Challenging the Gap Between Ambitions and Actions

What does joining the carbon neutral bandwagon really mean?

Last February, Pomona College joined an array of undergraduate institutions in pledging to become carbon neutral by the year 2030. Still, if the Pomona administration is going to hold up sustainability as an ideal, it has a responsibility to educate its community about the issue. In the Sustainability Report released to the student body Dec. 17, many of the findings were encouraging, while others were not as promising.

The Editorial Board agrees with Professor Char Miller’s assessment that Pomona—and the other 5Cs, for that matter—could be doing much more to ensure that fulfills its promises on sustainability. As reported in this year’s sustainability report, 58 percent of the landfill waste the Pomona community threw away in 2013-2014 could have been recycled, with little change from the previous school year. This statistic shows a disconnect between Pomona’s ambitions and its actions. Greater education and outreach efforts need to be undertaken to bring this number below 50 percent, at the very least.

Sustainability is but one of many college initiatives to scrutinize. Looking closer at college administrations’ stated goals, we might discover that colleges could be paying lip service to an issue while not adhering to these lofty ideals in practice. We see this with the discrepancy between Pomona’s sustainability goals and the reality, but it is vital to analyze other goals set forth by Pomona and the other 5Cs.

It’s necessary as students of the Claremont Colleges to hold our administrations accountable, particularly with long-term goals of which we won’t see the effects before we graduate. We as journalists play an important role in promoting a culture of accountability, but any student—especially one at a liberal arts institution like one of the 5Cs—can ask these questions of our administration.

Speaking truth to power requires that you know what you’re talking about, and colleges have a certain image to uphold, especially as they set forth ambitious goals. Becoming carbon neutral in 15 years is a nice-sounding goal, but we need to focus on what the administration could be doing to pursue that change head-on. As such, we as students should be critically inquiring not only about what we read in our first-year seminars, but also about the very institutions that teach us, house us, feed us.

So next time you receive an email about your college’s next goal or project—whatever it may be—consider the type of image they are constructing and who actually benefits from that image.