate change at all levels of society is essential. We have an opportunity to avoid the growing negative impacts of inaction and, instead, practice leadership that will lead to a prosperous and secure future.” – Michael Crow, President, Arizona State University

“As part of our greater institutional mission, we at the Boston Architectural College are proponents of the practices, processes, and materials with which to create a truly sustainable built environment, ranging from green building design to sustainable community planning to policy and advocacy. Now more than ever, the BAC stands firm on its values and commitment to the examination of energy, water, air quality, materials and resources, preservation, construction management, land use, and research methods for the sake of ethical and responsible environmental stewardship.” – Glen LeRoy, President, Boston Architectural College

“Effective leadership and federal/state policy must be based in research and education regarding climate and the environment, energy systems,  along with human/social factors and behaviors.” – Timothy White, Chancellor, California State University System

“We are located near the Pacific Coast in southern California. This is a vulnerable area across many dimensions of concern, for example, rising sea levels, ocean pollution, estuary preservation, sustainable commercial fishing, and air pollution. Hundreds of our students and faculty are involved in science related to the preservation of our planet.” – Jane Conoley, President, California State University-Long Beach

“As a higher education institution that serves the community and the Southern California region, California State University, Northridge has a responsibility to be a leader and educator on issues like climate action to help our students and communities ensure a healthy and sustainable world for everyone and the generations that follow us.” – Dianne Harrison, President, California State University-Northridge

“Institutions of higher education are places where scientific advancements are made and solutions to global problems are realized. Climate change is one of the greatest issues facing our planet, and universities across the nation are prepared to find solutions. Federal support is imperative to this cause.” – Robert Nelsen, President, California State University-Sacramento

“The development of an alternative economy that employs our students and protects our environment from the effects of climate change have to be among the highest goals of the nation.” – Brian Murphy, President, De Anza College

“Among the highest callings we have as educators in preparing leaders of tomorrow is to help students under our care learn how to better protect and preserve this planet for all future generations. We expect no less from our chosen political leaders, as well.” – James Brenneman, President, Goshen College

“Although we are not able to control very many of the aspects of climate change, through united effort we may be able to mitigate the most damaging effects on humanity.  Education teaches us the importance of taking responsibility for our actions, and it is through collective action that the greatest feats can be accomplished.  It is only when leadership on the federal and international level work together for the collective good that we will have any chance of faring well through the challenges wrought upon us by climate change.” – Jim Minkler, President, Grays Harbor College

“As a responsible member of our local, national, and global communities, and as an institution dedicated to educating the next generations of scientifically informed and ethically attuned citizens, Haverford College is profoundly committed to effective climate action at all levels of civic engagement.” – Kimberly Benston, President, Haverford College

“As higher education leaders who are responsible for educating the next generation of citizens and leaders, we recognize that climate change will be the defining challenge of their lifetimes, and we owe it to our students and their future to do all we can to promote unified action to combat this global threat.” – Alison Byerly, President, Lafayette College

“Rural America has been hard-hit by weather-related events in this century. Our country’s reliance on the farming and ranching industries makes it critically important to ensure we continue to research and act on ways to mitigate that impact and adapt to the effects of global warming. Regardless of your beliefs about the cause, the effects are being felt strongly in rural areas. We are preparing the next generation to lead and strengthen rural America. They need your support. Thank you.” – Linda Lujan, President, Lamar Community College

“‘Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.”   -Ancient Indian Proverb. Higher Education is about the future vitality of our nation and our world.  We educate for the future – we have a responsibility to teach why we must “treat the earth well” and be models for our communities.” – Debra Derr, President, Mt. Hood Community College

“NSCC has been committed to sustainability for more than a decade and has committed to reduce our carbon footprint, created a cross college green team, invested in a zero net energy building, and includes a sustainable future in our Values statement.” – Patricia Gentile, President, North Shore Community College

“Pacific Lutheran University is committed to the values of Diversity, Justice, and Sustainability.  Our mission statement underscores our commitment to care for the Earth: “We seek to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership, and care–for other people, for their communities, and for the Earth.”‘ – Thomas Krise, President, Pacific Lutheran University

“Global climate change is one of the signature issues of the 21st Century, and Pomona College seeks to educate its students to play a leading role in science and policy to make progress in the future.” – David Oxtoby, President, Pomona College

“Without action on Climate Change, anything else we do will be severely compromised.  Carbon reduction and resilience efforts are our #1 priority.” – Wim Wiewel, President, Portland State University

“Colleges and universities in the United States have a vested interest in being exemplary stewards of the environment, but institutions cannot wage the battle alone. Strong federal and international Climate Action is essential.” – Carlee Drummer, President, Quinebaug Valley Community College

“Institutions with a long-term vision like ours have been fighting climate change for years. We have found that reducing energy usage and avoiding climate risk makes financial sense while also addressing our obligations to future generations. Furthermore, the US military recognizes climate change as a national security issue. It is time for our federal government to provide policy support for climate action.” – Michael McDonough, President, Raritan Valley Community College

“Any action that our country takes that moves us away from greater reliance on renewable energy sources, and back to greater use of carbon-based energy, is incompatible with sustainability, a core principle of our campus.” – Donald Farish, President, Roger Williams University

“Scientists concur that climate change is a real and significant threat. To move against environmental concerns is inhumane and irresponsible. To ignore science is unacceptable.” – Susan Hencking, President, Shimer College

“By educating the next generation of women leaders about climate change we help ensure a better Smith and a better world.” – Kathleen McCartney, President, Smith College

“Climate change cannot be reversed by a single institution nor a single country. A collective intervention in the multitude of factors that impact climate change is necessary for success. The State University of New York, together with all of higher education must be a driving force in continued examination of climate change and development of opportunities to assure cleaner more secure planet for future generations.” – Nancy Zimpher, Chancellor, State University of New York (SUNY)

