April 24, 2020

Hello Everyone,

Happy Friday—and Happy Earth Week!

I had hoped to focus my message to all of you this past Wednesday (Earth Day!) on this annual event, but I felt that you all needed to know our plans and attentiveness to the Governor’s announcement of a shift from Stay-at-Home to Safer-at-Home.

I assure you that we continue to work to understand, respond to, and plan in accordance with local, state, federal, and public health guidelines for our community during the COVID-19 crisis.

But on this beautiful Friday, I ask your forbearance for some thoughts about Earth Day that feel no less relevant or important now than they did two days ago.

You see, I was actually at the very first Earth Day celebration, on April 22, 1970, in Washington DC. I was 16 years old and already an instinctive and committed advocate for our natural world. I’ve since lived that commitment in my legal work, my administrative work at land-grant institutions, and my volunteer work with The Nature Conservancy.

At Colorado State University, that kind of commitment—the commitment of a single person to protecting and restoring our natural world—is amplified and multiplied beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s extraordinary, and we should be very proud, because we truly are making a difference.

Our institution is renowned worldwide for our commitment to the environment, sustainability, and critical research that advances our understanding of the world around us. This incredible reputation wasn’t just given to us because we sit at the base of the Rocky Mountains and we love to hike, bike and paddle. Our community earned every bit over decades through hard work and dedication to be the very best and as sustainable as we can be.

As you know, we are the only institution in the world to have earned three Platinum ratings from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. We also have the highest STARS score in the country, making us the number one university in the United States for sustainability. We are a Platinum-level Bicycle Friendly Campus, a Tree Campus USA, and a certified Bee-Friendly Campus; and we’ve added tens of thousands of square-feet of LEED-certified building space.

This year, when ironically we were not able to come together on the green space of our beautiful Oval to celebrate Earth Day or Earth Week, I urge all of you to think about Earth Day—and about our commitment to the future of our planet—in a new and urgent way. Because it has never been clearer that we are all members of a fragile ecosystem, as dependent on one another as our trees are dependent on water and sunlight.

Our institutional commitment to our natural world is usually celebrated through the lens of all that we do for the plants, animals, earth, atmosphere, and water that make up our world. But we do so much—through our teaching, research, service and engagement—for the people of this world too. And I hope that in future years we include the sustaining of humanity in our Earth Day celebrations.

You are all so important, to one another, to our community, to our world—and to me. I am so, so proud to be your President and a member of this university. I know I urge you in all of my messages to get outside and find peace and rejuvenation in the natural world. I’m absolutely going to do that again today! Walk out under some trees, and savor the fact that we are planting 150 trees in honor of our sesquicentennial this year.

But contemplate too the human contributions to our world that sustain us. Zac Rogers, an assistant professor in the College of Business, can help us understand why toilet paper is in such short supply during a global pandemic. Our researchers in the College of Health and Human Sciences are studying the invisible impacts of the current crisis, including a dangerous rise in ageism that University Distinguished Professor Manfred Diehl argues eloquently against here. And English Professor and Guggenheim Fellow Camille Dungy recently gave us all a gift, a reading of poems she composed in honor of Earth Day and national Poetry Month. 

Be well, all of you, enjoy your weekend, and thank you for all you do for our community, for our world, and for each other.