Is sustainability a grassroots movement?
At UVA? In Charlottesville? Around the world? Leaders from each weigh in on the relatively recent rise in interest with sustainability.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 - 02:04
As a UVA student who created the first grassroots student umbrella site pictured above, I've been especially intrigued by the various organizations and interests within sustainability. With over 50 organizations directly related to sustainability in which students participate, it's not a stretch to say that this decentralized movement has gathered steam. The President's Committee on Sustainability determined through the Sustainability Assessment 2010 that "student interest was cited far more often than other options as 'one of the biggest drivers' in encouraging sustainability initiatives at UVA."
Is this bottom-up movement unique to UVA? "I don't think so," says Teri Kent, a leader from the Charlottesville community who founded "Better World Betty." She explains that "Charlottesville has a lot of grassroots efforts, which work in parallel with other efforts ... I find that just having been from an education background that it has to come from the inside ... I feel like with businesses, too, that it's one person who starts recycling and plants those seeds, even though they might take a while to grow."
Does this trend hold for the rest of the world? Paul Hawken describes today's sustainability movements best through this metaphor in his book "Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being & Why No One Saw it Coming."
"Evolution is not about design or will; it is the outcome of constant endeavors made by organisms that want to survive and better themselves. The collective result is intoxicatingly beautiful, rife with oddities, and surpassingly brilliant, yet no agent is in control. Evolution arises from the bottom up — so, too, does hope. When fire destroys a forest, the species and plants that were lost will reassert themselves over time. Seeds that have lain dormant for decades and that germinate only when subjected to intense heat will come to life, and bloom in the spring. These plants may have deep taproots ... The older the forest, the more resilient its capacity to regenerate. Humanity is older than the oldest forest. Its capacity to adapt and restore is vastly underestimated. Evolution is optimism in action. Being compelled to make more of ourselves is the human lot."