YBG Sustainability Initiative – Proposal to the Yale Community and Leadership

December 1, 2019

Dear Dean Ann Kurth (Nursing; Sustainability Advisory Council, Chair), Dean Ingrid C. Burke (Forestry & Environmental Studies; Sustainability Advisory Council, Member), Dean Marvin M. Chun (Yale College; Sustainability Advisory Council, Member), Dean Gregory E. Sterling (Divinity; Sustainability Advisory Council, Member),
Dean Sten H. Vermund (Public Health; Sustainability Advisory Council, Member),

We are Yale alumni, and many of us are members of Yale Blue Green (YBG), the shared interest group for Yalies interested in environment and sustainability. YBG includes alumni across five decades, from Yale College and many graduate and professional schools, including national leaders in environment and sustainability, as well as members who are simply passionate about the environment.

Our proposal to the Yale community and leadership through this document is straightforward: We believe that Yale has an important and urgent opportunity to establish itself as a major global leader in sustainability. We strongly encourage Yale to expand and strengthen its commitment to leadership in sustainability. Yale has an undisputed reputation for educating the next generation of leaders and innovators in every field. Now is the time to ensure that Yale is on the right side of history in addressing today’s global crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and economic inequality, and their overarching discipline, sustainability.

We applaud Yale’s existing commitments to sustainability, a globally applicable decision-making framework balancing people, planet and prosperity. We particularly appreciate how the Yale Sustainability Plan balances these three priorities of sustainability and has made important progress. We congratulate Yale on recent accomplishments of academic leadership such as Professor Nordhaus’ 2018 Nobel Prize, and the wonderful September announcements on the Task Force to look at the timing of the Net Zero Carbon Goal. We applaud announcements on, COLab and other items, and the insights offered by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communications.

However, in the spirit of Yale’s commitments to “be a world leader in basic, translational, and applied scientific and social scientific research,” to “stand unsurpassed in humanities,” to “create a university where individuals not only work and study, but fully engage in the life of a campus that is an exemplar of best practices for its host city and the world” and to “share more broadly Yale’s intellectual assets with the world,” we urge Yale to move beyond what has been accomplished and to commit to being a global leader in sustainability.

We urge you to consider how Yale’s mission statement, “improving the world today and for future generations through outstanding research and scholarship, education, preservation, and practice” has a striking similarity to the definition of sustainable development from the 1987 UN Brundtland Report, “…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

We believe that as deans, you are uniquely positioned to advance Yale’s capacity for sustainability leadership because you interface with both the intellectual life and academic scholarship that is the heart of every university and set the strategic vision and administrative priorities of your respective schools which has a positive ripple effect on the larger institution.

We believe that in Yale’s education of current and future leaders, sustainability should be a focus of intellectual and cultural leadership. As a globally renowned research institution, we assert that Yale has the opportunity, and an urgent imperative to take a stand, lead, and change the world.

Alumni stand ready to engage in this effort. In this context, we propose an alumni-driven initiative that has two initial parts:

We offer this proposal that asks Yale to form an additional task group to explore a strategy for how Yale can look beyond the Carbon Goal, to think more broadly about sustainability especially interdisciplinary scholarship and teaching, and to achieve leadership in sustainability with an aggressive timetable. This effort needs to reach across disciplines and examine options with a goal of making sustainability a focus of its intellectual and cultural leadership. We ask that this strategy task group process be launched in the spring of 2020 to establish global leadership in sustainability, engage alumni in the efforts below, and accelerate the integration of sustainability into interdisciplinary scholarship, campus operations, and real-world practice in New Haven and around the globe.

  • This strategy should have a major three-year goal post.
  • We challenge the University to make a major announcement before Earth Day 2020 (April 22, 2020) that contains specific important early actions in this process.

We offer our expertise and time to help the University to achieve these goals:

  • A program to connect the expertise of Yale alumni with the University to achieve these goals, including, but not limited to, mentoring students, acting as advisors, assisting students and alumni with networking opportunities and alumni engagement in Yale’s activities to address global challenges.
  • Specifically, in the near term, to mentor students to help them experience the challenges that interdisciplinary work on Sustainability provides, and the happiness that success in meeting those challenges brings. Our goal would be to provide a minimum of 10 mentoring experiences in 2021 and a minimum of 15 mentoring experiences in 2022 and in 2023.

We plan in the future to offer our funds to help the University achieve and accelerate sustainability goals and related interdisciplinary research and action(practice) initiatives. We plan to complement existing efforts with a current use fund and an endowment fund.

To help the University prepare a course on Sustainability Literacy that would be a broad Undergraduate class and that would have an outreach resource for Alumni on the web.
We plan to measure our results as we move forward.

In advance, we thank you for your prompt attention and response to this proposal, and we look forward to supporting the efforts of the entire University toward meeting the proposed sustainability leadership goals.

Sincerely,

Yale Blue Green