It is now firmly established that human activity is the cause of global warming. The temperature’s rise is extraordinarily rapid and is accompanied by acidification of our oceans, which threatens the habitability of the Earth. The poorest among us will be the hardest hit. We can’t undo the warming that has already happened, but our actions—both collectively and individually—will determine how much more warming will occur.
As an institution in the service of the common good, Bowdoin has a responsibility to limit its carbon footprint. As such, Bowdoin’s administration, faculty, students and staff must be stewards of the planet. The College’s investments in solar arrays on and off campus, the energy efficient Roux Center and the super?insulated new dorms are all good steps toward this goal.
However, the community needs to continue to ensure that new structures are built only when necessary and have the lowest possible carbon emissions. Low carbon buildings are good for the planet and good for the College’s long term well being. College buildings are long?lived and over time, low carbon footprints save money.
Despite this, the proposed expansion of the Schiller Coastal Studies Center lacks a solar component. Mills Hall is still being designed, but there is not yet evidence that it will be a low carbon emitter. Low carbon footprints should be a given for every new structure and included in their design and budget.
Thanks to former President Mills’s leadership, Bowdoin is carbon neutral, now and forever. But this was only achieved by purchasing carbon offsets–we are buying the right to pollute from others who have chosen not to. Going forward, every fossil?fuel kilowatt?hour we will use to heat a building costs the College twice: We have to buy it from the power company, and we have to buy an offset.
At this moment, while we are in the planning stages of multiple buildings, we must avoid locking ourselves into high emissions and high costs. We urge everyone at Bowdoin to prioritize reducing carbon emissions and to hold the College to the highest standards of planetary stewardship. It would be particularly unfortunate if a building named for the president who led Bowdoin toward carbon neutrality would instead take the College further away from that goal.
Mark Battle, associate professor of physics
Laura Henry, associate professor of government
Ta Herrera, professor of economics
Bruce Kohorn, Linnanean professor of biology and biochemistry
Madeleine Msall, professor of physics