History and Strategic Planning
Although the ESMooP (Energy Strategic Master Plan) is a closely-guarded institutional secret, Penn State’s overall strategic plan for 2009/10 to 2013/14 is online.
“Energy” is only mentioned five times, including once as part of the “Institutes for Energy and the Environment” and once as part of a call to harness the energy of students interested in sustainability. The other three references:
- Page 2 – “How will Penn State cover its essential expenses, with rapidly increasing costs for energy, health care, technology, facilities, and more, particularly in the face of an economic downturn?”
- Page 23 – “Whether we look at financial markets, food production and distribution, energy security, regional conflicts, terrorism, or global climate change, what happens on the global stage has a direct impact on all of our lives.”
- Page 52 – ” Energy and the environment are two critically important dimensions of sustainability, but there are far more dimensions that can be considered.”
Hardly a strong indication that Penn State leadership takes energy issues seriously. See, for contrast, Tim DeChristopher’s recent statement on Harvard’s refusal to divest from fossil fuels: “There Is No ‘Neutral’ in the Climate Fight.”
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I’m quite frustrated and angered by the OPP’s refusal to publish the ESMooP or even allow supervised citizen review sessions. I was naively misled by OPP officials who talked the talk about engaging the community on the serious energy issues that confront the conjoined twins of town-and-gown, without being able to walk the walk and stonewalling instead.
I also have no confidence that the October 30 DEP public hearing on the West Campus Steam Plant project will divert the university from its short-sighted fossil-fuel substitution plan. If the Department of Environmental Protection were credibly charged with “protection,” they would issue “protective orders” keeping fossil fuels and other toxics out of communities and ecosystems. Instead, they issue “permits” to bring fossil fuels and other toxics into communities and ecosystem. It’s stonewalling with a veneer of public participation.
What’s the next most responsive community maneuver?
Maybe to dig under the wall.
Information about Penn State’s history is online at Penn State’s website and at Wikipedia, and I’m working my way through a 1946 “History of the Pennsylvania State College” book by Wayland Fuller Dunaway. Once upon a time, Penn State apparently had leaders who could be called “wise,” who thought carefully about major world developments and worked carefully to position the university to meet those developments head on.
As we watch the federal government shutdown grind on in Washington – driven in part by a similar lack of wisdom and maturity – many communities are increasingly considering secession. Even when open, the federal government is fairly dysfunctional; several years ago, a Russian scholar even predicted the break-up of the United States. (See, for example, Wall Street Journal coverage of Igor Panarin.)
No one can say exactly when such a national disintegration will happen, but complex things tend to reach a peak of complexity and then break down into simpler components. On a civilizational scale, John Michael Greer refers to this as “catabolic collapse.”
I think Penn State is at or near “peak university” and that there’s value to strategically planning for the simplification process rather than idly waiting for it to hit solely on its own terms.
I wondered for awhile if Penn State leaders would recognize – in a timely way – the need to strip away peripheral programming and physical plant to save the core mission of training a smaller student population to be skilled farmers, mechanics, builders and extension educators. I don’t wonder anymore; they won’t.
But I still think it’s a good idea for community members to gather and circulate information and ideas about how that institutional retrogression could be pursued while building up community capacity to weather the change.
And I still think it’s a good idea to make our work available to Penn State leaders for when they eventually reach a similar understanding of our current and intensifying energy- and cash-constrained situation.