April 19, 2021

Happy Monday, everyone—and Happy Earth Week!

As you return to campus, to work and to classes following Spring Break, I hope all of you will join us to celebrate and participate in the weeklong virtual Earth Day festival that begins today. Check out the event webpage for articles, games, challenges, and tips to help you engage with our CSU commitment to sustainability. And I hope many of you join us well after this week is over: April is Earth Month and we’ve got an incredible slate of events, activities, speakers and panels happening both virtually and in-person. Check out the CSU Earth Month event webpage and then use #CSUEarthDayEverywhere to tell us what you’re doing for our planet.

As I hope you all know by now, we’re engaged in, and excited about, a transformation process that I’ve described as both strategic and courageous. When people have asked me what is courageous about this process, one of the things I consider is the decades-long attention to water conservation, an early commitment to sustainability and climate change that has defined CSU. We were sustainable—and we were talking about and working in the area of climate change—long before it was the thing to do. That was courageous on the part of our researchers, our staff and our students. Today, it doesn’t take courage to acknowledge climate change, worry about the health of our planet and focus on how to feed the world. But it does still take courage to commit resources to addressing these issues.

Why? Well, because climate change is a big, hard problem, and it requires individuals, groups and institutions to work together to change our world. The easy thing to do is to walk away, to focus on issues we can hope to fix permanently, on problems that have straightforward answers, and on challenges we can “win.”

But that is not how CSU has ever responded to a problem, big or small. In fact, I think looking for the easy way out is antithetical to who we are, as a land grant university and as a community. That’s why I believe we will be courageous in our transformation planning, which will give us the tools to solve hard problems. And it’s why I am so proud of the incredible example we are setting for the world in our continued commitment to sustainability in research, teaching, learning and engagement.

One of the most courageous people I’ve ever met is an international leader in research on sustainability, Dr. Diana Wall.  As the Founding Director of CSU’s School for Global Environmental Sustainability, Diana has built an incredible nexus of researchers, scholars, students and professionals who are working across the university, on all of our campuses and around the world, to improve the well-being of humans and other life and reducing the harm we do to the environment.

That’s Diana’s definition of sustainability, which she shared with me a few weeks ago. Our conversation, which will be available for viewing Wednesday April 21, is part of my Tell Me More . . . Presidential conversation series with some of the extraordinary people in the CSU community. We talked about Diana’s work, her vision for the future of sustainability both on our campuses and more broadly, and how CSU’s long-time commitment to our natural world has been—and must continue to be—so vital to our fulfillment of our land grant mission.

I hope you’ll tune into my conversation with Dr. Diana Wall, because I believe you’ll come away inspired—not by any false optimism or promises of easy fixes to the challenges of climate change. No, what is so inspiring about Diana, and about the many, many people at CSU who devote countless hours and immeasurable energy to sustainability initiatives, curriculum, programs and actions, is the force of their determination to do something, take action, and make an impact, even when those things seem incredibly hard.

That’s the land grant spirit that shines at CSU and it’s in that spirit that I wish you all a Happy Earth Week. I’m proud to do so knowing that we are working together to make sure we have many more Earth Weeks to celebrate in years to come.