Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club and its current chairman will be the speaker when College of the Atlantic holds its 38th commencement on Saturday, June 5 at 2 p.m. As is every COA celebration, this will be a “green” event. Joining Pope will be two honorary degree candidates, Ambassador Bo Lidegaard, Permanent Under Secretary of State in the Office of the Prime Minister of Denmark, and Ambassador Janusz Reiter, director of the Center for International Relations in Warsaw, and the former Polish Ambassador to Germany and the United States.
“I am honored to be asked to speak to the COA graduating class,” said Pope upon accepting COA’s request. COA is one of the real innovators in the academic world. Its environmental record is reflected in the fact that Sierra Magazine ranked it #5 among all American colleges for its environmental record in 2009,” he added.
Graduations at College of the Atlantic, which is the only carbon-neutral college in the nation, have always considered the environment. Six years ago, however, COA held a zero-waste graduation, setting a standard for green graduations. At COA’s commencement, all tableware is compostable, and composting bins are clearly marked at the reception. COA offers no bottled water at any time; instead, the college has water dispensers. For years, all invitations, programs, and diplomas have been printed on recycled paper; recycling bins are placed conveniently around the area for discards while local invitations are sent out via email. Since students at COA choose their own graduation clothing, there are no carbon emission costs for gown rentals. The processional marking area – ropes and stakes – are reused each year, as are flower containers. Leftover food from the celebration is delivered to a local food pantry and shelter. And as at all COA events, every attendee’s carbon footprint is tracked and offset through the carefully chosen additional, verifiable and certified provider, carbonfund.org.
Among the graduates are the recipient of a Watson fellowship for a year of international travel, an Environmental Protection Agency’s Greater Research Opportunities Undergraduate Fellowship, two Udall Scholars, a Goldwater Scholar, a recipient of the Kathryn W. Davis Projects for Peace Award, two Goldwater honorable mentions and one Udall honorable mention as well as a Watson Fellowship alternate. These students stand with some 70 other young scientists, entrepreneurs, novelists, artists, public policy analysts, organic farmers and more from 10 nations, including the United States. All will be receiving degrees in human ecology, COA’s one major. Known for its environmentalism, education at College of the Atlantic is hands-on, problem-focused and independent.
“We are thrilled to have Carl Pope as our commencement speaker,” said COA President David Hales of Pope. “His lifelong devotion to conservation exemplifies the dedication of our students to a sustainable world and a responsible awareness of the legacy we all leave to those who follow. COA is committed to the study of human ecologyâ€”the understanding human behavior and its relationship to the worlds in which we live. Carl Pope is one of the most outstanding practicing human ecologists in the world today.”
Pope has spent his life in conservation, working with labor unions and other diverse groups to build common ground toward a solid, broad-based environmental movement. During his more than thirty years with the Sierra Club, seventeen years as executive director, the organization helped protect nearly ten million acres of wilderness, including the California Desert, Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and California’s Giant Sequoia National Monument. The club also brought the litigation challenging the right of then Vice-President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force to conduct its policy making in secret negotiations with major energy interests.
More recently, the Sierra Club pressured the Bush administration to reverse its position against new rules that would lower the amount of arsenic in America’s drinking water and mercury in its fisheries. The Sierra Club also continued to hold the line in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling, and in stopping repeatedly proposed omnibus energy legislation that would give tens of billions in subsidies to oil, coal, and nuclear interests.
Pope has also served on the boards of the California League of Conservation Voters, Public Voice, National Clean Air Coalition, California Common Cause, Public Interest Economics, Inc., and Zero Population Growth. He was executive director of the California League of Conservation Voters and political director of Zero Population Growth. With Paul Rauber, Pope is coauthor of Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. The New York Review of Books called this volume “a splendidly fierce book.” Pope’s other books include Sahib, an American Misadventure in India, published in 1971 and Hazardous Waste in America, published in 1981.
Pope is a 1967 summa cum laude graduate of Harvard College. From there, he spent two years as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Barhi, Bihar, India, where he helped communities and families address the human and environmental impacts of overpopulation.
College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in environmental stewardship and experiential education, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning – human ecology – that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers who can lead all sectors of society to promote sustainable ecosystems while meeting compelling and growing human needs.