Earth Day, every day

04-22-2010

We mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day at Michigan State University this week, but we’ve been celebrating all month with a series of special events—turning off our lights for weekly “dim downs,” holding Be Spartan Green fairs, and making other observances. I urge you to join us in spirit and action, if not in person.

Environmental sustainability, in fact, is the theme of this year’s commencement ceremony—even the caps and gowns will be made of recycled materials.

But we know that being Spartan green is a lifestyle and a mission, not a special event. You can read more about what we’re doing on campus at our Office of Campus Sustainability Web site, but I want to take note of some events and developments that illustrate how MSU people are making a real difference in the wider world every day.

Environmental sustainability can’t be separated from energy issues, and our researchers are working at the forefront of practical applications in battery and motor engineering, wind power, and biobased energy sources. From developing affordable waste-to-methane systems to helping subsistence farmers around the world participate in the carbon-trading economy to answering the tough questions surrounding the food-versus-fuel debate, our engagement has never been more intense—or more important.

Earth Day will bring several events to our Bioeconomy Institute in Holland, including a green chemistry conference that I’ll help open. The next day we host the Land Policy Institute’s annual Land and Prosperity Summit on campus, where we’ll focus on how to nurture a sustainable path toward Michigan’s place in the global knowledge economy.

And on April 26 and 27, MSU hosts a key regional symposium on climate change that again delves into the links between climate change, the environment, energy, and our economy. Organized by the MSU Environmental Science and Policy Program, it will bring together some of the best minds in various disciplines to discuss not just our vulnerabilities, but opportunities arising from climate change.

We choose to view our environmental and energy challenges not merely as problems, but as opportunities. I’m convinced that an economy built around alternative energy will lead the United States to the forefront of a remarkable new era of technological advances, of market and industrial transformation, and of innovation of all kinds on every scale.

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