President Paxson recently published an article entitled “Brown’s Path to Net Zero” in the Brown Alumni Magazine. She stated, “If universities and colleges do not lead in taking on this responsibility [to address the climate crisis], we will miss this epochal opportunity to serve the planetary interest.” While we appreciate this much needed sentiment, the current situation at our university does not reflect her statement.
In February 2019, Brown announced its goal to achieve a 75% reduction in campus greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and net-zero emissions by 2040. We agree that committing to decarbonization is an imperative step in Brown’s path to be a leader in sustainability.
However, sustainability extends much further than simply reducing emissions. If President Paxson truly wants to “shoulder responsibility for the future,” Brown should expand the scope of its sustainability initiatives far beyond the current plan. BrownCAN is committed to an intersectional vision of sustainability, incorporating issues both inside and outside our campus lines. If such an influential institution like Brown University wants to be sustainable, we need organized collaboration – not just within Brown, but also among the people that live in Providence. Even though the city of Providence and its community members have already been making an effort to achieve sustainability, Brown has not incorporated our institution into their plans. The current Brown draft Strategic Sustainability Plan draws the line of sustainability at the edges of our campus - this is unacceptable. Without robust local engagement, Brown risks harming our neighbors.
Our university needs to prepare students to live sustainably for the rest of our lives. It is essential that Brown expands curricular offerings to the extent that every student in every department understands the intersections of their work and climate change. Brown should follow the footsteps of our peer institutions, such as Columbia University, which is discussing the creation of an overarching climate school committed to cross-disciplinary research and education on climate science. The climate crisis impacts every field of study.
Additionally, within our community, we must address other issues such as the immense quantity of single-use plastic thrown out in our dining halls each day, as well as reduce the amount of beef, pork, and reliance on pollution-intensive food products used in our meals. Our institution should further incentivize public transport through our shuttle system and the RIPTA and work to minimize scope 3 emissions of faculty travel.
We, Brown Climate Action Now, demand that Brown recognizes its role in the greater Providence community and integrates itself into it, so that not only members of our institution, but also the members of Providence and the state of Rhode Island will be able to achieve a holistic view of sustainability collectively.