At Penn, scholars and researchers across all disciplines are engaged in an ongoing effort to restore the natural world, both locally and worldwide, and prepare the next generation to do the same. From the Wharton School to the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, from Penn Law to the School of Medicine, Penn’s environmental experts are working to make the world healthier, safer and more beautiful.
In New York City, a Penn landscape architecture professor is leading the design team working to turn an old elevated train line into an urban park. A Penn professor of cell biology is working to radically improve the practice of aquaculture at the New Bolton Center, while a horticulturalist is weeding out harmful invasive trees in the Wissahickon and restoring wetlands at the Morris Arboretum.
Penn is also doing its part to turn out environmentally concerned graduates ready to make their own impact. The University’s Masters of Environmental Studies program, launched in 1997 when university officials noted increased demand for advanced environmental programs, has since graduated 73 men and women, many of whom are using their degrees to become environmental educators themselves. Penn’s undergraduate major in environmental studies, created in the 1970s, is one of the oldest in the nation.
The University is also conscious of the impact its massive operations make on the environment, and has taken steps to be an earth-friendly institution. Each year, it purchases 40 million kilowatt hours of pollution-free wind energy and, through the construction of the Utility Mod 7 cooling facility, has cut energy use campus wide. University officials encourage ‘green building’ techniques—ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact—when planning new building projects. Penn Facilities staffers, meanwhile, use natural gas cargo vans, three-wheeled bicycles and even an electric cart that produces no emissions.
In short, the University recognizes the impact it has on the environment, and encourages its employees to do the same—staffers are urged to recycle and conserve energy in any way possible.
Such encouragement, says longtime Penn earth and environmental science professor Bob Giegengack, is of no small importance.
Americans use more energy than anyone else in the world. "We need a major overhaul of the way we use energy. Americans use twice as much as the British, and life is OK in England," says Giegengack." There’s a strong case to be made that any individual’s impact on the environment is in direct proportion to his or her energy use, so we’re hurting the environment more per capita than almost anyone else." At Penn, at least, the effort is being made to turn that tide.
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Originally published on January 13, 2005