“We are doing all we can to educate students about responsible use of resources, to engage with community partners in looking at energy and pollutants, and to ensure that our campus buildings and operations are environmentally friendly. We want to prepare students to be engaged consumers and citizens, and I join colleagues in requesting strong state, federal, and international Climate Action policies and practices.” – Virginia Horvath, President, State University of New York at Fredonia

“Climate action is prudent insurance against the uncertainties of continued warming on global environmental change and its implications for human health and well-being as well as the integrity of ecosystems and diversity of life.” – Quentin Wheeler, President, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry

“As the president of The Evergreen State College, I am pleased to join colleagues from around the nation in signing the Letter from Higher Education Leaders on Climate Action to president-elect Trump and members of Congress. Environmental stewardship and study are interwoven with Evergreen’s commitments to advancing knowledge and pursuing social justice. Together these commitments comprise a core theme for our work, a key tenet of our strategic plan, and an integral element of our educational mission. Evergreen embeds considerations of environmental stewardship and social justice into its curriculum and its operations. We seek to increase awareness of environmental problems, the consequences of individual and collective action, and specifically, the impact of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable populations. Our study and practice of environmental stewardship are deeply linked to our commitment to addressing global concerns about the health and welfare of all communities. Evergreen also assumes that understanding and solving environmental challenges such as climate change or food security requires firm grounding in research in the natural and life sciences. Equally important is understanding the role that social, political and economic forces play in causing these challenges and remedying them fully and effectively. Advancing knowledge about the challenges is critical. As a college committed to interdisciplinary thinking and pedagogy, our academic programs, equity and inclusion efforts, climate action planning, clean energy and sustainable infrastructure initiatives align well with this important call to action for our elected officials. In signing the Letter, I am pleased to join the call on behalf of the entire Evergreen community.” – George Bridges, President, The Evergreen State College

“As a University we have a deep commitment to research innovative solutions for tomorrow, to serve the greater public good, and to educate the leaders of future generations. Strong federal and international climate action is critical to this mission.” – Gene Block, Chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles

“This is the most important issue facing the next generation. The science is clear.  Now is the time to act … while we still can.” – J. Bruce Harreld, President, University of Iowa

“Researchers at UMD are leaders in studying the response of Great Lakes to climate change.  Impacts to the Great Lakes will affect not only human and biological communities, but also industry, shipping, tourism, and other economic interests.” – Lendley Black, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Duluth

“University of Minnesota, Morris was a charter signatory of the ACUPCC climate commitment, and we have continued the commitment to reduce our carbon footprint and operate in an environmentally responsible way to this day. The commitment is important to many of our constituents, including our students, who elect to attend this institution in part because they are able to live in a community that models a different way of living for the future.  We are powered by the wind and the sun and heated and cooled using local biomass resources, thus benefiting not only the region and the environment, but also our campus bottom line.” – Jacqueline Johnson, Chancellor, University of Minnesota-Morris

“Any and every action taken by the United States will have an affect on the neighboring country of The Bahamas.” – Rodney Smith, President, University of The Bahamas

“As an Urban Serving University, UW Tacoma is committed to serving the South Puget Sound for the common good of our citizens. This certainly includes providing for responsible and thoughtful actions with respect to sustainability as well as providing leadership in areas related to preserving the health of our environment for the future.” – Mark Pagano, Chancellor, University of Washington, Tacoma

“Our future is at risk. We all need to do our part to curtail the dramatic and damaging changes our ecosystem is experiencing.” – Robert Caret, Chancellor, University System of Maryland

“As educators, we have a fundamental responsibility to examine environmental issues on an informed and teachable basis. We owe that to our students, giving them the tools they will need to make informed judgments about environmental stewardship. This goes hand in hand with our urgent need to monitor federal policy impacting the environment, especially as we await the new administration in Washington.” – Scott Miller, President, Virginia Wesleyan College

“Global climate change poses enormous challenges, and we at Wesleyan University are doing what we can to help shape a sustainable society.  Yes, we have built a strong program in Environmental Studies. Yes, the research, teaching and practices of our College of the Environment helps our graduates better contribute to a positive and sustainable future.  Yes, we are trying to practice what we teach by becoming a more sustainable campus.  But all these efforts are themselves sustained by the expectation that this national and global challenge will be met on a national and global scale.  The expectation of strong federal and international Climate Action gives us hope for the future; it energizes our efforts; it gives us confidence that our actions will be meaningful beyond the university.” – Michael Roth, President, Wesleyan University

“Our basic commitment to all of humanity requires that we do all we can to better understand and protect the environment  for future generations.” – John Dunn, President, Western Michigan University

“Western has received national recognition for our efforts to promote sustainability and our community supports these efforts. As higher education leaders, we believe it is the right thing to do.” – Lee Rasch, President, Western Technical College

“College and university campuses are critical in helping us to understand the impacts of climate change and how to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Given the systemic impact of climate change, it is prudent that our future business owners, teachers, scientists, and other leaders understand the challenges they will face and are prepared to overcome them. Students come to Western Washington University wanting to make difference in the lives of others and living out our motto, “Active minds changing lives”. We need to provide them the best chance for success in the monumental task in front of them; working to insure prosperity, social equity and environmental integrity for all through the next century. International and domestic attention to climate issues will help to open doors for our young leaders in the pursuit of United States innovation and leadership on the global stage in a time of critical need and opportunity.” – Sabah Randhawa, President, Western Washington University

“Wheaton College, like other colleges and universities, is focused on preparing students to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Climate issues are not going to go away and our elected officials need to lead the way in helping us to prepare our students to address the critical challenges related to climate change.” – Dennis Hanno, President, Wheaton College (MA)