M’GONIGLE, Michael

Author Tags: Environment

LYTTON BAND CHIEF RUBY DUNSTAN, former Mt. Currie chief Leonard Andrew and environmentalist John McCandless travelled to New Zealand in November of 1988 and presented a copy of Stein: The Way of the River (Talonbooks, 1988) to Hugh Fletcher, chief executive officer of Fletcher Challenge. Stein: The Way of the River explains in historical, ecological and sociological terms why the Stein Valley should be preserved. The threesome made a presentation to approximately 800 Fletcher Challenge shareholders, then met for an hour in private with Hugh Fletcher. "He seemed impressed by the book," says McCandless, "He was surprised that there was such a comprehensive study. He wasn't expecting anything so sophisticated." '

Dunstan and Andrew also met with Maori natives who are protesting the company's logging practices within New Zealand. Fletcher Challenge is the New Zealand-based multinational forest company that has created Fletcher Challenge Canada from British Columbia Forest Products and Crown Forest Industries. Fletcher Challenge Canada hopes to log the region that is celebrated in Michael M'Gonigle and Wendy Wickwire's Stein: The Way of the River. Copies of the Stein book, designed by Ken Seabrook, have also been given to Ian Donald, chief executive of Fletcher Challenge Canada, and Premier Bill Vander Zalm.

[BCBW 1989] "Environment"

Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University (New Society $23.95)

According to Planet U: Sustaining the World, Reinventing the University (New Society $23.95), a sustainable campuses movement could soon transform the modern university from an ecologically destructive, corporate patsy into an innovative leader in environmental and social stewardship. To make their point, co-authors Michael M’Gonigle and Justine Starke have compiled a boldly idealistic vision of the university, outlining its evolution as an institution and delving into the tenets of bioregionalism (ie. local food production, alternative transportation, democratic governing structures). Of the ninety oldest institutions in the world, seventy-five are universities. But while the university’s lineage reaches back over 900 years, “its role is still not well understood, its functions usually just taken for granted, its social role and potential unappreciated.”
Universities have been booming since World War II, and their impact on industry and the economy is substantial. Last year, over a million students were registered in Canadian universities.

University research sustained a million jobs and contributed more to Canada’s GDP than the pulp and paper or automotive industries. The University of Victoria, with a relatively small student population of 18,000, employs over four thousand people, and its economic impact on Victoria, a city of just 300,000, is $1.7 billion. UBC is the province’s largest employer and has an economic impact of $4.6 billion. The University of Toronto is said to have an economic impact in ts region larger than the GDP of Prince Edward Island.
Far removed from its religious origins, the university is stuck in what Jane Jacobs calls “credentialism”—the process of producing employees rather than reflective citizens. Two-thirds of new jobs created by 2008 will require post-secondary education and already over half of the population between 25 and 54 have post-secondary degrees. Their training shapes the way we live.
In 1996, more than half of the US $100 billion gross domestic product of the Silicon Valley economy came from companies started by Stanford graduates and faculty. Drawing on James Kunstler’s ideas in The Geography of Nowhere, the authors of Planet U note that “at the university, nowhere is evident in the spiraling acres of parking lots filled with mass-produced cars, the cafeteria food delivered via an exclusive servicing contract with a nameless multinational, and the standard-issue buildings heated and lit by energy from the void.”

Students engage superficially with the built and natural environments and their “community” has no historical context or collective power. By greening infrastructure, as well as uncovering local history, the campus becomes “re-embedded”: the university settles in to its place and this place has value; travelling the globe for conferences no longer signals importance. Paradoxically, the dream university becomes “planetary”—connected with the planet’s health and with other universities—by becoming highly localized.
In Planet U, the authors trace the history of the land beneath UVic, concluding that, like many other North American universities, it arose from colonial displacement of First Nations and the sacrifice of farmland to “suburbanism.”
Planet U introduces a host of sustainability thinkers. One is biologist and environmentalist Briony Penn: “In biology, there is increasing emphasis on microbiology and genetics; I get fourth-year biology students who can’t tell the difference between a red cedar and a Douglas fir.” The magic of re-embedding is that it opens the “pedagogy of place.” Penn continues: “If place becomes an actual place, then everything is pedagogy. Every decision made on that landscape affects a particular commitment to sustainability, and this will change how people learn because it’s going to affect everything they do… That value system now affects how they see the world.” Planet U ranges between the theoretical and the pragmatic, between Derrida to the U-Pass (the bus pass students automatically receive at upward of fifty universities, whether they drive a car or not). The planetary university of the future draws on its internal expertise and is vigorously “transdisciplinary.” Already at UVic, faculty and students collaborate with Facilities Management to identify and map exotic plants for removal from the campus’s native Garry oak meadow. Rich with photographs, cartoons, and pithy quotes, Planet U would make an excellent textbook to promote discussion—but don’t keep your fingers crossed. Planet U identifies the biggest stumbling blocks to change are the university’s own hierarchical structure and bureaucratic inertia. Universities, as an industry, have a lot to answer to, according to Planet U, starting with our battered environment. “We cannot have a sustainable world where universities promote unsustainability,” write Starke and M’Gonigle, chair of Greenpeace Canada. 0-86571-557-2

• The University of California has mandated a zero increase in fossil fuel consumption and all new buildings must exceed the state’s energy efficiency standard by 20 per cent.
• The University of Victoria recycles water, has installed permeable paving for groundwater recharge, and composts food waste from campus cafeterias.
• SFU has designed UniverCity with traffic-calmed streets and a network of bike paths.
• Installing energy efficient toilets and light and water fixtures saved Columbia University nearly $3 million annually.
• The University of Colorado-Boulder provides 35 to 40 percent of the energy consumed by three of its buildings with wind power.
• UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability has been developed to produce more energy than it uses.
• Some universities are serving local food in the cafeteria. Others have adopted “sprawl containment” policies and communal “blue bicycle” programs. Dozens have “sustainability officers” and one has a “no species loss” policy.

--article by Sara Cassidy who writes—and attends university in—Victoria.

[BCBW 2006] "University" "Education"