Convocation remarks by Executive Dean Bob Goodman on May 18 to the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences’ Class of 2015.
To each of you, my sincere and personal congratulations on your achievements as a student at Rutgers and its outstanding School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.
Forty-eight years ago, I sat where you now sit as a graduating senior. In my case, with a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University.
Forty eight years ago, Rutgers was not the peer of Cornell University. Today, it decidedly is. And in no small part it is your achievement as our students that proves my point. In academics and beyond, Rutgers University New Brunswick and its proud School of Environmental and Biological Sciences are leading academic institutions, and you are the measure of that leadership.
And what you do in your careers—attending graduate or professional schools at Cornell, Yale, Stanford, Wisconsin, NYU, Harvard and San Diego—or entering the workforce in a spectacular range of institutions—government, museums, food companies, finance, transportation, insurance, hospitals, international or domestic NGOs—where ever you will go—will prove the worth of your time here and all that you have learned.
The faculty who have taught you, the academic leadership that ensures the finest faculty and environment for learning, and the university leadership that charts the future of the next 250 years at Rutgers, are immensely proud of you.
As you embark on your life after college, you will collectively and individually face huge challenges and manifold opportunities:
• Climate Change—the known, but also the uncertain, consequences of human forcing on the earth’s environment and the challenge of providing energy from clean sources.
• Threats to Biodiversity—before we fully understand the value of biodiversity to ecosystem services and future human needs.
• Challenge of Livable Cities—when for the first time in human history more than 50% of the over 7 billion people on earth live in cities.
• Food Nutrition and Health—before you are my age there is projected to be 9.6 billion people on Earth (I’ll not likely be one of them) —with diminishing per capita resources to provide basic food and nutritional security and good health. This is perhaps the most serious issue of all: We strain and fail to provide such resources to half of the 7+ billion on earth today.
There are two major questions to which your generation will need to provide solutions:
All of the big issues we face today as a people, and we are one global village, are global in scope and scale.
Ask yourself this: Is not sustainability fundamentally about sharing—sharing resources, sharing responsibility, being accountable today, tomorrow, and forever?
And then ask yourself: Are the mechanisms of governance we have today—that were established in the 18th century in the case of the US—up to the task of governing in the 21st century and beyond?
Today, those of us with college educations are amongst the “haves” in a nation with too many “have nots”, and we live in a “have and have not” world. We live in a world where what the “haves” have and take for granted directly and indirectly harm the have nots”.
How much longer can we go on—unsustainably and with fractious and unconstructive governance?
These are among the major issues that we have done our best to prepare you to face and to solve.
As Bill Nye said yesterday, “you can change the world!!!”
And you, the class of 2015 from the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences can do it!!
It is not a threat, but the hard truth, that if you don’t you will leave your children and grandchildren a dreadful future.
I am entirely optimistic about your ability to invent a future that will resolve the challenges that lie before you this morning and will face you in your lifetime.