Reflections on the study of climate change and the environment on June 7, 2017.

Today, Wake Forest University affirms our commitment to addressing the threats posed by our changing climate.

From the Amazon to Appalachia, our faculty have been on the leading edge of climate research, education and policy development for many years. In the natural and physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, divinity and law, our students are immersed in the history of human societies – studying the technologies, politics, economics, religion and philosophy that have brought us to the present. Thinking and working across disciplinary boundaries to find connection and meaning is the cornerstone of a Wake Forest education, and our ability to respond to our ongoing environmental challenges relies on our capacity to understand the intertwined threads of our own history.

During my time at Wake Forest, we have learned with and from Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, and best-selling author Thomas Friedman about the opportunities and challenges associated with addressing climate change. Global thought leaders from industry, faith communities, the sciences, literature and art have addressed and interacted with members of our campus community, providing a variety of perspectives and experiences that have shaped our understanding of and commitment to the issue.

Our students are actively engaged in research, community advocacy and hands-on work to shape climate policy and action. In the classroom, they have been inspired to solve design problems by observing and mimicking nature, choreograph pieces that communicate fragility and resilience, and mine narratives from literature that reveal possibilities for adaptation to change. Through the lens of history, they learn that scarcity of resources drives nearly all social conflict.

As an institution of higher education, we play an important role in preparing students to lead the way toward a future in which the betterment of humanity enhances, rather than compromises, the non-human systems that support life. We also must promote public engagement in the most pressing issues of our time. Whether it is drone imagery of forest canopies that aid international policy development or the refining of ever-more efficient processes for converting waste to energy, our research informs action in the communities where we work around the world.

On campus, we are developing a rigorous plan to reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of University operations. Since 2007, we have reduced our greenhouse gas impact by more than 19 percent per square foot in our buildings. As we move forward in implementing the plan, we will set clear and transparent targets for reducing the total impact of campus operations.

In affirming our commitment to addressing the threats of climate change, we call on our innovation, creativity and spirit of Pro Humanitate to guide us in our roles and responsibilities as citizens in a complex and ever-changing world.