A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
December 9, 2004 Volume 35/Number 4

'Plan B' by Lester Brown



From all reports, Lester Brown’s visit in November was a wonderful success. He spoke to 50 students in the Environmental Issues Class and shared thoughts with two dozen faculty in an afternoon colloquium. Later, more than 1,400 people attended his evening presentation. His message throughout the day was consistent, simple, and clear: “Business as usual is not working.” We need to restructure our thoughts about the human/environment relationship. We need a new plan!

Community feedback has been extraordinary. People were clearly drawn to his message of hope amid the gloom of the situation. Brown believes that we can avoid the worst effects of environmental overshoot (and the resulting ecological demise), if we act quickly and think wisely.

During our drive to the airport, Brown said one of the things that gives him hope is that there are places like CSU, Chico. He was clearly impressed by his visit and what he saw. Previously, he had talked about speaking to 500 students at this prestigious university or 400 students at that one, after having to turn away another 200 at the door. He was simply floored by 1,400 people in Laxson.

On the ride to Chico, we told Brown about our campus and our environmental efforts, our green building, our ecological preserves, our environmental literacy class, and the campus sustainability assessment. Despite all our boasting, it was the campus experience itself that convinced him. He spoke not only with active students and engaged faculty, but also with facilities staff committed to environmental sustainability. As we walked across campus during his visit, Don Sleeper stopped us to talk about the green building conference the facilities staff had just attended. His interest was obvious as he described the waterless urinals he had seen at the conference, and how he and the other staff were setting up a test run down at the yard. As he left, Brown turned to us and asked, “Is everyone here this concerned?”

At the evening presentation Brown acknowledged how impressed he was with this campus, and he urged us to tell the rest of the CSU what we’re up to, and how we are succeeding. He noted, “Something is going on here.” We believe the institution is changing. A colleague commented that he could feel a difference on campus. Things had changed, and he did not see them changing back. We agree, and we want to keep it moving. To do so, we need to spread the word about our efforts and successes.

This was driven home by the comments of another faculty member. While it was good to have Brown congratulate us, this person heard the praise, but he did not understand why Brown was saying it. Clearly, Brown was right; we need to tell our story to others, but first we need to tell it to ourselves. Our effort starts with this column. We hope to tell you what is happening in the green campus movement, and we hope you will then tell others. We do have an emerging and wonderful story to tell.

Happy greening.

— Mark Stemen, Coordinator of Environmental Studies, and Jim Pushnik, Rawlins Chair of Environmental Literacy



University Publications
California State University, Chico
400 West First Street
Chico, CA 95929-0040