President Rawlings Signs Commitment to the Environment -1997

December 15, 2000

Cornell Chronicle | Linda Grace-Kobas, November 17, 1997

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Pledging support and participation from all levels of the campus in protecting the environment and building sustainable futures, Cornell University officials and student leaders signed a new statement on the environment today (Nov. 14, 1997).

President Hunter Rawlings emphasized Cornell's long tradition of commitment to the environment in his remarks at the signing, which was held at noon in the Art Gallery of Willard Straight Hall. Also participating in the signing ceremony were Stephen P. Rockwell, student-elected member of the Cornell Board of Trustees; Jonathan Mawdsley, a graduate student who is director of the New York Student Environmental Action Coalition; and Theodore L. Hullar, director of Cornell's Center for the Environment.

"The pledge we are signing today has its roots in Cornell tradition and scholarship that go back to the earliest days of the university," Rawlings said. "We see this long-term commitment reflected in the natural beauty of the hundreds of acres maintained by Cornell Plantations. We see it in the research, teaching and outreach of the Center for the Environment, established in 1991 with the goal of promoting the conservation of natural resources for a sustainable future. We see it in the research conducted in centers like the Cornell Institute for Research in Chemical Ecology, which protects biodiversity and promotes conservation. And we see it in the dedication of the students participating in this ceremony today."

Rockwell applauded the collaborative effort, saying, "It's great to see students, the administration and staff planning together for a common, sustainable future. The process of drafting this statement is a good example of how students can work constructively with Cornell's administration to accomplish worthy goals."

The signers of the new statement committed the campus community to four principles:

-- To promote sustainable futures through educational activities: "As the land-grant institution in New York state, Cornell has played and will continue to play an active role in helping students and members of the community in understanding local, regional, national and global environmental issues."

-- To promote sustainable futures through improvements to the campus environment: "Through efforts such as reducing waste, decreasing the university's consumption of nonrenewable resources, increasing recycling and the purchasing of recycled products, promoting public transportation, increasing ties to its local community and reducing the use of environmentally harmful substances such as chlorofluorocarbons, Cornell has made and will continue to make substantial contributions towards minimizing its overall environmental impact."

-- To promote sustainable futures through research and outreach activities that ultimately lead to practical solutions to environmental problems facing the university and the world: "The expertise within the university community is a resource that can contribute to devising and implementing solutions to environmental problems."

-- To promote sustainable futures through environmentally responsible stewardship of all the resources entrusted to its care: ". . . Cornell will exercise environmentally sound stewardship of its lands and properties, strive to protect and preserve the biodiversity of its lands, and work to improve energy efficiency in its facilities and equipment."

Hullar called the new statement a "particularly important step forward, pledging the Cornell community to environmental quality and stewardship in all that we do." He added, "Especially important is the emphasis on sustainable futures, which aims to bring together optimally long-term environmental quality combined with economic and social vitality, for the continued fulfillment and enrichment of individual spirit and initiative."

Other student leaders who were involved in the drafting of the statement expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

"Writing an environmental statement is one of the most proactive things Cornell could possibly do," said Kristin Ruether, treasurer of the Society for Natural Resource Conservation on campus. "I'm proud to have been a part of the group that wrote this statement."

Nicole Salgado, past president of Cornell Greens and a national council member of the Student Environmental Action Coalition, said, "I look forward to continuing to help Cornell move toward a sustainable future, both in my remaining time as a student and as an alumna."

The current president of Cornell Greens, Warren Benedetto, also expressed his appreciation for "the hard work of students, faculty, staff and administrators who are dedicated to making our campus and community more environmentally sustainable."

Mawdsley summed up the feelings of many of the students who dedicated their efforts to the reaffirmation of Cornell's commitment to the environment: "Those of us in the student environmental community who helped draft this statement were seeking to create a vision of a truly sustainable university, a vision that would carry the Cornell community forward for the next seven generations or seven hundred years. This statement provides us with a clear outline of the directions in which we as a university community will need to go in the future. It's now up to all of us to make that vision a reality."