"Time to Bring Emotion into Sustainability Discussion"

Patricia Hogan

4/21/2011

It’s time to bring emotion into discussions of sustainable living, according to Associate Professor Patricia Hogan of the Physics Department.

“The way we have been communicating to the public doesn’t work,” said Hogan, who spoke during the University’s annual Earth Day Celebration. “Charts don’t work. Graphs don’t work. What people respond to is extremely emotional.”

The University marked Earth Day with a panel discussion on environmental responsibility and a student poster session featuring student environmental work.

Post-consumer society

As members of the Suffolk community gathered to learn about ways to go about living an environmentally friendly lifestyle Hogan discussed the need to change our self-perceived identities as “consumers.”

She was joined on the panel by State Rep. Matthew Beaton, who spoke about the need to build more sustainable housing, and Terri Goldberg, executive director of the Northeast Waste Management Officials’ Association, or NEWMO, who discussed sustainability in waste management.

“When I say to my non-major science students ‘Let’s talk about the environment,’ they say, ‘it’s too depressing,’” said Hogan. “We have trained people to be passive” about the environment.

Beaton echoed Hogan’s sentiments. “I think it is important that groups of people gather -- especially students as those coming up in the world -- and discuss this topic of sustainability. “

Campus gains

The University has taken in the past several years to become a more sustainable institution, earning recognition along the way, including inclusion in the Princeton Review’s Guide to 286 Green Colleges and landing in the top 10 percent of universities in the nation for waste reduction and recycling in 2010.

Although the progress on campus has been evident, Hogan sees room for improvement. “Even Earth Day has been brought into the argument as one of our ‘rituals,’” she said. “We need to address this now.”

The Earth Day Celebration was sponsored by the Moakley Institute, S.O.U.L.S., and the University Sustainability Committee.

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