March 8–opening remarks

Good evening, and thank you for coming. My name is Steven Marx. I teach English at Cal Poly and coordinate the Cal Poly Land project.

Following my presentation, we will hear from Associated Student Body President Angie Hacker and Provost Paul Zingg, who will welcome our guest speaker on behalf of the University. After Amory Lovins’ talk, we will entertain fifteen minutes of questions and then adjourn to a reception here in Chumash auditorium for further conversation. During the reception, I encourage you to visit the project displays at the back of this hall and to fill out a questionnaire and interest form.

Our topic tonight is Sustainability and the Future of the Polytechnic University. Sustainability means different things to different people.

The most popular definition was formulated by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987: "sustainable development meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

The headline in yesterday’s San Luis Obispo Tribune calls sustainability "promoting life that uses nature without bringing harm to it." In his book, Natural Capitalism, Amory Lovins says sustainability requires awareness that "the environment is not a minor factor in production but ‘an envelop containing, provisioning and sustaining the entire economy."(9)

I’d like to begin tonight with a look at the environment that contains, provisions and sustains this Polytechnic University–that is the land upon which it is situated.

Cal Poly Land encompasses nearly ten thousand acres in four parcels--two in San Luis Obispo county, and two in Santa Cruz county--making us the second largest university landholder in California and one of the largest in the nation.

This land comprises one of Poly's most valuable assets. Its "outdoor teaching and learning facilities" provide laboratories for education and research, house ecosystems and lifeforms, inspire recreation and renewal, grow food and fibre, and remain our legacy from past to future generations. Cal Poly's land has been central to its evolving identity.

Half a century ago, the great conservationist Aldo Leopold said, "When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect." Learning about our land leads to what Leopold called "a land ethic": "The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively: the land."

The Cal Poly Land project began as an interdisciplinary faculty seminar established in Spring 2000 by Provost Paul Zingg as part of the university's Centennial celebration, to illuminate "How different disciplinary lenses inform our understanding of a particular issue or topic."

The Centennial Seminar enlisted the University Architect and 17 faculty members from 13 departments and three Colleges to meet in a monthly class and teach one other about various aspects of Cal Poly Land. Some gave presentations, some led field trips, some made photographs, and graphic designs. Several invited their own students to attend seminar meetings or hired them as project assistants.

During its first year of operation, the the Cal Poly Land Seminar produced an extensive website, which we are now in–

It catalogues the growing repository of research studies concerning Cal Poly Land stored in the Kennedy Library, and it includes full-text digital versions of some.

It explores University lands by Place and by Topic--such as Geology, Agriculture, History, Stewardship.

Beginning in Spring 2002, Cal Poly Land is the subject of a course developed by members of the Faculty Seminar. Interdisciplinary and team-taught, the course includes weekly classroom presentations, discussions, and hikes. Subtitled, "Nature, Technology and Society," the course occupies a critical position in a Polytechnic University. The "learning objectives and criteria" of the General Education curriculum are fulfilled in its official description: "A scientific investigation of the natural features of the Cal Poly landscape and their transformations by land management technology. Analysis of the environmental, economic, social, and political effects of agricultural, resource extraction and construction technology on that landscape. Emphasis on the educational, land-use and long term planning issues of technology presented by this case study."

Finally, the project is completing a book, entitled Cal Poly Land: A Field Guide with 15 chapters by different participants, over 500 full color pictures and illustrations, and 25 maps. You can preorder tonight from Rebecca Bowen of El Corral Bookstore who is sitting at the table near the door.

Aldo Leopold observed that "Perhaps the most serious obstacle impeding the evolution of a land ethic is the fact that our educational and economic system is headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land." The purpose of the Cal Poly Land project is to reverse that direction.

Before we move on, I’d like to thank the following sponsors of tonight’s program:






Orfalea College of Business

Dean of Research and Graduate Programs

Associated Students

Cal Poly Centennial Committee

Special gratitude is due to Polly Harrigan and Eileen Amaral from the Office of University Advancement and to Jim Jamieson, who first suggested this be a Centennial History Day occasion.

Next, I’m pleased to introduce the host of this event, Angie Hacker, Associated Student Body President and the organizer of CSI–the Cal Poly Campus Sustainability Initiative.